Research Roundup: December 2019


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The Calibrate Pilates team rounds this up so that you can integrate new information into your evidence-informed practice: join our newsletter now.


Unstable Sitting for the Prediction of Lumbar Stability

Larivière, Christian, Richard Preuss, Daniel Ludvig, and Sharon M. Henry. "Is postural control during unstable sitting a proxy measure for determinants associated with lumbar stability?" Journal of Biomechanics 102 (2020), 109581. doi:10.1016/j.jbiomech.2019.109581.

 This study compared various measures of lumbar trunk stability with a previously described unstable sitting task1. Of these measures, parameters of lumbar structural function and muscle activation and coordination were predictive for the unstable sitting task2:

  • Angular kinematics of pelvis or lumbar spine following rapid arm movement.
  • Lumbar intrinsic stiffness when resisting trunk perturbations.
  • Thickness of perimuscular connective tissue around abdominal muscles.
  • Onset of internal oblique/transverse abdominals and iliocostalis lumborum before rapid flexion/extension of a single arm.
  • Percent thickness change of internal oblique and transverse abdominal muscles at rest and contraction.
Key Points
  • The quality and quantity of movement when sitting on a wobble chair1 correspond to measures of lumbar structural function, as well as muscle activation and coordination.
  • While not predictive enough to supersede all measures in a research setting, unstable sitting can be used clinically as a tool to assess lumbar stability.
Clinically: Pilates in Practice
  • Integrate unstable sitting into movement assessment, especially for patients with lumbopelvic pathologies.
  • Unstable sitting can be replicated in many ways in the Pilates studio; sit on a core disc/wobble cushion during seated work.
  • Wunda Chair seated leg press / footwork series; Reformer leg press seated on the foot bar.
  • Arm spring series seated on a stability ball at the end of the Cadillac/Tower.
  • Side arm series seated on the Cadillac or Reformer; hang legs to decrease stability.
  • Practice limb movements of various amplitude and speed.


1.  Shahvarpour, A., Gagnon, D., Preuss, R., Henry, S. and Larivière, C. (2018). Trunk postural balance and low back pain: Reliability and relationship with clinical changes following a lumbar stabilization exercise program. Gait & Posture, 61, pp.375-381.

2. Larivière, C., Preuss, R., Ludvig, D. and Henry, S. (2019). Is postural control during unstable sitting a proxy measure for determinants associated with lumbar stability?. Journal of Biomechanics, p.109581.



Describing Movement for Motor Learning

Kawasaki, Tsubasa, Masashi Kono, and Ryosuke Tozawa. "Efficacy of Verbally Describing One’s Own Body Movement in Motor Skill Acquisition." Brain Sciences 9, no. 12 (2019), 356. doi:10.3390/brainsci9120356.

 This small study contributes to the body of literature linking motor imagery and motor learning.  While there are drawbacks to this study, the authors extrapolate that verbally describing movement may be a useful tool for those patient populations who may not otherwise be able to use motor imagery training: patients with acquired brain injuries or Parkinson’s disease1.

Key Points
  •  Verbal description of one’s own body movement shows overlapping brain activity with motor execution and motor imagery2.
  • Verbally describing movement improves motor performance of a task, with short-term retention.
  • Error was decreased for a motor task when verbally describing one’s own movement, but only the day after practice.
  • Motor imagery is related to the motor learning process when describing one’s own body movements for a given task.
Clinically: Pilates in Practice
  • Ask patients to describe what their body is doing/how their body is moving as they learn a new task.
  • Utilise this tool for neurological populations who may have difficulty conceptualising imagery and visualisation.
  • Get a patient to practice a movement in various positions, and ask them to describe what their body is doing in each orientation, to facilitate their motor learning; eg. prone triceps press at the Cadillac, triceps press with hands in straps on the Reformer, and seated triceps press at the Wunda Chair.


1. Kawasaki, T., Kono, M. and Tozawa, R. (2019). Efficacy of Verbally Describing One’s Own Body Movement in Motor Skill Acquisition. Brain Sciences, 9(12), pp.356-364.

2. Stout, D. and Chaminade, T. (2012). Stone tools, language and the brain in human evolution. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 367(1585), pp.75-87.



Biomechanics of Pregnancy

Conder, R., Zamani, R. and Akrami, M. (2019). The Biomechanics of Pregnancy: A Systematic Review. Journal of Functional Morphology and Kinesiology, 4(4), pp.72-87.

 This is a systematic review of 50 papers looking at how biomechanical changes during pregnancy will affect quality of life in this population.

Key Points
  • Most statistically significant results are found in the third trimester.
  • While anterior pelvic tilt, lumbar lordosis, and thoracic kyphosis increase during pregnancy, this wasn’t consistent across studies, and is therefore likely related to individual factors.
  • Back pain during pregnancy is not related to spinal changes.
  • Postural control is decreased during pregnancy. However, stability is increased by the third trimester.
  • During pregnancy, the risk of falls increases due to decreases in postural control and stability.
  • Falls risk is increased in pregnant women who demonstrate decreased ankle “stiffness”/strength.
  • Gait changes during pregnancy are not consistent, but may involve decreased velocity and stride length, decreased single leg stance time, and increased step width.
  • Pelvic and thoracic rotations during gait may increase or decrease during pregnancy, and are likely correlated with pelvic girdle pain or lumbar pelvic pain.
  • Trunk and hip mobility are inconsistently affected during pregnancy, again likely related to individual factors.
  • Among some individuals, there is an increased tendency towards pronation of the foot during pregnancy.
Clinically: Pilates in Practice
  • Assess each pregnancy individually.
  • Work to reduce falls risks by increasing ankle strength; standing ankle press at Wunda Chair; standing triceps press at Cadillac/Tower, with heel raise; standing knee floats.
  • Work to reduce falls risks by increasing postural control in standing; challenge standing postures with eyes closed; standing platform series on Reformer; step ups/mountain climber on Wunda Chair.
  • Work on hip flexion/extension mobility and strength; Eve’s lunge on Reformer; standing leg springs.
  • Spinal mobility series through flexion/extension/lateral flexion/rotation; spine stretch series; rowing series.

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