Principles of Pilates #2

The principles of Pilates (part 2)

With Pilates the way in which the exercises are executed is of more importance than the number of repetitions completed or the exertion used. Mastering a simple exercise is often far more complicated than producing a larger movement!

Joseph Pilates created 6 principles of Pilates, but over time these have been added to and there are now deemed to be 8 key principles:

  1. concentration
  2. centering
  3. breathing
  4. control
  5. precision
  6. flowing movement
  7. isolation
  8. routine

Last time we looked at concentration; now we’re going to look at centering.


In Pilates the ‘centre’ refers to the neutral position of the lumbar spine (lower back) & pelvis. Joseph Pilates describes the centre as the area between the ribs & the hips, at the front & back of the body. Nowadays we have extended that definition to include the sides of the torso.

Your centre is the pivotal point of the body from which all movements emanate. Movement, balance, force & strength all come from the centre – a weakness in the core will affect the body’s ability to perform any of these functions.

It is important to understand that core control is more important than core strength. Abdominal control provides fluidity of movement which is crucial; abdominal strength provides support which is beneficial but secondary.

Your centre is controlled by use of the abdominal muscles, the muscles in the lower back, the pelvic floor muscles and the diaphragm. Together these muscles surround your abdominal cavity and form a central cylinder – your ‘core’.

core musculature Burrell Education

(image credit: Burrell Education)

When you activate your core you increase stability of the spine which is why it is important to activate the core before each movement.

Once the core/centre has been ‘set’, we can add arm & leg movements to challenge your stability further and develop muscle tone.

One of the keys to success is being aware of when you have ‘lost’ your centre, and making sure that you work within the capabilities of your core strength – if you try to progress too soon, or push ahead without maintaining your centre, you will not develop a stronger core and overuse the muscles in your lower back causing aches & pains and less stability than your started with.

There are many ways to find and activate your centre/core and we spend time doing this each time we move into a new position – we find a neutral pelvis, we think of a belt tightening lightly around the pelvis, we think of drawing upwards and inwards with the pelvic floor; all of these are designed to help with core activation. It is important to keep thinking of them during the class so that you are always aware of your centre.

Outside of Pilates, it is useful to keep an awareness of your centre to improve your posture in everyday life.

Finally, remember that we are looking to achieve a light connection with the core muscles – you don’t want to activate them to 100% otherwise movements will not flow and your posture will become unnatural – aim for 30% contraction so that you are just aware of a gentle feeling in the tummy wall.



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