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Fort Myers, FL – 7 Steps Core Stability, a Healthy Back and Perfect Posture

SYNOPSIS: This program requires persistent and consistent practice of the techniques and is only for the truly committed. It takes time, but if you’re ready to make the commitment, I promise amazing results.

7 Steps Core Stability, a Healthy Back and Posture

BY: Shannon Willits, Shannon Willits - Movement Arts Pilates Fort Myers

Shannon WillitsYou’ve seen the celebrities with the beautiful flat, sculpted abs and perfect posture and wished that you could have it too. Well you can! The 7 Steps to Perfect Posture and a Healthy Core will put you on the path that until now, you’ve only dreamt of. This program requires persistent and consistent practice of the techniques and is only for the truly committed. It takes time, but if you’re ready to make the commitment, I promise amazing results. 

Step 1 – Know Your Core: Get a Static Postural Analysis and a Gait Assessment 

Everybody has a different posture and different body issues. These can be broken down into several types, and these types sometimes need different kinds of attention when exercising to achieve great results without injury. 

I suggest that before you begin a true Pilates program, you get a postural analysis and gait assessment to determine your type. This assessment will establish a baseline for starting your 7 Steps Core Stability, a Healthy Back and Perfect Posture program. It sets you up for a successful, goal-oriented experience. There are many posture types and when working on your posture, you need to understand yours.

Getting a postural analysis and gait assessment is easy enough. Connect with a qualified Pilates instructor (more on that later) or physical therapist for a detailed analysis. Be sure that they document their findings and give you a copy so that you can see your achievements over time!

Training with a Purpose – Know Your Core Muscles and their Function

Part of your initial assessment should introduce you to your “core” muscles. When training your core for improving posture, familiarity with some basic anatomy is really helpful and creates a purpose driven experience – in other words, it helps you to understand why you are doing a particular movement.  Because our posture is unique to our bodies, our core and posture workouts should be unique too. 

So what exactly is “The Core”?

The core muscles include the breathing diaphragm, transversus abdominus (TVA), multifidus, internal and external obliques, and pelvic floor. These muscles provide a stable base from which other body parts can work. 

The Transversus Abdominus (TVA): The TVA muscle is the key to flat, toned abs. This muscle literally corsets your trunk and attaches to the connective tissues of the lower back. A strong TVA is important for trunk control. Ideally, in a healthy functioning core, the TVA, along with the multifidus and pelvic floor muscles, contract together just before movement.  For example, when you reach across the dining table, ideally the TVA, multifidus and pelvic floor muscles co-contract before the reach, stabilizing the spine prior to the movement.

The Multifidus: The multifidus is a muscle located along the back of the spine.  You can think of the TVA as the corset and the multifidus as the “laces” in the back. You know your multifidus group is working well when you can stabilize your spine and pelvis in a variety of progressively challenging exercises.

The Pelvic Floor:  The muscles of the pelvic floor are the foundation for the core of the body. Think of the pelvic floor muscles like a hammock at the base of the pelvis. These muscles help stabilize the pelvis and spine but also support the organs like the bladder and uterus. Pelvic floor weakness can lead to problems like incontinence or diminished sexual enjoyment. Pelvic floor weakness can also lead to structural imbalances that, in turn, can lead to back pain and create compensations throughout the body. Simple breathing and imagery exercises can also retrain this muscle group.

The core muscles are very sensitive to injury. Even one episode of low back strain can impair the timing in how this group of muscles activates, leading to weakness and instability. Most people have some form of core instability from back injuries, abdominal or pelvic surgeries, lack of use, genetic asymmetries or even pregnancies and more.  If this dysfunction is not corrected, even after an individual’s pain has subsided, the chronic instability will increase the chances of getting reinjured over time. (from Diane Lee, BSR FCAMT CGIMS, “Multifidus: Location, Function & Dysfunction.”)

Fortunately the TVA, multifidus and pelvic floor contraction timing can be retrained with simple breathing and imagery exercises as I will describe in Step 3.

Step 2 – The Pilates Method

Contemporary Core Training

Pilates is a method of exercise developed by the late Joseph Pilates. Joseph Pilates believed that the “modern” lifestyle, bad posture, and inefficient breathing lay at the roots of poor health. During WWI, while detained, Joseph Pilates began to intensively develop an integrated, comprehensive system of physical exercise, which he called “contrology.” He studied yoga and the movements of animals and trained his fellow inmates in fitness and exercises. 

The Pilates Method encourages the use of the mind to control muscles. It focuses on the muscles that balance the body and provide postural support for the spine. In particular, Pilates exercises teach awareness of breath and of alignment of the spine. Pilates strengthens the spinal, abdominal and gluteal muscles. 

Pilates is great for young and old, the athlete and the injured, for pre- or post-joint replacement – for everyone. It isn’t a fad or a religion and it is widely studied and used by physical therapists across the globe. Joseph Pilates was certainly a man ahead of his time.

