Common Supine Mistakes: Arching Backs and Flaring Ribs

One of the most common mistakes with beginning Pilates students is flaring or popping the ribcage during supine integration exercises.  Flaring the ribs indicates a loss of control of the core abdominal muscles.  For example, during bridging flaring the ribs can indicate that the student is using the lower back to maintain the bridge instead of the glutes, hamstrings and abdominal muscles.  With an exercise incorporating arm arcs, ribcage flaring often means that the student is not maintaining awareness of the core during the exercise and he or she is not getting the true benefits associated with the cross body and muscular sling engagement that makes these exercises so beneficial.  With a lower extremity, long-lever supine exercise, flared ribs indicate that the client should shorten the lever to regain control and remove undue stress and work from the lower back.

We can use many tactile cues to help clients be more aware of this common mistake, but in a larger class, it’s much harder to reach each student for tactile cueing without sacrificing class flow and momentum.  In that setting, try asking the class to imagine that they have sandbags on their ribcage.  This imagery can help a student to “feel” weight on his or her ribcage to remind them to use the abdominal muscles to keep the ribcage pulled tight and engaged.

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Squashed Blueberries – Engaging the Abdominals During Prone Exercises

For some clients, being in the prone position means rest time for the abdominals.  This couldn’t be further from the reality. Engaging the core during prone exercises helps keep the spine in optimal neutral alignment and it helps the body more efficiently use the muscles that the exercise is meant to work. Perhaps most importantly, though, it prevents us from “falling” into our lower backs.

Relying on the low back muscles during prone exercises is a common mistake even from really strong clients.  It can cause unnecessary tightness, strain and even injury in the low back.

While clients’ natural inclination is to “let it all go” through the tummy during this type of exercise, they are also keenly aware of the difference they feel from an efficiency and a comfort standpoint when they do engage their abdominals.  As soon as they tighten across the core and lift the abdominals away from the mat, they can feel a change to their spine position, which in turn changes the entire output of the exercise!

To initiate this engagement and to remind them throughout the repetitions, try having them imagine a blueberry (or other soft, messy item) under their belly button.  Challenge them not to squish it!!

 

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