“Be in control of your body and not at its mercy” ~Joseph Pilates
Joseph Pilates created the exercise regime now known as Pilates. At the time, he named it “Contrology,” meaning The Art of Control. He initially developed Contrology to ease physical ailments and rehabilitate bedridden soldiers. Afterwards, Joseph expanded these exercises to improve wellness for boxers, dancers, and gymnasts.
In this blog series we are unraveling the six principles of Pilates: ~Control ~Concentration ~Centering ~Flow ~Precision ~Breath The first principle of Pilates is Control. Control begins with our mindset. As Joseph Pilates said, “Ideally our muscles should obey our will.” We should use our mind to control our body movements. In Pilates, we strive to perform controlled movements from a stable core.
As a Physical Therapist, I often work with people to improve their neuromuscular control. Neuromuscular control involves activating muscles in the correct pattern, with the correct force. For example, your body automatically knows that it needs to lightly grasp an egg. If it didn’t, you would crush the egg and yolk would ooze down your hand and onto the floor.
Poor neuromuscular control occurs when the connection from the brain to a muscle is not working. A common example of this is when the glute muscles do not activate correctly. The science term for this is Muscle Inhibition -The funny name? Dead Butt Syndrome. The person often thinks they are activating their glute muscles, but due to muscle inhibition, they aren’t. Instead, their body has chosen to compensate with different muscles.
Muscle inhibition is important to correct because it leads to an unbalanced body. If one muscle is not working correctly, your body will compensate with another. This results in an unbalanced system that is constantly fighting with itself. Since the body is connected, a small deficit in the hip can lead to a larger back or knee dysfunction, often resulting in pain.
As a physical therapist, I am able to help patients improve control of their body. I begin with teaching my client how to activate and isolate their inhibited muscle. Afterwards, we progress to using the muscle in functional movements. Finally, we incorporate this into their favorite hobbies – such as running or dancing. It is necessary to learn how to properly activate the muscle prior to strengthening. No matter how many bridges, squats, or deadlifts you do, you cannot strengthen the glutes if you do not know how to activate and control them correctly.
The Art of Control can also be used outside the realm of exercise and Pilates. While we cannot control the things that surround us, particularly COVID-19, we can control how we react to the outside world. We can control our response to stress. We can control how often we say thank you. We can control how deeply we laugh and love.
Today, let’s choose to practice The Art of Control.
“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”
~ Maya Angelou
“You can’t control what the other athlete is going to do; you can’t control anything except for your competition and how you execute the race or how you execute the task.”
~ Michael Johnson
How Do I Know If I am Activating My Glutes?
Go ahead and try a bridge at home. Lie on your back with your arms by your side. Bend your knees, and lift your bottom off the ground. When performed correctly, your glutes should do the majority of the work.
If done incorrectly, you will feel it in the hamstrings, or maybe even have your hamstrings cramp out or “charlie horse.” In this case, you have overused the hamstrings and underutilized the glutes. If you have passed the first part of the test, let’s progress. Come into the bridge position, then straighten your right leg. Did you feel your left hamstring cramp? Did the right side of your pelvis drop, resulting in an uneven pelvis? If so, then you need to continue working on your glute activation and strength. This is a good opportunity to call a physical therapist for some assistance.