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Understanding the Block System® – Abdominal Work

This is the fourth article in a series on the BASI Block System by Theo van der Riet, one of three BASI principal instructors and owner of Body Intellect studio in Pretoria, South Africa. The studio is also the headquarters of BASI South Africa. An internationally-recognized BASI Pilates teacher, Theo has two bulldogs, Minimus and Maximus, and loves to ride bikes.

The abdominal section of the BASI Pilates Block System deepens our awareness of the inner core. It highlights the correct use of the abdominals and challenges this particular muscle group in various positions, loads and ranges.

It is of paramount importance that you understand that Pilates is not just about abdominal work and the cueing of Transversus Abdominis (TA). The body consists of more muscle groups than just the abdominals. Your goal is to construct a well balanced class that targets most muscle groups and challenges them with different type of muscle work, e.g. isometric and isotonic muscle work.

Typically abdominal work is done by flexing the spine, however the abdominals can be challenged in different positions, e.g. standing, sitting, kneeling, supine, prone and side lying. Especially in spinal extension exercises, the abdominals will serve as the support system for the spine and assist to distribute the load throughout the spine rather than hinging on one segment of the spine.

When introducing the abdominal block to a client, it is usually the hundreds prep on the Reformer. I highly recommend that you teach it without any resistance to establish control and functional movement before introducing load by adding springs and straightening the legs.

When constructing a class in the Block System© the abdominal block will traditionally consist of two abdominal exercises, commonly the hundreds and an additional abdominal exercise and/or then a ‘series’ for the abdominal, e.g. Short Box Series.  The hundreds is a signature Pilates exercise and its benefits are far reaching. Besides the fact that it builds endurance, enhances lung capacity and challenges stability, it brings inner focus and demand deep concentration.

The different apparatus available challenges the abdominals in various ways. Remember that the client’s needs and ability will determine the choice you make and which apparatus to use to best suit their needs.

The abdominal work block is essential to address in each class and will bring far reaching effects for the client when they can properly engage the inner core and understand the concept. Correct recruitment of the abdominals will naturally have an effect on the rest of the class and the correct execution of the repertoire. I encourage you to do more in depth study on this topic – recruitment of the inner core.

Remember that quality of movement has far more benefits than quantity… 10 proper chest lifts will put more money in the bank than 100 crunchies…

Have fun teaching.

Theo van der Riet
BASI Pilates™ Principal Instructor

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