Don’t say the C word!!

A long time ago (around 1996) in a galaxy far, far away……. the Core was born!

Emerging from studies which demonstrated a change in onset timing of trunk muscles in persistent back pain and back injury, a whole industry based on the importance of core stability and training was brought to life. Pilates was one of many disciplines which evolved to promote and embed the assumption that training specific muscles of the trunk at a certain level would ensure the disappearance of back pain.

But it is widely accepted that these findings were flawed and are now invalidated, the assumptions strongly refuted and yet the Core still lives on!

Why should we care- it’s just a word?

As Pilates teachers we know that words have so much power, they are crucial to help promote technique, dynamic alignment and enhance movement potential. It may be simple for the teacher to use the word Core but it does not actually help the client to move better with optimal strength, control and mobility. Here are some reasons why….

It’s not natural!

To help people move and live better, we need to always try and work with how the body and brain interact and function- to naturally stimulate rather than artificially simulate. We need to work with the nervous system.

The neural communication from the brain to the spine is REFLEXIVE- it is not consciously achieved. The nervous system dictates the tone and tension necessary to hold us upright, carry loads and move around our environment. 

Our nervous system learns how much tension and tone we require to do all the things we need through experience and practise. Try this….


1.Sit with your arms out to the sides and freely and loosely twist from side to side.

2. Keep twisting and  imagine you are holding 2 bricks. Do you notice how you have reacted and adapted to the perceived weight of the bricks? You may have slowed down slightly, your torso has stiffened to hold your spine stable against the anticipated load of the bricks.

This is how we naturally, subconsciously, spontaneously adapt to different loads on our body.

3. Now twist again and “activate your Core”

4. Feel how you have over-compensated, you may have held your breath, tensed your neck and shoulders.

In consciously activating muscles we overdo it, tighten too much and create rigidity and restriction.

In everyday life and Pilates, where we are looking for efficient and effective movement, this rigidity and stiffness restricts and inhibits movement- roll ups get stuck, breath is held, joints become fixed and we lose fluidity and ease of movement. 

It’s too slow and exhausting!

We cannot beat our nervous system! It is so fast that consciously cueing a muscle before movement is so far behind that it does not translate to everyday living. In opening a door, cleaning your teeth, picking up shoes, we do not “switch on our Core” against the pull and load of the activity- it would take us forever to do anything and it would be exhausting!

It isn’t the back pain magic wand!

This is possibly the biggest sin of all the claims! If a strong core actually solved the problem of persistent back pain- Pilates teachers would be the saviours of the human race!

Most persistent back pain is not due to a physical deficit or a weakness, it is a highly individual, multi-dimensional experience. We need to promote confident, positive movement experiences, allowing people to destress, release and breath, rather than wind them tighter with cues like “activate your core” “scoop and hollow” and “pull in your abs” 

As Joseph Pilates said,

“Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness. Our interpretation of physical fitness the attainment and maintenance of a uniformly developed body with a sound mind fully capable of NATURALLY, EASILY and satisfactorily performing our many and varied daily tasks with SPONTANEOUS zest and pleasure.”

So please stop saying the C word and teach for natural, efficient, spontaneous and optimal movement!

If you would like to read more about the research and subsequent flawed assumptions which gave birth the Core, please click to read The Myth of Core Stability by Eyal Lederman an excellent article written in 2010.

Please feel free to share and spread the news!

    Your Basket
    Your Basket is emptyReturn to Shop