‘Firing the core’
Those ‘clench’ muscles are what are known as the pelvic floor muscles, and along with the transverse abdominis muscles (TVA) – like a corset muscle around the lower back – these muscles make up what are referred to, in Pilates, as the ‘core’.
The core is the central principle of Pilates, and Pilates is very good for windsurfing.
Bonnie Williams is an Isle of Wight-based Pilates instructor who has worked with many sailors and windsurfers on injury prevention and training techniques. She explains why improving core strength can make such a difference to windsurfers.
“The whole ethos of Pilates is centred on stability; being able to hold good, ‘safe’ body positions to avoid putting stress through, and overloading, other joints and muscles that can lead to injuries or make the recovery process slower.
“This comes from having a strong core and Pilates is about making small, deep muscles work that you wouldn’t normally work, and wouldn’t normally hit in the gym. It’s about strengthening and lengthening muscles to provide a solid base from which all other movements can happen as comfortably and safely as possible.”
Everything in Pilates is focused around the ‘Neutral Spine’ concept – this is the strongest and safest position for your spine to be in when you’re doing exercise. It means your body is in line and balanced and you won’t pull muscles so easily.
Picture a plumb line hanging from your ear lobe, which runs down alongside the body passed the centre of your shoulder, hip bone, knee finishing level with your ankle bone. If this line hangs straight down then your spine is in optimal alignment.
However the reality is most people’s posture isn’t so good and they have bums that stick out or shoulders that are rounded forwards for example. This means there are imbalances throughout the body, which puts pressure on other muscles and joints.
The Neutral Spine position isn’t easy for some people to find. Even with your bum and shoulders flat on the floor your back can be arched, or if you do manage to flatten your back, your bum or shoulders can lift off the floor.
Finding and holding the Neutral Spine position involves working the core muscles.