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How to get THE MOST out of your J Group Class

Updated: Nov 23, 2022


If you were to ask 10 different health professionals (doctors, physical therapist, teachers, Pilates Instructors, etc) where the CORE is located, you would get 10 different answers because it’s a matter of opinion. There is no right or wrong answer, it’s what each individual believes to make up the CORE in one’s body. You might feel that some opinions matter more than others and you are entitled to value those individuals over others because it’s your preference. For example, if that person has a higher education in the human body, has been a Physical Therapist for 25 years versus someone who is in their first year, or they might specialize in certain type of core you would like more information (ex. If you are having a baby and your OBGYN gives you exercises to strengthen your core to help with pregnancy versus a male Personal Training giving you advice.) To me, there is no right or wrong answer, there is what works for you and your specific body needs and what you believe to be the best explanation.

Today, I am going to share with you what the CORE is in a J Pilates Program. All the following muscles are referred to in a J group class, but always in a weird and unusual way. I don’t usually use technical terms because about 90% of people don’t even know what the technical terms mean. I have noticed that if I use the correct names of the muscles, I get confused looks and clients will stop moving. Most clients in a group class are not there for an anatomy class…they are there to move! So instead, I use certain cues and teach my instructors to use these same terms or develop their own so the client may identify with the description of what kind of feeling/muscle engagement should feel like. For example, instead of saying “Pull your pelvic floor in with your kegel muscles, engage your Transverse Abdominus while pulling your Latissimus Dorsi down your back.” For those who know medical terminology for your muscle groups would know what to do there. However, in my experience, most clients have no clue what that would mean. So instead, I would say, “Imagine there is a lil bobcat in your tummy named Bob. Hug him. While you are hugging him, try to pull him up underneath your ribcage and hold him tightly with your corset cinching in tightly.” Once the clients get the full description, later in class all I will have to say is, “Hug Bob” or “Don’t let Bob escape”.

Why do you need to know this? Because if you are an instructor, it should help you progress your teaching skills or at least give you a different way of thinking about how to communicate what the client should be engaging in each exercise. If you are a client taking a J Pilates, Barre or HIIT class, it will help you know how to properly engage your CORE and what the muscles should be engaged.

If you’d like to dive in a little further, I offer a more in-depth CORE training for just $20 that will include:

Visuals – what each muscle or muscle group looks like in the body

Location – where each muscle or muscle group is located

Function – the main function of the muscle or muscle group

Exercises – common exercises that engage the specific muscle or muscle group

Cues – fun cues to help clients engage the muscle or muscle group

With this knowledge you will:

As an instructor: receive 2 credits for your Continuing Education (if you are Certified J Instructor) and get a refresher on the CORE muscles, where they are located, what movement they provide the body, and new ways to engage and cue how to engage the muscles. This is a great online course for any fitness instructor as well.

As a client: gain control over your body, strengthen your core, begin to see quicker results, be more confident in your workouts, and the most important… workout safely!

Whether you decide to take the online course, here’s a little sneak peak on what we go over in the Online CORE course: Please feel free to take notes, send questions or even challenge this blog. We are all human, we are all learning, and we are all adapting. Thank you for participating!

- Lacy J / CRB

The Pelvic Floor Muscles: KEGEL MUSCLES

Location: at the base of your pelvis… there’s so many!

Function: KEGEL muscles help you stop urine flow, stop you from passing gas, helps women push out babies, and finally acts as a base hammock for your organs.

 Stopping the urine flow and/or by stopping yourself from passing gas.

 Helps you relieve yourself of toxins by pushing liquids out the vagina/penis and poop out of your anus.

 Kegel is known for helping babies push out babies, but what is not said is that it helps hold baby in until you are ready to push.

 Hold the internal organs in place

Just think of your Kegel as a fruit bowl (your Kegel being the bowl and your organs being the

fruit. Don’t let them hang too low, or you might start popping out fruit)

**TID BIT: There are NUMEROUS of small muscles all located at the base of the pelvic structure that makes the Pelvic Floor a super powerful place in your body. That is why it is the MAIN PART of this program. It is one part of our foundaton/power house (gluteals being the other)**


 Stopping your urine flow while on the potty

 Pelvic Tilts without using your legs

 Pulling a marble from base of pelvis all the way up under ribcage (this one incorporate the Transverse


 Imagine there is a Kitten named Bob in your tummy. Hug Bob and lightly lift him up away from the bottom of your pelvis

Lacy J Cue: Hug Bob

Transverse Abdominus:

Location: is the deepest of the 6 Core muscles located on the front side of the body. It connects to the Xyphoid Process (center of ribcage) along the Linea Alba (center line of stomach) down to the Pubic Crest (top of pubic bone of pelvis)


 Holds the organs in place

 Stabilizes the pelvis

 Helps the spine Lateral Flex (bend sideways)

 Twist at the waistline

 If you exhale forcefully, you can feel the TA cinch in like a corset in your lower Core. Also engages when you cough, sneeze, or laugh.


