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The Real Pilates Standards of Training are distinguished by our focus on 4 key elements. Your weekly assignments are designed to develop your skill in each of these areas as well as your Anatomy, History and more.

WEEK 21 FINAL PROJECT SAMPLE

THE PILATES C-CURVE / SCOOP

While not listed in the original 6 principles of Pilates (breathing, control, centering, concentration, precision, flow) as dictated by Joseph Pilates, the C-curve, or Scoop is nevertheless one of the ABC’s of a Pilates practice and has a foremost place in the Pilates arena.  Both practitioners of classical and contemporary Pilates utilize the C-Curve/Scoop concept and without understanding this notion, the student of Pilates can never fully take their practice to the next level.

So where did the concept of the C-curve originate?  If one reviews the literary material of Joseph Pilates’ Your Health and Return to Life Through Contrology respectively, one will find the terminology C-curve and Scoop surprisingly absent as there is no reference in these texts to a C-curve or Scoop.  For example in Spine Stretch Forward his only reference to the abdominals is “abdominals in” or other exercises where the C-curve is a focus such as Open Leg Rocker or HorseBack,  Mr. Pilates simply states “abdominals drawn in”.  And while historically Joseph Pilates did not coin the term C-curve or Scoop he definitely practiced it as evidenced by photos.

Finding the elusive C-curve/Scoop can be difficult and challenging as often when the student attempts to pull their naval to their spine the shoulders rise up with the upper body hunched over.  The ideal C-curve/Scoop position involves keeping the shoulders relaxed, the neck long and the sternum traveling in the direction of the pelvis – there should be no collapsing but rather a lengthening of the spine.  While the C-curve/Scoop involves the rectus abdmonus it primarily relies on the transverse abdominals which circles around the waist and when the transverse is contracted the abdominal wall pulls inward towards the spine.  As the transverse abdominals are located posteriorly to the rectus abdominus they (the transverse) are not easily located and it is often daunting to determine if they are engaged and firing.   When executing the C-curve/Scoop in addition to the transverse abdominals there is also activation by the lumbar spine comprised of five larger vertebral disks and muscle activation of the lower trapezius, latissimus dorsi and lower erector spinae group.  A flexible spine is important and one of Joseph Pilates more famous quotes is  “If your spine is inflexibly stiff at 30 you are old.  If it is completely flexible at 60, you are young”.
                   By learning to control the anatomy needed for the C-curve/Scoop you also effectively work part of the powerhouse, which in Classical Pilates is comprised of the abdominals, gluteals, and muscles of the lower back.  Additionally, when working on your C-curve/Scoop you are also gaining the experience of articulating the spine and increasing spinal mobility as you curl and uncurl vertebra by vertebra to configure the lumbar spine and abdominals into the letter “C” shape.

Joseph Pilates wrote in his book “Pilates’ Return to Life Through Contrology” that
“as small bricks are employed to build large buildings so will the development of small muscles help develop large muscles.  Therefore, when all your muscles are properly developed you will, as a matter of course, perform your work with minimum effort and maximum pleasure”.  (2)  and this relates to the C-curve and its relationship to the powerhouse as the C-curve/Scoop represents the small bricks and these small bricks help to buildup the large building which represents the powerhouse.
                 The galvanizing benefits of the C-Curve/Scoop are supported by research studies taken on Pilates and its overall impact on the abdominals.   Studies such as Marked effects on Pilates on the abdominal muscles: a longitudinal magnetic resonance imaging study(3), a study on non-active healthy women who participated in Pilates twice a week for 9 months and discovered that these women saw a marked increase in tissue on the abdominal walls and a decrease in pre-existing asymmetry conditions.  Furthermore the final recommendation of this study indicated that Pilates was an effective method to reinforce the abdominal wall muscles. Another study, Effects of a 12-week Pilates Course on Lower Limb Muscle Strength and Trunk Flexibility in Women Living in the Community (4) saw vast progress in torso elasticity and muscular strength of the lower extremities in women (aged 26 – 55) who partook in a 12 week Pilates program.  The C-curve/Scoop not only increases abdominal muscles but also trunk flexibility.  
   In conclusion, the C-Curve/Scoop practice of drawing the stomach muscles inward and upward is an effective Pilates training method that provides benefits not only to the building of the abdominals but also provides support to general spinal flexibility, the powerhouse and lumbar flexibility.  While a regular Pilates practice will improve your posture, make your body stronger, develop muscle tone and stamina.  To quote Alycea Ungaro of Real Pilates New York, “Pilates is cross-training for real life”. (7)

Footnotes:

(1) The Shape of All Things Pilates: Round Back, Pilatesology, October 16, 2013, Andrea Maida
http://pilatesology.com/2013/10/the-shape-of-all-things-pilates-round-back/#.U_Z2y9zfGeI

(2) Pilates, Return to Life Through Contrology, Joseph Pilates, published 1945, page 15

(3) Marked effects of Pilates on the abdominal muscles: a longitudinal magnetic resonance imaging study. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2012 Aug;44(8):1589-94. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e31824fb6ae. Dorado C1, Calbet JA, Lopez-Gordillo A, Alayon S, Sanchis-Moysi J. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22357302

(4 ) Effects of a 12-Week Pilates Course on Lower Limb Muscle Strength and Trunk Flexibility in Women Living in the Community. Kao YH1, Liou TH, Huang YC, Tsai YW, Wang KM.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24611630

(5) http://lostinfitness.blogspot.com/2012/04/is-pilates-good-for-your-back-or-will.html

(6) Is Your Abs Workout Hurting Your Back? Gretchen Reynolds, June 17, 2009 http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/06/17/core-myths/comment-page-13/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0

(7) Pilates Practice Companion, page 16, Alycea Ungaro