CoreBody Blog

The Pilates “Shake” …friend or foe?!

The Pilates shake improves dynamic core stability

Pilates is designed to strengthen what is weak and lengthen what is tight. It is about posture, and core stabilizing muscles.

What does it mean though when you’re feeling that tremor or shaking in your abdominals when on the long or short box in round back flexion or in neutral alignment hinging back half way? Or when you’re on the 2nd side of standing side splits and your inner thighs are shaking? Is this uncontrollable shaking your friend or foe?!

Shaking Muscles are Fatiguing

Firstly, shaking muscles are fatiguing muscles. If you’ve reached/achieved the shaky point you’ve pushed your muscles to the limit…the shake is not necessarily a bad thing though within limits of course!   Whether you’re new to Pilates or seasoned, it’s inevitable you’ll experience the Pilates shake! And you should welcome it. In fact you should aim for the shake as it is the holy grail of Pilates!  In Pilates, your postural muscles (core musculature closest to the spine) are challenged to hold you stable in one area whilst moving in another throughout an exercise before given a break.

This fatiguing of your postural/stabilizing muscles in Pilates is a good thing – it is what leads to creating of those long, lean muscles !


The Pilates shake improves dynamic Core Stability

It is common to experience involuntary shaking, as your muscles fatigue during your Pilates sessions.  Each exercise in your Pilates session targets with great intensity a specific muscle group, and your goal is to have that muscle group working hard enough that it shakes every time.

When you feel that shake, it means that there isn’t enough energy left in your body to keep your nerves on track, so your nerves respond to this lack of energy/signal by shaking involuntarily. The shake does not mean that you’re doing something wrong, or are in danger of getting injured – again, the shake is a highly desired thing, though some clients try to control the shake or stop the exercise as they believe they’ve maxed out. However, these neurogenic tremors or this involuntary shaking actually have a deeper benefit, allowing for a deeper release of unconscious tension patterns. In fact there are those that actually practise TRE (tremor inducing exercises) to release areas of stiffness or unconscious muscle tension and to improve one’s dynamic core stability, enhancing your Pilates and or yoga practise.


Embrace the Shake

In order to make changes in your muscles and progress in the lean building of them, you have to understand and embrace the trembling.

Although a shaking muscle isn’t usually a bad sign, it could be a sign to slow down and take a break. It is of note that your body can progress while still working before the point of complete fatigue. And though working yourself to the point of exhaustion is never a great idea, the shake you feel is a good indicator that you have reached your maximum limit. Working your body to this point of exhaustion may help improve overall fitness.

So to get the most out of the shake, once you finish the 5 – 8 – 10 reps and get to relax from the shake-inducing exercise, you’ll stretch those muscles out which is what helps to build the long, lean muscles we are all seeking.

Being that Pilates is about the mind-body connection, one should remain conscious of your body and what you’re demanding of it. You need to stay hydrated throughout class, and give your body rest /recovery time as well.

The Shake Isn’t Just For Newbies

As you attend your Pilates classes or private sessions consistently and more regularly, your muscles will start to adapt to the massive challenge you’re presenting them with during each exercise.

Thus, over time, your muscular endurance will strengthen and the shake won’t happen as often. However, that doesn’t mean it won’t happen at all. You have to move to that point with excellent alignment and form to often entice the shake! And once your body has strengthened you may choose either heavier or lighter resistance pending on the exercise to allow your core stabilizers to work that much harder to support you!

Wrap it up

Many people are afraid to push themselves too hard, and they often lose out on intense workouts with high calorie-burning potential. The trembling or shake indicates how the muscles grab and release one other as they lengthen and shorten during the exercise. But that action will become smoother, and the shaking will stop, once the muscles become more used to the activities you’re doing.

The improvement of one’s dynamic core stability you build via the Pilates shake and Pilates as a whole, is something that will massively improve your overall fitness and health.

Pilates also helps a great deal with balance and flexibility, whose roles become more and more important as we age.

If you’re checking in on your alignment and muscular engagement then you’re likely more often than not, to find yourself shaking, feeling the muscular engagement and loving that shake as you should!


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