Pilates Style magazine
September/October 2005, page 34
ASK THE EXPERTS
Pilates Q & A
Better your scoop, pick the right size ball
and find out if you're ready for the next level.
Q: What does my Pilates instructor mean when she tells me to "scoop" my abs?
Jillian Hessel responds:
Your body has four different layers of abs, similar to the layers of an onion.
Joseph Pilates liked to call the abs the girdle of strength, because the abdominal muscles wrap around your torso. In order to understand how to scoop your abs, it helps to know where the abdominals attach in your body, and how they work.
Your body has four different layers of abs, similar to the layers of an onion. The outermost layer, just under your skin, is the rectus abdominis, which runs vertically from your pubic bones up to your sternum. This muscle helps your body flex forward.
The next two layers of abs are the external and internal obliques. These muscles help rotate your torso, and also tilt your pelvis forward or backward. They are key in helping to maintain a neutral spine position.
The deepest layer of abs is the transversus abdominis. Its primary function is to contract forcefully when you exhale deeply, such as when you cough or sneeze. When the transversus contracts, your lower belly should flatten as you pull the abs in and up. When you learn to work this muscle correctly, you will understand the Pilates scoop.
To practice scooping:
Sit up as tall as you can, lifting up out of your hips. Place your hands on your lower abdomen with your fingers spread apart. Imagine you have a belt slung low across your hips.
Inhale deeply through your nose for 5 counts. Exhale through your mouth for 5 counts, imagining you're tightening the belt and drawing your hipbones closer together. Your fingers should interlace as you exhale completely.