Strength 101- Application of core breath to strength training
Once a client has worked through Pfilates form I begin to apply core breath to simple bilateral exercises. A good example would be a standing front and lateral arm raise. The client stands with feet hip width, untucked in active posture, arms with 1-3lb weights at sides. The exercise begins with an inhalation and PFM release followed by exhalation and PFM contraction while raising arms to sides shoulder height. With inhalation and PFM release the weights are lowered back to sides. The grip rotates and the movement is repeated to the front, shoulder height. Alternating lateral and front arm raises, the client syncs core breath for perfect exercise form.
Increased Pelvic Stability Control:
Progressing into unilateral exercise, the focus is on improving pelvic stability control. We already know with the weight/load transfer test that core set will improve pelvic stability control. This becomes even more apparent as the ROM of exercise increases. The 101 is a unilateral hip circle. Standing on one leg the client inhales and with exhalation circles the other leg to the side, lifting so that knee stays straight through entire ROM. A client who is struggling with balance will noticeably improve stability control by releasing the PFM with inhalation, exhaling and contracting the PFM before circling the leg.
ROM and Core Function:
Beyond this it is fascinating that a client with PFM dysfunction will report the inability to “hold the bean” through the entire ROM of an exercise like a unilateral hip circle. They “drop” the bean typically at the point of heaviest weight load transfer when the leg is at the side, and through the most difficult phase of the ROM- the rear extension. We know this means that the core is no longer supporting the movement effectively and so it defines the ROM for that exercise. We work to steadily progress the ROM with core engagement, using it as a measure for progress. It also helps to determine the best exercises for the current program.
Men’s Core Strength VS. Women’s:
During our last Bellies Inc certification course we discussed how much stronger a man’s PFM contraction is compared to a woman’s. This made perfect sense to me, as I have never understood how men can be so exponentially stronger than us simply by virtue of bigger muscles. It never seemed like a linear ratio to me. The fact that a man’s PFM is more than double the strength of a woman’s helps to explain that discrepancy. The stronger the PFM contraction, the more strength we have, and there is more practical application for core breath, as I have discovered!