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7 Best Pilates Exercises for Stronger Abs

Here are my 7 Pilates exercises that are guaranteed to strengthen your core, shape your waist and tone up your abs.


1. The One Hundred



Purpose

  • Strengthening Rectus abdominals, core and lumbar spine.

Start Position

  • Lay in supine (on your back)

  • Knees bent and in line with the feet flat on the floor

  • Keep your arms down by the side of the body, palms facing down.

  • Spine In Neutral

  • Abdominals, pelvic floor, and glute muscles engaged 30%

Main exercise (Beginner level)

  • Float one leg at a time to a 45 degree angle so that the shins are parallel to the ceiling and the knees are directly over the hips.

  • Inhale to prepare and exhale as you roll head and shoulders off the floor crating a c curve in your upper back.

  • Lift both arms off the floor to hip height and beat the arms in a downward motion as if beating a drum as you do this breathe in for the count of 5 and breathe out for the count of 5. Do this 10 times, 100 beats of the arms. This is the maximum amount and you can do less and gradually build up to 10 sets.

  • Lower legs one at a time keeping the knees bent.

  • Keep your core engaged throughout the entire exercise and until both feet are back on the floor.

Tips

  • Maintain neutral in your spine

  • Keep your legs aligned with your hips

  • Keep your knees over the hips and shins parallel to the ceiling.

Main exercise (Intermediate level)

  • As above but with the legs vertical

Tips

  • Make sure Shoulders are stabilised throughout the exercise

  • Ensure the beating of the arms movement comes from the shoulder joint.

  • Avoid holding your breath

  • Breathe into the ribs not the chest

  • Try to avoid flapping the hands

  • Keep your legs still

  • Make sure your back doesn’t arch when you progress and you lower the legs

Main exercise (Advanced level)

  • Lower the legs closer to the mat keeping your spine and pelvis in a neutral position.


2. The Teaser

Purpose

  • Spinal mobility, core strengthening, rectus abdominals

Start Position

Lie on your back with your knees bent in a table top position as in the One Hundred with the spine in a neutral position and core muscles engaged 30% arms by your side on the floor palms facing down.


Main Exercise

  • Inhale to prepare and exhale as your head, shoulders and arms begin to lift from the floor. As the arms come to the ears begin to lift your legs from the floor into a V shape.

  • Your arms should finish parallel to the leg line and the body is supported on the sit bones in a V sit.

  • Inhale and take arms by ears, exhale rolling back through the vertebrae lowering the upper and lower body at equal pace.

  • Repeat. 5 to 6 repetitions or as many as you can with good technique and control.

Tips

  • Lift legs slightly after the body begins to lift

  • Keep the chest lifted and the shoulders stabilised

  • Work towards Maintaining length in the legs and upper body

  • Roll up, avoid jerking and using too much momentum

  • Make a V shape with the body

3. Scissors

Purpose

  • Lower back and rectus abdominal strength

Warning: as you perform this exercise your lower back will want to arch push the lower back to the floor leaving just a tiny crack between the floor and your lower back. If the back arches in this exercise you are placing a considerable amount of pressure on the lower back and this could cause considerable amount of pain so proceed with care.

Beginner Level

  • Lie in supine and lift both legs into the one Hundred exercise position ensuring the back is in neutral and remains in neutral for the entirety of the exercise.

  • Inhale to prepare, exhale and lower one leg to the floor, inhale and lift leg back to the start position.

  • Alternate legs.

Tips

  • Maintain stability in the resting leg

  • Keep pelvis stable throughout the movement

  • Maintain the angle of the knee throughout the movement

  • Keep tension out of upper body

  • Avoid pushing into the floor with the hands

  • Avoid resting the foot on the floor to ensure a fluid movement.

  • Imagine your foot dipping down into a pool of warm water.

Intermediate Version


Start Position

  • Lie on your back, spine in neutral

  • Bring legs into Table Top position as in the beginner One hundred

  • Extend the legs, ensuring legs are hip width distance apart, toes pointed

  • Roll head and shoulders off the floor make a C shape with upper back

  • Reach your hands towards your calves.

Main exercise

  • Exhale and lower one leg, simultaneously bringing the other leg slightly towards you.

  • Repeat

  • 10 reps, 5 on each leg.

Tips

  • Ensure Pelvis is stable

  • Keep Pelvic floor and abdominals engaged

  • Keep legs extended

  • Ensure and even rhythm to keep control

  • Avoid arching your back

  • Pass the legs high

  • Try to avoid pulling the leg in to sharply

4. Swimming Prone


Purpose

  • Strengthen core and lumbar spine.

Start Position

  • Lying in Prone with forehead on the mat arms extended on the floor in front of body

Main exercise

  • Inhale to prepare

  • Exhale, lift the right arm and left leg

  • Repeat other leg and arm.

Tips

  • Keep arms as straight as possible

  • Keep non working leg in contact with the floor

  • Keep body stable

  • Avoid rocking on to one side of the body as your arm extends.

  • 5 – 10 reps each side.

5. Swimming Variation


Start Position

  • Resting on hands and knees on 4 point kneeling and place the hands directly under shoulders and knees under the hips and hip distanced apart.

  • Maintain neutral through whole spine.

Main exercise

  • Engage core and inhale to prepare, exhale and extend the leg behind you and the opposite arm to the extending leg keep arm and leg parallel to the floor. Inhale and return.

  • Repeat with the other leg and arm.

  • 5 to 10 repetitions on each side

Tips

  • Keep the leg level with the hip or lower if stability can’t be maintained.

  • The leg and arm should be at equal height.

  • Keep hips and pelvis level.

  • Keep the neck in alignment.

  • Core muscles engaged and shoulder blades down and away from the ears.

6. Criss-Cross

Start Position

  • Lay on your back in supine with a neutral spine, abdominals, pelvic floor engaged 30%

Main exercise

  • Bring Your hand behind your head, lifting your legs into tabletop position one leg at a time

  • Inhale to prepare and exhale as you roll your head and shoulders off the mat, keep your elbows back and reach one armpit to the opposite knee extending the opposite leg long in front of you.

  • Alternate sides. repeat.

  • 6 to 8 Repetitions

Tips

  • Avoid rocking the hips side to side.

  • Keep your spine in neutral throughout the exercise.

  • Avoid straining the neck by using your hands to hold your head.

7. The Plank/ Pull Leg Prone

Purpose

  • Strength, Core, Lumbar Spine and shoulders

Main exercise

  • Lie on your front with the elbows bent and the elbows placed under the shoulders and the forearms placed on the floor with the palms flat and the legs extended behind you keeping the legs inline with the hips.

  • Engage the core muscles, abdominals, pelvic floor and glute muscles.

  • Tuck the toes under and lift the weight just off the floor.

  • Hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds with good posture, technique and control

Tips

  • Avoid lifting the body up too far off the floor

  • Keep your hips level with your body

  • Try to avoid resting the weight on your arms

  • Concentrate on using your core to hold your weight not your arms.

  • Keep the feet knees hips inline

  • If you feel your body begin to shake lower back down to the floor and finish.

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