Pilates Core and deep stabilization. What should we know?

Pilates Core and deep stabilization. What should we know about them? Various types of pains are most basic reasons why patients visit their doctors and physiotherapists [4]. The increase in the level of knowledge on remedial processes has made it possible to approach the topic of tissue therapy from a more comprehensive angle. A better insight into the occurrences taking place in the organism after its structures being damaged has resulted in, among others, better understanding of key therapy aspects both stimulating and suppressing the proper course of remedial process. Human body consists of numerous mechanisms allowing it to neutralize a potentially detrimental impact of the environment or to adopt to it. Due to the fact that the majority of threats come from the outside world, first and most durable barriers are the skin, subcutaneous layer, and muscles, together with their numerous passive joint stabilizers. Their mechanical and physiological features allow to properly address external stimuli, protecting more vulnerable areas of the organism. Viscosity and elasticity make it possible for them to passively spread various occurring forces along the joints. The active joint stabilization reduces overextensions, preventing the overexploitation of passive periarticular elements. It also distributes proper muscle tension, minimizing the risk of exhaustion of inadequate muscle groups.  How important are the understanding of muscle timing (muscle activation order) and establishing exercise hierarchy relating to the goals proposed by the Pilates method? The issue of motoric control of the muscle system, which, by means of utilization of a network of receptors and nervous system pathways, is responsible for active joint stabilization, has been studied in theoretical and empirical works for a number of years. It has allowed scientists to answer the question of to what extent joint stability depends on the active muscle participation. Unequivocal examination results indicate that the efficiency of passive motoric stabilizers is the highest in the case of extreme movements. The remaining range of motoric movements is covered by muscle contractions [6, 7, 8, 11]. For quite some time, there has been a discussion on the role and engagement of particular muscle groups in specified motoric movements. The majority of available sources prove that for the stabilization-oriented function to be fully effective, the activity of entire muscle groups is needed [1, 6, 8, 9]. When it comes to functional tasks, the nervous system does not control individual muscles, but operates in a modular fashion, exercising supervision over the entire range of movements [2, 5]. The control of the antagonistic muscle group makes it possible to increase the precision, speed, and the level of safety of dynamic movements, as well as allows for remaining static for a long period of time. When there is no need to abort a given action, the control exercised by the nervous system is limited to sending impulses to the spinal cord. Interneurons (relay neurons) induce the so-called reciprocal inhibition which is based on suppressing the activeness of motoric neurons in antagonist muscles in relation to congeners initiating movements. In other words, particular groups of muscles do not block others while they perform a given task, which helps limit energy expenditure. The discussed mechanism is also subject to stimuli control exercised by higher levels of nervous system. They may cause a temporal co-contraction (mutual activation) of both muscle groups. It allows to maintain a specified balance point and identify a safe and stable angular joint position. It is a dominant muscle engagement form in the case of the motoric system, even though it requires higher energy expenditure to fuel more muscles than typically. The mechanism is especially visible while learning new movement patterns. The nervous system, while being unable to properly calculate probable loads, secures joints by increasing stability and rigidity of the entire segment. With time and with memorizing motoric patterns, stimulating signals are sent more effectively, allowing for better energy usage [2, 5]. An interesting take on the matter of active joint stabilization was presented by Richardson et al. They define stability and motoric control as „a dynamic process making it possible to maintain a stable body position in a given functional context” that also allows for controlled body movements in other situations [6]. In their examinations, the researchers predominantly focused on diagnostics and therapy with regard to natural protective mechanisms of joints, proposing a functional muscle division into muscles connected with the gravitational load transferring system (allowing to counteract it and nullify it by means of body mass), and muscles that are unrelated with the said system [6]. The division is a more detailed one than those previous ones, distinguishing between local and global muscles, as well as between those external and deep ones [10]. Richardson’s division combines the anatomic aspect (muscle depth, length, number of controlled joints) with a task-oriented attitude, characterizing the role of the muscle in the process of constant nullification of center of gravity inclinations and gravitational forces suppression. It is based on the assumption that muscles can be divided basing on their ability to defy gravitational forces. Depending on the prevalence of certain working conditions, there is the promotion of movement of muscles that are not connected with the antigravitational system while at the same time antigravitational single-joint muscles activity is reduced (which is combined with the minimization of body weight load and decreased sensory stimulation). In some cases, the muscle imbalance promotes antigravitational muscles, with the engagement of a proper body performance decrease system that is not connected with the antigravitational system. The reconstruction of a MRI image, showing the muscle activation pattern in a closed kinematic chain while pushing a load with one’s legs points to the activation of large muscles, as well as adductor brevis muscle and adductor magnus muscle. At the same time, biceps femoris muscle is moderately stimulated, with rectus femoris muscle, sartorius muscle, semitendinosus muscle, and adductor longus muscle being hardly stimulated. The case is different with leg exercises with a barbell, where adductor brevis muscle and adductor magnus muscle are the most active ones, vastus muscles are moderately stimulated, and rectus femoris muscle, sartorius muscle, semitendinosus muscle, and adductor longus are almost passive. Such a state of affairs indicates a multidirectional co-activation of muscle groups during close chain-oriented exercises. Their comparison with knee joints stretching exercise being a part of open kinematic chain pattern and showing the most notable engagement of vastus muscles and rectus femoris muscle and least notable of adductor muscles and ischio-tibal muscles [6], indicates how important it is to understand the importance of muscle timing (muscle activation order) and establish a hierarchy allowing to reach goals set by the Pilates method. The limitation of sensory stimulation causes changes in stimulation patterns, propagating plastic nervous and muscle transformations within the antigravitational system. Such processes are boosted by emerging pain-related sensations. The entirety of the phenomenon handicaps joint protective mechanisms and may lead to micro/macro-injuries that may negatively affect the entire biomechanical chain. Cricso and Panjabi, after carrying our examinations concerning the stabilization of spine, have formulated a hypothesis relating to the lumbar and pelvic complex: if all spine joints are accompanied with muscles except of a single joint, its stability is equal to the stability of the latter joint (which is equal to zero in the case of the majority of movements) [3].  In the microgravitational environment, the system that is not related with the antigravitational system act differently. Multiple joints and multifunctional muscle units stimulate one another, activate one another, and their atrophy is negligible. It is, therefore, safe to assume, quoting Richardson that „the physiological structure of a muscle is determined by a nervous stimulant pattern connected with it” [6]. A co-emerging occurrence handicaps muscles being antagonistic to the ones characterized by increased contraction capabilities. The said fact is connected with the shifting threshold of passive structure scarcity that is – the impairment of physiological ability to continue movement. Muscles do not increase their length due to the suppression of the joint element by yet another structure characterized by a decreased longitudinal cross section. A typical example of such an occurrence is the impact of thigh shortened muscles which interfere with the bending motion of the hip joint when the knee joint is straightened [2].

  

Katarzyna Kołodko, MA in physiotherapy, BBPilates school instructor, How important are the understanding of muscle timing (muscle activation order) and establishing exercise hierarchy relating to the set goals? We would also like to recommend all the interested individuals the 1st and 2nd level Pilates training. Specialization: Core BBPilates school

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