Pilates Shows Off! Here’s Why It’s the Most Preferred Ab Workout!
This is one of the best text and video demonstration I’ve ever seen of the best ab exercises. These are the top 19 ab exercises compiled by Lisa Jey Davis and for the popular and reputable women’s fitness website LiveStrong.com. The video illustrations are outstanding!
These ab exercises are incredibly effective. You can feel it the next day doing just one of them! Unsurpassed ab conditioning is just one of the reasons nearly every elite athlete includes Pilates in their conditioning program.
And it’s not just the abs – the whole body get’s and amazing workout PLUS your mind and body work together.
See why Pilates is one of the most popular workouts in the world!
With Pilates-style fitness methods popping up all over, you may be wondering what all the fuss is about. Pilates was developed by German physical-fitness specialist Joseph Pilates, and in its early years Pilates was used by dancers as a way to rehabilitate from injury by correcting alignment, improving core and whole-body strength, flexibility and posture and enhancing mental awareness. Like yoga, Pilates is almost as much about the breathing as it is about controlling the body’s movements through the abdominal muscles (the “powerhouse”). If you’ve ever been curious, here are some of the best Pilates moves for you to try at home. Do them in order for optimal benefits (with the exception of those with certain injuries or limitations as noted). For example, if you suffer from osteopenia or osteoporosis, consult your physician before doing any exercises involving rolling, front or side bending or rotation of the spine. And if you’re ever in pain, stop. But for most exercises, there will be modifications for beginners. Let’s get started!
The hundred builds core strength while warming up the lungs and the rest of the body. It’s named for the 100 beats and breaths that are counted during the exercise.
- Lie on your back with your legs in a tabletop position (as if your heels are resting on a bench, knees directly over the hips), arms activated and lengthened along your sides.
- Inhale and lift the chin up to the chest and lift your arms a few inches off the ground.
- On an exhale, extend your legs all the way forward and a few inches from the ground, keeping your lower back planted on the mat.
- Move the arms up and down five times (somewhat rapidly) on your inhale and five times on your exhale.
- Repeat 10 times, remembering to keep your neck long and shoulders down.
To modify, start with only five counts of 10 breaths. Or, adjust the position of your lower body: Plant your feet flat on the floor, leave your legs in tabletop or only extend your legs at a 45-degree angle. If you have neck issues, use a rolled towel or another prop to support your neck or keep your head down.
The roll-up strengthens the abs and restores the spine to neutral alignment. It is uniquely effective in stretching and lengthening the lower back as well as stretching the hamstrings.
- Lie on your back with your entire body resting on the mat. With your shoulders wide and palms facing the floor, stretch your arms up overhead, reaching your legs forward with knees locked, lengthening through pointed toes.
- With a slow inhale, flex your feet and bring your arms up to the ceiling and roll your head up to bring your chin to your chest.
- As you exhale, slowly roll up and forward, adjusting your arm position so the arms stay extended out in front of the shoulders.
- Continue to roll forward, bending all the way over, and try to reach your forehead to your knees while still keeping the chin on the chest.
- On the return, inhale as you keep the abdominals contracted and the chin to the chest and slowly reverse the movement, articulating the spine back down to the floor vertebrae by vertebrae.
- Do three repetitions.
Use a bolster under your feet if you can’t complete the roll-up from supine position. If necessary, bend the knees and plant the feet flat on the floor until you can complete a full roll-up. Only roll as far as you can without lifting the lower body off the mat until you have strengthened the necessary muscles to complete this exercise correctly.
The rollover is an advanced exercise that requires a strong core and should not be performed if you have any kind of neck or back problems. When done properly, the rollover strengthens your abdominal muscles, stabilizes the pelvis and improves posture while targeting the butt and lower back muscles.
- Lie on the mat with legs extended and arms at your sides, palms down.
- Contract your core muscles, press your palms into the floor, point the toes and raise both legs to the ceiling, squeezing them together and keeping the shoulders down on the floor.
- Using your abdominals to initiate movement, squeeze the glutes and slowly lift from the hips to bring your lower back off the floor as you roll the legs back until they are parallel to the ceiling.
- Open the legs slightly, flex the feet and hover the toes just off the floor.
- Next, roll your spine back down to the mat vertebrae by vertebrae, maintaining control with the abdominals.
- When your feet get a foot from the floor, squeeze the legs back together, point the toes and repeat a total of three rollovers.
4. Single-Leg Stretch
The single-leg stretch stabilizes the trunk and pelvis as well as increases upper-back and hamstring flexibility. It teaches the abs to initiate movement and maintain form and control throughout the exercise.
- Lie flat on the mat with the palms on the floor.
- Roll the chin to the chest and lift the left leg a few inches from the floor.
- Bend your right knee into your chest, forehead to the knee and shoulders rolled slightly off the ground.
- Take the hands to the right shin (elbows wide, left hand on top, right hand below it).
- Exhale percussively as you gently tug the knee slightly closer to the chest with each little exhale.
- Inhale as you switch legs and arms to the other side and repeat.
- Point the toes and use your abdominals to keep your lower trunk stable and glued to the mat.
- Do five repetitions on each leg, working up to 12 on each side as you get stronger.
5. Double-Leg Stretch
The double-leg stretch lengthens and strengthens the trunk, legs and arms. This exercise takes the body from one extreme to the other: full contraction “crunch” to a lengthened stretch, which intensifies abdominal engagement. If you feel pain in the lower back, raise the legs higher or keep them in tabletop until you’re stronger. You can also leave the head down or set it down as arms come overhead.
- Lie flat with the spine imprinted to the mat. Lengthen through your pointed toes and widen your shoulders down to the floor.
- On an inhale, slowly lift the head up and bring the chin to the chest. Bring the shoulders up, stretch the arms forward, palms pressing into the outer thighs, and lift the legs so the heels are two inches off the ground.
- Exhale slowly as you draw both knees into the chest, forehead to the knees, with elbows wide and fingers lightly pressing onto the shins.
- As you extend the legs, the arms reach up and out overhead into a lengthening stretch.
- Only bring the legs as low as they can go without any part of your spine bowing up off the mat. The arms should extend back so they are touching the ears.
- Repeat this move six times, working up to 12 as you get stronger.