Top 5 Pilates Exercises for Awesome Abs

For some of us, the six-pack is in the cooler. But aside from looking really dreamy at the beach consider how much your abdominals really work for you. They basically keep you standing upright. Rectus Abdominis…. Get it? The lower thoracic and lumbar spine couldn’t possibly bare the weight of your rib cage, shoulders vital organs, and head without the abs. You’d be a flopping pile of mush.

Keeping these core stabilizers in working order is positively paramount when you think of what you’d be if you had none. It’s not about the washboard, getting ripped or toning up. No, it’s about posture and keeping spine in optimal alignment. And yes, a side effect of achieving this might mean totally awesome abs.

5 Rolling Like A Ball

Balance is a core game. Rectus abdominis and obliques work to sustain the spinal flexion through out the exercise. In a sitting position, flex the spine into a c-curve. Leaning back to balance between the sit bones and sacrum hold the knees to the chest, feet off the floor. Inhale as you roll back, taking caution to avoid rolling on your neck or head. Exhale to roll back up to the starting position, fighting for the balance at the top.

4 The Breast Stroke

They say you can’t have flexion without extension. Often we forget that our back is part of our core. Lying on you stomach hover your nose above the mat, hands bent next to your head. Exhale the arms off the mat lengthening above your head. On an inhale, circle the arms out to the side, reaching for your feet by your hips as your upper body extends up through the head. Think longer, not higher as you engage the glutes and hamstrings to keep the feet on the floor and strain out of the lower back. 5-8 repetitions. This is commonly the weaker side of the body.

3 Scissors

Scissors are the cousin of the bicycle, engaging the rectus abdominis, and obliques for thoracic flexion, obliques and multifidus for pelvic stability. Lying on your back with arms by your sides bring the legs tabletop, legs together as they straighten, feet to the sky. The head and shoulders lift off the mat into flexion as the arms reach to the legs. The arms assist pulling the right leg closer to the chest as the left leg reaches long hovering above the floor on a two count exhale. Inhale to switch legs and repeat 10 times. Now when I say the arms “assist,” I mean they are barely touching. There is no pulling the body closer to the leg. That would defeat the very purpose of the exercise. This is not about your biceps, it’s your abs!

2 Double Leg Stretch

Double the trouble, this uses the rectus abdominis, and obliques to maintain thoracic flexion. Lying on your back with arms by your sides bring the legs to tabletop. Nod the head slightly then lift the shoulders off the floor while reaching the arms up to the knees. At the same time reach your legs out on a diagonal and your arms overhead, as if you were taking off a hat. Then circle your arms out to the side and back to your knees as they flex in. Repeat 10 times, each time exhaling as you extend the limbs and inhaling as you return to the starting position.

1 The Hundred

Dreaded by some yet loved by those who love the burn. The rectus abdominis work all ways concentrically, isometrically and eccentrically. Lying on your back with arms by your sides and shorten the obliques to the ribs to engage the core. Bring one leg to tabletop and add the other zipping up the inner thighs, knees and ankles together. Nod the head slightly then lift the shoulders off the floor while reaching the arms to the heels and extending the legs straight out on a diagonal, only lowering as far as you can maintain stabilization. Start a small pulse of the arms, inhaling for 5 pulses and exhaling for 5 pulses. Keeping the gaze at the knees, pump the arms 100 times while maintaining the 5 count breath. You might to want to give up at 60, but push on, my friends. You want to see a difference don’t you? Once you reach 100, hold the position and reach one inch higher as you return the legs to table top and lower the head and shoulders down to the mat. *If you are an overachiever, place a fitness circle or playground ball between your ankles and squeeze on each exhale.

Remember to always draw your abs in to engage and stabilize the pelvis and spine. This will keep your lower back from straining so you fire into the glutes, giving them the max benefit. Lift, tone and burn for a rounder, tighter, and firmer rear!

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