 Cinch in your corset while doing plank / don’t let Bob escape

 Hug Bob, pull Bob up under ribs, KNIT YOUR RIBS IN TO HOLD BOB HOSTAGE

 Blow up a balloon

 Cinch a string or belt around your waist

 Pilates Teaser Sit / add twist

Lacy J Cue: Cinch in your corset!

Internal Oblique:

Location: Connects from the coastal cartilages (tissue that connects the sternum to the ribs) of the lower 4 ribs, over the Linea Alba (center line of stomach) down to the Iliac Crest (top crest of pelvis) to Pubic Bone (located at front base of pelvis) The Internal Oblique is the deeper of the two obliques and helps assist the TA on many things


 It assists in exhalation and cinching in the corset

 Holds organs in place

 Twist at the waistline (same side rotators) During criss-cross series. Taking the left shoulder to the right hip contracts the RIGHT internal


 Lateral Flex the spine (to the left), pulling the bottom of the ribcage left to the top of the left hip.


 Criss-Cross Series

 Side Bends

 Side Planks

 Wood Chopper: twisting on horizontal plan or diagonal

Lacy J Cue: Cinch in your corset & pull limbs towards your center line

External Obliques

Is the largest and most superficial of the Core muscles.

Location: The External Obliques run from the middle of the 5-12 ribs down to the Iliac Crest (top of pelvis) and Pubic Tubercel (bottom front of pelvis).


 Pulls the chest down (forward bend or “knits the ribs” on exhalation)

 Lateral Flex (side bend)

 Twist of the waistline. During criss-cross series. Taking the left shoulder to the right hip contracts the LEFT external oblique.



Lacy J Cue: Cinch in your corset & blow up a balloon


The biggest and most exterior of the Gluteals is the Maximums. The Medius is second biggest making the Minimus the smallest and most superficial of them all. All three make the biggest extensor muscles of the hip.

Location: this big chunk of muscles runs from the outer rim of the pelvis down to the Greater Trochanter (big protrusion on the outside of the femur (thigh) bone) as well as the Iliotibial Band (IT Band).

**TID BIT: since the Glutes attach to the IT band, when you overwork the glutes the IT band can become tight. Stretching or rolling the IT band after class is never a bad idea**

Maximus Function:

 To bring you from a sitting to a standing.

 Base of the Power Base to help you keep an erect posture

 Balance

Medius/Minimus Function:

 add external rotation from the hip (turn the legs out)

 add internal rotation from the hip (turn legs in)

 Extensors of the hips (push the hips forward to open the hip flexors)

 Balance

Maximus Exercises:

 Squats

 Bridges parallel

 Hill Walking

Medius & Minimus Exercises:

 Curtsy Lunge

 Bridges in Pilates V

 Clam exercises

 Dog Fire hydrant

Lacy J Cue: If you don't squeeze them, no one else will. Credit to the owner of our Affiliate J Pilates Midland

Latssimus Dorsi:

The Latissimus Dorsi (aka Lat) is the large muscle that runs down the back like a blanket and helps keep the arms plugged into the shoulder joint and keep shoulders out of the ears during exercises. It is important to strengthen the back muscles to give opposition to the front Core muscles making the Core strong altogether.

Location: starting from the top, the Lat connects from the mid top of the Humerus (arm bone) and works its way down over the Scapula (little floating wing bone on back) connects to the Thoracic spine (mid back) T7 down to the Lumbar (lower spine) L5 all the way down to the Iliac Crest (top of pelvis).


 Extension of the spine (backward bend)

 Adducting in the arm (pulling into center)

 Rotates arm inward into its correct anatomical stance (palms forward)

 Pulls Scapulas down the back giving an erect posture

 Lateral Flexion of the spine (bend sideways)

 Twisting of the spine

 Assists in inhaling by lifting ribcage

 Assist in exhaling by compressing


 Swimming

 Squeezing ball under arm into waistline

 Puffing chimmy’s out while in plank and pushing shoulders down towards hips

 Standing Side Bends with kettle in hand going towards ground

 Twisting of the spine while in flat back you will feel most. Can do with scoop as well

 Assists in inhaling by lifting ribcage (aka puffing your chimmy chongas out

 Assist in exhaling by compressing, as long as you keep your scapulas down

Most latissimus dorsi exercises concurrently recruit the teres major (attaches scapula to humerus), posterior fibres of the deltoid, long head of the triceps brachii (aka Triceps), among numerous other stabilizing


**TID BIT: Horizontal pulling motions such as ROWS recruit both lats and trapezius….that’s a NO NO in our classes. We want to relax the Trapezius as much as possible and allow the lats to pull the shoulders down and keep clients out of their necks. *

Lacy J Cue: Turn your elbows in & puff your chimmy changas out

The muscles listed above are the MAIN muscles I consider to be a part of the CORE. There are definitely more, but they are not my main muscles. The Diaphragm is one of the main ones too...however I feel that muscle group deserves its own blog and Continuing Education. Make sure you checkout my class online for a more in depth with images and video clips to help you better understand how to engage your core and get the most out of your workouts!

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