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Research Snapshot - Effect of Pilates on a dancers' core muscles: Multifidis and Internal Obliqu

Snapshot: A quick look at some 'hot off the press' dance medicine research.....

Great News! Researchers have shown that Mat work Pilates improves spinal flexion and extension and neuromuscular efficiency in the internal oblique and multifidus muscles. Yay!

The Journal of Dance Medicine & Science have released their most recent volume containing a research article on: Effect of Pilates Mat Exercises on Neuromuscular Efficiency of the Multifidus and Internal Oblique Muscles in a Healthy Ballerina

Hypothesis: Dancers could benefit from Pilates exercises to stabilise their trunk muscles, improve joint stability and neuromuscular efficiency (NME): relationship between electrical activity and force of the muscles.

Method/ Focus: This study looked specifically at the Internal oblique and multifidus muscles. They delivered an 8 week Pilates program to a 24 ear old amateur ballerina.

What they Found: Spinal flexion and extension torque increased, and electromyography (EMG) activity decreased (resulting in greater neuromuscular efficiency).

Why is this important research? :

- Lower back and other such injuries affect 95% professional ballet dancers. It is important to look after our backs and reduce the risk of injury.

- The 'Core' incorporates 29 pairs of muscles supporting the hip, pelvis, lumbar spine complex and is used essentially in all dance movements.

- Stability of core defined as “…ability to control the positioning and movement of the trunk over the pelvis and to transfer strength to the upper and lower limbs. “ (p. 80) This is imperative to dancers for spinal safety.

- Multifidis and Internal Oblique muscles contract, stabilise the trunk and keep the spine in neutral position so were the focus of this research.

Discussion: While other studies have shown similar results on general population, this is an important finding for the dance medicine community and will hopefully lead the way to further studies with more participants and more longitudinal research to show how similar programs affect dancer back injury rate.

What other muscles or movements would you like to know about? Comment below and let me know!

Anatomy Lesson


What’s the Multifidis? It’s a series of small muscles that run pretty much the entire length of the spinal column. Check out the page below for a quick video with more information.

Internal Oblique

The IO is a sheet like muscle that is underneath the External oblique muscle with fibres that run diagonally from (roughly) the top of the hip bone (Iliac crest) to the lower ribs and central abdominal tendon. More specific abdominal anatomy information can be found HERE.

Neuromuscular Efficiency

What is neuromuscular efficiency? Essentially it is the ability of the nervous system to properly recruit the correct muscles to produce and reduce force as well as dynamically stabilize the body’s structure in all three planes of motion. ( Efficiency means that the minimum amount of neurons (nerves) should be used in order to create the movement and / or force required without compromise. Just like dancers train muscles to move in a certain way, we need to train nerves to function to gain the most benefit for least amount of ‘effort’. So a reduction in EMG activity indicates a more efficient system.


Normally Torque is referring to a twisting / turning force, but it is a bit more complicated when you are talking about the human body. This video goes into a little bit more detail regarding force in the human body. Watch Here

So keep up your Pilates cross training dancers! Train to be a Stronger, Safer and more Informed dancer. Haven't started your Pilates journey yet? Check out for a great start up package today!

Original Article:

Panhan, A., Goncalves, M., Eltz, G.d., Villalba, M.M., Cardozo, A.C., Berzin, F., 2019, Effect of Pilates Mat Exercises on Neuromuscular Efficiency of the Multifidus and Internal Oblique Muscles in a Healthy Ballerina, Dance Medicine & Science, 23(2), 80 – 83, doi: 10.12678/10/*-313x.23.2.80

Picture Credits:

Multifidis -

Internal Oblique -

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