Contemporary Pilates vs. Classical Pilates

The original works and exercises of Joseph Pilates continue to be taught as created by Joseph Pilates and is referred to as “classical,” “authentic” or “original” Pilates. Our understanding of the body and its function has and continues to develop, and so has the Pilates Method. Contemporary approaches to the original Pilates Method are more three-dimensional and focus on function. 

Be careful  

With the Pilates Method becoming more mainstream, it is important for anyone searching for an instructor to be sure that he/she is certified by a nationally recognized certifying body like STOTT PILATES. Also be sure that the method is a contemporary method. STOTT PILATES and most contemporary Pilates education takes a minimum of 18 months for the instructor to become certified in level one. Beware of the weekend certification! Pilates is a workout that involves the spine and has inherent risk simply due to the nature of the movement. Choose your instructor wisely. 

Beyond crunches

Crunches primarily train the rectus abdominus, which runs vertically from your breastbone to your pubic bone, and is the easiest of your core muscles to train. The rectus abdominus’ primary function is to flex your spine. Over-training from doing only or too many crunches can lead to poor posture and back and neck pain.

Unless you want to end up looking like a hunchback or gorilla, you need to train all of your core muscles including your obliques transversus, pelvic floor, and low back muscles as discussed in Step 2. Your core is much more than just your rectus abdominus. The Pilates Method is an excellent way to fully train all of the core muscles including the pelvic core. 

Step 3 – Anatomical Neutral and The 5 Basic Principles of STOTT PILATES

  1. Breathing
  2. Pelvic stability
  3. Ribcage placement
  4. Shoulder stability and mobility
  5. Head placement

I find that the STOTT PILATES principles can be applied to any type of movement or workout, making it safe and very effective. I teach many different types of fitness, but I “Pilatisize” everything!

There are five basic principles of STOTT PILATES that are key to doing Pilates exercises safely and effectively. These principle elements show you how to breathe properly and position your body through the exercises. They will make you more aware of your core and help you get better results from your workout. 

Anatomical Neutral Pelvis and Spine – What is it? 

Anatomical neutral is the preferred position of the body when performing STOTT PILATES exercises. I describe “anatomical neutral pelvis and spine” like this: 

“When you lie on your back with your knees bent, place the heels of your hands on your hip bones and your index fingers on your pubic bone. These three points should be on the same plane and even with the mat. There should also be a small space underneath your lower back. The back of your ribcage should also be down and the bottom ribs should be in line with your hip bones. Your shoulders and neck should be relaxed.”

To the beginner, neutral pelvis and spine will feel very strange. I often hear, “I feel like I’m arching my back.” And you may actually be arching your back a bit. 

Traditional fitness (and some old-style Pilates) methods teach you to flatten your back to prepare for an abdominal exercise. Flattening the back engages the rectus abdominus and the glute muscles (the butt), but it doesn’t activate the core muscles – the TVA, multifidus, and pelvic floor –- like contemporary Pilates and anatomical neutral will.

When doing Pilates, the ultimate goal is to train your body in neutral pelvis and spine also while prone (face down), seated, kneeling, standing and finally in motion so that you engage the core muscles we discussed that are key to great posture and stability. 

Step 4 – Functional Flexibility

Functional flexibility is flexibility that allows you to perform better. It allows you to engage in tasks like walking, sports like tennis or golf, and daily activities like gardening or chasing grandchildren optimally and without injury. Whether training for golf, tennis, swimming or any sport, most athletes realize the benefits from a strength training program, yet often do not recognize the importance of a flexibility program

Functional flexibility is the foundation of everything we do! In fact, without functional flexibility you cannot reach your highest potential in power, strength, cardiovascular fitness, or muscle endurance. Functional flexibility is key for ultimate performance and preventing injuries.

I often hear, “I do a stretching class three days per week, but my hamstrings are still so tight and my back hurts at the end of the day.” Traditional stretching techniques tend to focus more on muscle origin and insertion but do not provide us with an optimal functional performance outcome. 

A functional flexibility program is based on the individual and is “task driven.”  The movements are three-dimensional. Movements address those you use every day in a way to train the body to perform better. During training, you focus on stabilizing the muscles to “hold” them in positions that are in better balance.  Without stabilizing, your body will not recognize the new flexibility and will default to old patterns of tightness and dysfunction.  Think of it as teaching your body a better way of moving. 

Step 5 – Joint Mobility and Stability – “Mostability” 

Mobility: the ability to move freely
Stability: the ability to maintain a position 

From the feet, ankles, knees, hips, pelvis, spine, ribcage, shoulders, and neck, all of us need three-dimensional mobility and stability to optimally and functionally perform our daily activities without injury. This is known as “mostability.” In my studios, the first thing I assess is my client’s joint mostability.  I determine whether the joints move optimally during a functional movement. Proper sequencing of the bones and joints is essential to efficient performance of tasks, whether it’s a sport or simply getting in and out of the car. 

