Pilates series 6# on core strength

Wendy Davies shares exercises that will turn your core weaknesses into strengths


(c) Iain Weir

Last week, we looked at engaging the stability muscles around the shoulder. We’re now going to combine more challenging shoulder stabilisation with the deep abdominal stabilisers. This will help to prevent injury when you’re powering through the stroke, and when you’re fatigued at the end of a long water session. We’ll also work the glutes, in combination with the core stabilisers, to maximise performance on the ergo.


1 – Kneeling ball press

Exercise 1: Kneeling ball press. There is photography of a lady kneeling down with her arms leaning on an exercise ball in front of her. Step 1: In a high kneeling position, place your hands flat on the ball, shoulder width apart and with your arms straight. Your knees should be around eight inches from the ball. Step 2: While maintaining a neutral spine, engage your shoulder and abdominal stability muscles and bend your elbows, lowering your body towards the ball. Step 3: Then slowly press through your arms, extending the elbows, to return to the starting position. Movements should be smooth and controlled. Do two sets of 10 reps to start with, increasing the reps as you progress to build stamina in the muscles.

Increasing the challenge
  • Perform a normal full press-up with your hands on a Sitfit (stability cushion).
  • For maximum challenge, perform the press-up with one hand in the centre of the cushion.

Keep your spine in neutral and avoid poking your chin forward.


Why do these exercises?

Increased shoulder stability may help prevent injury.

The gym ball exercise will combine the large gluteal muscles, so important for the leg drive, with the core stabilisers. This helps to maximise efficiency and performance on the ergo – essential for those long sessions in the gym.

2 – Wall press

Exercise 2: Wall press. There is a photograph of a lady standing with her feet together, leaning on an exercise ball which is pressed against a tree. Step 1: Place the ball against a wall and stand with your feet eight inches away. Place your hands flat on the ball. Step 2: While maintaining a neutral spine, bend your elbows and lower your body towards the ball.Step 3: Slowly straighten your elbows to return to the start position. Maintain good posture throughout. Aim for two sets of 10 to start.

Increasing the challenge

These variations make it harder and more geared to sweep rowing.

  • Use one hand placed in the centre of the ball.
  • Tighten your glutes and extend one leg a small distance behind, keeping it straight. Repeat with the other leg. This again challenges the rotational control in the body and works the global gluteal muscles.

Engage your shoulder stability muscles to stop the scapulae (shoulder blades) moving outwards.

3 – Hamstring curl on the ball

Exercise 3: Hamstring curl on ball. There is a photograph of a man lying down with the legs raised onto an exercise ball. Step 1: Lie on your back and place your heels on the ball with legs straight. Step 2: Engage your deep abdominal muscles and slowly roll your spine up one vertebrae at a time until there is a straight line between your shoulders and your heels. Step 3: Using your gluteal muscles to stop your hips dropping, dig your heels into the ball and pull with the hamstring muscles (on the back of the thigh) to draw the ball towards you. Pause, then drive with your legs to push the ball away, keeping your spine in neutral. Perform two sets of 10, increasing this once you have perfected the movement. Roll back down slowly once the reps are completed.

The gym ball exercise will combine the large gluteal muscles, so important for the leg drive, with the core stabilisers
Increasing the challenge
  • Take one arm out to the side to challenge rotational stability. Do 10 reps with one arm and then change sides.
  • You can further increase the challenge by holding a weight in the extended hand.

Try not to over-engage your hamstrings – use the gluteal muscles as well. Don’t over-extend your spine.

Wendy Davies

Wendy Davies has over 20 years working with rowers and elite sportspeople, including at five Olympic Games, three Commonwealth Games and many training camps and World Championships.

Increasing the challenge
  • Take one arm at a time out to the side.
  • Holding a weight will further challenge the rotational stability muscles in the spine.
  • Reducing the resistance on the cross trainer will also make it more challenging.
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