corestrength.gifI cannot teach anyone anything
I can only make them think

- Socrates

Time to think about your ‘core’ and get the scoop!

What is the scoop?
The scoop is the active pulling in and up of your transverse abdominis (TA) and activation of the lumbar spine multifidus (your postural muscles).

Your TA wraps around your waist like a girdle holding the pelvis together, you can feel it when you hold your waist and cough. The lumbar multifidus muscles keep the vertebrae in place.

Having lumbar control and strength is the first step to correct posture, flexible spine and powerful movement – all important for reducing injury and pain and improving performance while cycling. Both the TA and lumbar multifidus normally work continuously to support and protect the lower back. In cases of lower back pain, either both or one of these important deep muscles have been deactivated.

You have to learn to scoop

Here’s the thing - you have to learn to activate your TA and multifidus lumbar muscles – it’s not just a matter of doing exercise – you need your mind and neuromuscular system to be directly involved. That’s where Pilates comes in with its 6 main principles:
Concentration - Centering - Control - Breathing - Precision - Flowing Movement.

Pilates – power and stability
Many exercise injuries come as a result of overworking some muscles and under working others. Pilates movement teaches you to use the right muscles for the right movement.

It’s the only form of exercise with scientifically proven results to strengthen your core and your whole body. It is resistance training – it retrains your old bad movement patterns with healthy aligned movement patterns.

A strong spine is where it all starts. Get your spine as lengthened and strengthened as much as you can, then your pelvis stability and shoulder girdle stability will follow.

For example, if you experience numbness in your hands or feet when riding, it may be because of lack of spinal / core strength, length and control. Pilates will help you. Guaranteed.

Pilates was first designed to help boxers, gymnasts and dancers to attain the incredible amounts of physical strength and stability required to excel in their disciplines.

Through controlled breathing and muscle activation, Pilates promotes safe spinal movement.

The scoop is just the start – Pilates improves upper back muscles, shoulder/elbow/wrist and hip/knee/ankle alignment. Pilates also teaches alignment and correct tracking for your entire body - which are critical if you want to avoid injury and get the best cycling performance from your body.

So do your body a favour and teach it to scoop. You’ll be amazed at the difference it makes.

Here are three key exercises that can be done to get you started:

Only attempt these exercises if you have a reasonable level of fitness and do not suffer from back pain. You must maintain the scoop throughout. If you are uncertain consult a medical specialist or professional Pilates instructor.

1. Rollups

Inhale as you curl up off the matt.... Exhale to round over... Inhale to curl back

For strength, control and flexibility of the entire body while learning to articulate the spinal vertebrae. Repeat entire sequence 5 times. Caution - those with weak abs should try a roll down only until they get stronger. Maintain the scoop the entire sequence and turn you pelvis like a wheel. Avoid going too fast and losing control.

2. Spine stretch forward


Inhale to sit tall....................Exhale to round over..................................Inhale

For postural awareness, deep breathing, articulation of the spine and a generous stretch of posterior body. Scoop as much as possible the entire time. Legs hip width apart. Sit high as you squeeze your glutes. Repeat the entire sequence 5 times. You can soften knees if the stretch is too much here. Keep a smooth tempo.

3. Crisscross

Inhale to criss......................... Exhale to cross....................... Rest and repeat

Targets the obliques and pelvis stability. Leg stretches to centreline, elbows remain wide and hands are layered behind head. Do not lose alignment of hips and shoulders, avoid pulling neck. Repeat 5 sets of alternating legs.

Article written by Heather Stewart of Studio Pilates

For Avantiplus -

Images from 'Pilates Body in Motion' by A. Ungaro.Published in Great Britain 2002 by Dorling Kindersley Limited.

"Every workout brings something new and I love seeing the changes in my body, my waist is slimmer, I'm hooked!”

“The control, grace and balance I have now in my body is thanks to the pilates method - I love the reformer, its changed my life!”

“My mind is cleared and my body worked out each time, it’'s the perfect workout”.

“I've got arm muscles and ab definition now, soon I'’ll have a new body. I'm so happy that I've stuck with pilates.


"I love my weekly Pilates classes with smiley Heather. I began with her 8 years ago when I got breast cancer and needed to continue with some form of gentle home exercise while I went through chemotherapy.

Following reconstruction, the one on one reformer sessions helped strengthen and realign my “new body”. I have become stronger, straighter and love my increased flexibility and strength.

My husband has been going to Heather weekly for 5 years - and I can see the benefits in his body too."

Dr Nicky Cranshaw


Studio Pilates Auckland Ltd

Address: The Institute of Sport & Physiotherapy
Ground Floor
128 Kyberpass Road


021 124 9035