Pilates 101 … Where is your powerhouse!


The TRANSVERSE ABDOMINUS is an important stabilizer muscle of our “powerhouse” aka “core”. Its horizontal fibers wrap around our mid-sections and serve as an internal corset that stabilizes the spine and pelvis. Learning to engage this muscle allows our bodies to move more efficiently; not just during a Pilates session but in all of our daily activities. When our stabilizer muscles don’t perform their jobs, our neuromuscular systems go haywire trying to recruit “back-up” muscles to create stability; muscles that were designed for an entirely different purpose. This neuromuscular confusion is a contributing factor to chronic pain and injury.

One of the easiest ways to discover the transverse abdominus is to breathe fully. Why? The TA plays a major role in forceful exhalation. A cue that I learned from one of my teachers is to “Exhale. And when you feel as if you have no more ‘exhale’ left in you… exhale a little more.” Mr. Pilates even said to “squeeze every atom of air out of your lungs”. Notice how your forceful exhale compresses your ribs and abdominals and creates trunk stability. One way to somewhat palpate the muscle (although its actually too deep touch) is to lie supine and place your fingertips on both ASIS bones (the front corners of your hips). Then, slide your fingertips toward your midline about one inch and gently press into the tissue. Exhale fully until you feel a contraction beneath your fingertips. You should feel your abdominals “scoop” away from your fingertips. The challenge is to create that same “scoop” during every Pilates exercise. I always try to “hollow” out the space between my ASIS bones. The moment I see that “pooch”, say, during The Hundred; I know I’m disconnected from my TA and need to lift my legs a little higher, focus on my breath and draw my abs in.

The TA provides the stability our bodies need for efficient movement. It’s the difference between walking on thin ice versus walking on pavement. We can walk on ice but it takes a lot of extra effort to maintain stability let alone take big confident steps. On pavement, however, we can walk, run, skip, leap and twirl with ease and confidence. Similarly, a strong transverse abdominus provides a solid platform for the rest of our muscles to move freely with minimal effort. So, as a result of developing a strong TA, our workouts become a lot more effective, we prevent injuries and we create a narrow, tapered waistline in the process.

Rock Your Powerhouse!

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