Growing up, we are taught to train our larger, more superficial muscles. Why? Because the larger muscles, also known as extrinsic muscles, are easier to feel the burn, provide immediate feedback and you can physically see it the more you build them up. You’re taught that building these muscles will help build the shape you’ve always desired and increase your confidence. But what we aren’t conditioned to know is that the smaller muscles, much deeper in our body, are also very important to strengthen. These deep muscles are called our intrinsic muscles.
What Are Intrinsic Muscles?
Intrinsic muscles, also known as supporting muscles, are generally smaller than the extrinsic muscles (glutes, lats, quads, etc..) and do the job of supporting the general structure of our skeleton. When these muscles are weak, our posture won’t stand so tall.
With intrinsic muscles, you may not ‘feel the burn’ as much. These exercises may require more mind body connection instead, practicing conscious movement vs focusing on feeling the burn. If these muscles are weak, the extrinsic muscles will engage thus increasing chance of injury.
Imagine our body was a house. In order to have a house built to last, you’ll need a strong foundation (intrinsic muscles) and then you can build the walls and roof around it (extrinsic muscles).
Benefits Of Our Strengthening Intrinsic Muscles?
Everybody benefits from strengthening these muscles. Athletes, regardless of the sport, especially need to be diligent in training to ensure they are able to perform efficiently and effectively while decreasing their chance of injury.
Strengthening the intrinsic muscles while still building the larger muscles has incredible benefits such as:
Improved balance and stability
Improves posture and performance
Efficient movement patterns
Increase in body control/awareness
How Does Pilates Come Into Play?
Pilates is an excellent exercise in general as it is low impact, focuses on core training but also forces you to fire from your intrinsic muscles, and deep stabilizers, while maintaining proper form. Each exercise is as controlled as the next and the smaller movements are even more, if not just as, important as the larger movements.
Interested in trying it for yourself? You can email firstname.lastname@example.org to get more information on how Pilates can help you or to book your next session!
If you're interested in doing exercises at home. You can find these exercises on our YouTube Channel.
Starting Position: Lying down on your back, spine in neutral, arms are down by your sides. Right leg is either bent or extended on the mat. Left leg is up in tabletop, or extended reaching towards the ceiling (pick the position that feels best for you and helps you stay in neutral for the whole exercise).
Inhale: Take the left leg across the midline of the body
Exhale: Circle the left leg out and around, returning back to centre
Repeat up to 4 times before doing it again on the other leg.
2.Side Leg Lift
Starting Position: Lying down on your side with your bottom arm or pillow underneath your head for support. Legs are extended down the mat with spine in neutral. Top hand can either be on the mat for support or down by your side to challenge your balance. Feet are pointed.
Inhale: Lift top leg up to hip height, reaching the leg away from you.
Exhale: Flex the ankle and lower the leg down
Repeat for a total of 8 reps. Once completed, reverse the direction and switch to do the other leg.