To get great posture and a healthy functioning core, I recommend performing three-dimensional, functional flexibility exercises and then applying them to the right stability exercises. Take a look at my video to see more.

Step 6 – The Functional Foot  Essential for Optimal Upright Human Function

Yes, I have a Foot Fetish!

In my studio I see all kinds of people with various postural and core weakness issues. Frequently their issues are coming from their feet. Yes, your shoulder pain can actually come from your foot!

The foot has three responsibilities – shock absorber, propeller, base of support:

First, the foot is a shock absorber that allows for three-dimensional loading for the rest of the body; second, the foot is a stable propeller that allows the body to unload in all three planes; third, it’s a base of support, providing the stability and mobility of the foot to balance the body. 

The Switch – The Heel Bone

The internal power sources that drive the body are the hips and trunk: the core of the body. There are many ways to activate that power source, but probably the most important for upright function in our gravitational environment is eversion of the calcaneus (the heel bone). Because the joints of the ankle are three-dimensional and all joints move in three planes, the calcaneal eversion during weight bearing produces three-dimensional reactions in the knee, hip, and spinal joints. If the foot doesn’t properly load and pronate and then unload, there will be significant ramifications up into the knees, hips, spine, and even the shoulders.

During walking, the knee will flex, abduct, and internally rotate. The hip responding to the calcaneal eversion and ankle motion will flex, adduct, and internally rotate. Since the pelvis is also driven by gravity and ground reaction force, motion will be created in the lower spine. Remember that all these motions are “given for free” and muscles must first decelerate (lengthen or stretch) these motions prior to creating the opposite motions (shorten or contract). It is these motions that turn on the hip and core muscles, all initiated by the calcaneal eversion “switch” (David Tiberio PhD, PT, OCS, “CALCANEAL EVERSION: The Switch that Turns On the Engine.” The Gray Institute: News and Articles).”

Think about a person who has a very high arch and a stiff foot…this equates to poor loading mechanics. Conversely the flat foot creates its own set of issues in that it is pre-loaded. With both scenarios it is likely that the pelvic core and trunk are not performing optimally. All of which can lead to dysfunctional movement and pain. 

Step 7 – 100 percent Commitment

To transform your body requires total commitment to steps 1 – 6 of this program. Postural changes take time. Think about it, you’ve had your posture for a long time. It won’t take that long to change it, but it does take commitment to these steps. It’s the same thing with your core. When you commit to the STOTT PILATES principles as a daily practice, you’ll begin to notice changes.

Why do some people succeed and others spin their wheels with failure?

There are many reasons for failure, but the best way to ensure success is to follow a proven model or “system” that produces results. The 7 Steps Core Stability, a Healthy Back and Perfect Posture is a proven system that has helped thousands of people.

Regularly assess your progress and update your program accordingly.

Failure to regularly assess your improvements leads to plateaus, frustration, and backsliding. Assessing your progress ensures your continued progress and accelerated success! Have an expert review your progress and program to identify “course corrections” you might need to succeed! 

What is the best way to achieve the results you want in the shortest period of time?

This is the most common question that I get from clients. The answer is different for everybody, based on their commitment. Following the model we’ve reviewed here and investing in a coaching program is the best way to guarantee success. Generally, most clients begin to see a difference in about 90 days and at six to nine months they are experiencing great posture and a healthy core. 

Summing It Up

Performing each step is essential to your success. Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts. A coaching program will keep you accountable and assure your continued progress to achieve your goals. If you would like to submit a video for an assessment, please contact me at (941) 993-8316. I am also available for online coaching. For more information visit


“Best Pilates Instructor in Fort Myers, FL”

Top Rated Local Pilates Workout Classes / Studios / Programs / Services

Lee County: Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Estero, Bonita Springs, Naples, FL


“Best Pilates Instructor in Fort Myers, FL”

Top Rated Local Pilates Workout Classes / Studios / Programs / Services

Lee County: Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Estero, Bonita Springs, Naples, FL

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Shannon Willits

Shannon Willits - Movement Arts Pilates Fort Myers

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13211 McGregor Boulevard,
Fort Myers, FL 33919, USA

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13211 McGregor Boulevard,
Fort Myers, FL 33919, USA



BIO: I have personally experienced the benefits of Pilates and The MELT Method along with functional, core-based movement to overcome my own overuse injuries. It is through my experience that I share with my clients the knowledge that with hydrated and toned connective tissue and correct movement you can achieve results of a strong, fluid, balanced body that is pain-free and moves with ease.


Fort Myers, FL – 7 Steps Core Stability, a Healthy Back and Perfect Posture