How to improve your Pilates training with the Deep Muscle Corset System Flowchart
First, what is a corset and what does a corset do?
A corset is a device used to support, brace and uplift various parts of your body. There are many different kinds of corsets depending on their use. Some of them are used in orthopaedic therapy to correct posture and spinal deformities such as scoliosis. Nevertheless, when overused some of these devices, especially the ones used to artificially reduce your waistline, often inhibit the natural breathing process causing the deformities they are supposed to correct. Now, how does this relate to the deep muscle corset?
What does the deep muscle corset system do?
The deep muscle corset system (DMCS) is a muscular network that is much like a corset. However, unlike the traditional corset the DMCS supports, braces and uplifts without ever inhibiting the natural breathing process. It is the main foundation of the power engine (powerhouse), the concept of lumbopelvic control and core stability. As a dynamic stabilizing system, it regulates the process, necessary to maintain pelvic and segmental spinal stability during physical activities. Without its correct use, the effective functioning of the so-called "Powerhouse" as a core controller and power generator in all Pilates exercises is severely inhibited.
Let us take the Pilates Hundred exercise as an example: When the DMCS is not engaged properly the belly is pushed upwards instead of falling downwards due to the downforce of the lower back on the mat and the over dominance of the superficial side muscles (external oblique).
Familiarize yourself with the DMCS
Try this simple exercise to become familiar with the DMCS. Lie on the mat with your knees bent and hold a small ball in between your heels. Use your thumb and first two fingers to hold the skin above your navel and lift it up until you can clearly feel an opposing stretch on your belly. Now breathe in your belly and then slowly let go of the breath like a slow delayed sigh. At the end of the sigh, without changing the relaxing condition, brought about by the sigh, pull the skin down toward the spine and slightly resist the pull with your thumbs and fingers. Press your heels together against the ball and then the inside of your thighs. Keep this position for seven seconds without consciously breathing in or out. Try this exercise also sitting on a chair or lying on your side on the mat.
Malfunction of the DMCS
If you find that you have a need to consciously breathe, it means that in the attempt to pull the belly down you have
- either lifted your ribcage prior to pulling your belly towards to the spine or
- forcefully and concentrically contracted your obliques.
Both of these actions negatively oppose the correct implementation of this exercise, which aims at helping you to get a feel of the DMCS. How to eliminate this faulty action?
The ABC for the DMCS can help
Do these 3 actions before you draw your belly in
A. relax your collarbone area
B. visualize a softening above the pubic bone and
C. feel the pressure of your thumbs and fingers on your skin.
This way of pulling your belly in will engage the pelvic floor muscles and transverses abdominis (the deepest of your abdominal muscles), and not the external obliques. You will so be able to hold this position for quite a long time because you learnt to use Power and not Force to activate your abdominal muscles. After 3 sets of 7-second-holds, your legs will stick together and your belly will be drawn towards the spine without any conscious act of doing so. Voilà, your “A-ha!” experience of Power without force!
Today I also have an additional little gift for you: A simple flowchart - your DMCS Companion. Get it here! The DMCS flowchart will help you verify whether you are using your deep muscle corset system or not yet.
Try it & fly with it!