As a Pilates teacher, one of the most common questions I get while teaching is, “where should I be feeling this?” I love this question. It’s a great question and there is only one answer — your Powerhouse. The Powerhouse is a name given to describe a group of many muscles including abs, glutes, thighs, and back muscles. Because there are so many muscles involved in your powerhouse it can be hard (especially for a beginner), to isolate where to feel something – but here are some starting points.
First, let’s talk about where you shouldn’t be feeling this. You should not feel it in your joints – the knees, ankles, elbows, wrists and even neck. Joints like to take over when the muscles that surround them are weak or out of alignment. For instance, when you are working your thighs in your leg springs you should not feel your knees. If you are doing arm springs you shouldn’t feel your elbow or wrists. If you feel your neck in your ab series, you need to strengthen your upper abs and lats and not recruit the neck muscles to do the movement.
The non-negotiable in all exercises is that you should always feel your deep abdominals. Centering is one of the main pilates principles and you should always feel that you initiate your movements from there. Your abs should work before any extremities and it must be in that order. For example, when performing the stomach massage – the stomach must pull in deeply before your legs move. Once you get those deep abs to work you can work on engaging your thighs and glutes in all of these exercises and then work on engaging your upper back muscles as well to include the whole Powerhouse.
My next tip is to bring your brain to the muscle. Listen to your instructor’s cues and focus your brainpower on the muscle that you need to work. Knowing where to work can shift your attention to that muscle and make it work harder.
Lastly, this SHOULD feel like it is challenging. Plates is a workout and you should feel like you are working! If you don’t – engage your muscles a little harder.
See you at the studio!