Pilates was designed to work the entire body in every workout. Literally leaving no muscle over or under worked, which is why Pilates not just an ab workout. But, there is a series of exercises on the Mat called “The Abdominal Series of 5” that you can do whenever you want, where ever you are. And, if you’re doing it right, you’ll be feeling it in less than 3 reps of each variation!
Single Leg Stretch: Also, know as the Single Leg Pull. This exercise is easy to cheat your abs on. So, be careful that you don’t use your arms to pull you up. Instead, use your abdominals to bend your spine and your arms to pull on your leg for the hip stretch. As you switch your legs this is where you really want to pull in center because the abs will want to push out. Maintain your low ribs on the mat and your belly button towards your spine. In the beginning do 5-10 each side and you can rest before the next one. As you advance, just 3 each side no break before you go to the next one.
Double Leg Stretch: If you only have one minute to work out your abs then do this! Do it for a whole minute but make sure you do let your chest drop as your legs go out. Lift your chest up as your arms go back. And, as your legs bend in you’ll be tempted to drop your heels but this will def cheat you out of some good ab stuff. So, reach your legs and arms far and away from each other lifting your chest and hugging your outer thighs in. Then pull your knees into your chest from your abs. In the beginning 5-10 and then rest. But, as you advance do 3 good ones and skip the break and go straight into the next one.
Single Straight Leg Stretch: This one is easy to hang off your flexibility and also make it come from the quads. But, if you pull on your leg from your upper back muscles and reach the opposite leg away from your seat you’ll be able to find the longest flexion in your spine. And, as you switch your legs similarly to your Single Leg Stretch you want to focus on your abs pulling in as they will want to pop out on the switch. Do 5-10x each side in the beginning and then as you advance do 3 good ones each side and skip the break going right into the next one.
Double Straight Leg Stretch: This one will make you want to cheat your upper abs and counter balance your legs by “leaning back” as the legs lower. But, if done right, you’ll feel your abs from top to bottom getting challenged. And, to top it off, your upper back and glutes will get some love too! The key to this one working your abs the best is to press your head into your hands and lifting your chest up but pulling your low ribs into the mat and keeping them there. As your legs lower your chest tries to lift up and over your abs. Then to lift you legs, stretch them out as far as you can and you’ll feel your abs take the control and not your legs. Do 5-10x in the beginning and rest. As you advance 3 good ones and go right into the next one.
Criss Cross: Easy to think you know this one. I mean, it does look like “bicycle sit ups.” But, it’s all about your waist getting its twist on. And, if you have been doing the previous 4 correct you’ll be lucky to get 3 good ones out of this one! Focus on your armpit coming to your opposite knee and not cheating your abs by bringing your elbow to your knee. Do 5-10 each side in the beginning. Then, when you are more advanced, 3 good ones each side.
You’ll know if you’re doing these right. If by Criss Cross you feel like that was “easy,” then you likely were going through the choreography. So, focus on the strength of each exercise, the tips I gave above and what I said in the videos. I never skip these in my OPC classes because they are that good at strengthening your core and MORE! Because your core is not just your abdominals. It’s your glutes, inner thighs, abs and back!
Give these 5 a go and try to do them daily. If you have questions, let me know!