What’s 200 times more effective than traditional crunches…builds core strength…and firms and flattens the flabbiest of abs? Pilates abdominal exercises that, when practiced three times a week, promote the long, lean look of toned, strong muscles. Pilates goes far beyond the aesthetic, however. Pilates abdominal exercises build core strength.
Our core muscles—located around the trunk and pelvis—are called upon in almost every movement we execute…from bending over to pick up our kids to a quick look behind us to check for danger. Strong core muscles prevent injury, foster balance and coordination, and enhance performance in sports and other recreational activities. Crunches may make your muscles stronger, but they have far less of a beneficial impact on your core. In fact, one study found that women who replaced their normal workouts with two, 60-minute Pilates classes a week significantly increased upper-body and abdominal strength, as well as hamstring flexibility. If you are time-challenged, a 5-minute Pilates session is all you need to strengthen your core and tighten your tummy!
Unroll your mat and lie flat on your back, keeping your legs squeezed together and your arms reaching out long at your sides. Start by lifting both legs a few inches off the floor. Concentrate on pulling your abdominal muscles in and contracting your glutes. Raise your head, and glance at your toes. To avoid unnecessary strain on your neck do not tuck your chin in too much. Lift your arms a few inches above your thighs, and then pump arms up and down five times on an inhale and five times on an exhale. Repeat two to five times, depending on skill level.
Single Leg Stretch
Head and shoulders come up off the mat as you pull your right knee into your chest. Place your hands on either side of the shin and raise your leg to a 45-degree angle. Keep toes pointed and your abdominal muscles contracted in. Inhale, and on an exhale switch legs by extending your right leg out and bringing your left leg to your chest. Alternate legs for 10 to 20 repetitions.
Once you’ve mastered the single leg stretch, move on to the double leg stretch. Bend both knees to 90 degrees, keeping the toes pointed. With head and shoulders off the mat, stretch your arms and legs out on an inhale (keeping your arms as close to your ears as possible) and on an exhale bend your knees and arms to their start position.
Rolling Into a Ball
Sit on your buttocks and tuck your knees into your chest, wrapping your arms around your shins. Keep your head down, your toes touching the mat, and your heels raised off the floor. Lift your toes (with your heels as close to your glutes as possible) until you are balancing on your tailbone. Roll back to the mat on an inhale, and on an exhale contract your abs and roll up. Try not to use momentum, but true core strength to rise back up into a ball. Repeat 10-20 times.