Pilates is a fantastic way to engage muscles that are often neglected or overlooked. The moves can be challenging, but a lot of fun and an amazing ab workout if done correctly. Remember to take your time, modify, and watch your form. Your lower back should always be firmly planted in imprint, drawing your bellybutton towards your spine & your back towards the ground. Not only does this protect your body from putting additional strain on your back, but it engages your abdominal muscles throughout the entire exercise.
Beginners: 3 Rounds - 5 Reps of Each
Intermediate: 3 Rounds - 12 Reps of Each
Advanced: 4 Rounds - 20 Reps of Each
Take your time. Slow and controlled is the game. And remember to BREATHE. Inhale as you rise, exhale as you lower.1. Single Leg Straight Leg Stretch Begin by lying flat on the mat but with your legs extended toward the ceiling. Legs and heels are together. Lengthen your spine, pull in your abdominals, and curl your chin and upper body up off the mat. The tips of the shoulder blades touch the mat. You will maintain this upper body lift throughout the exercise. Grasp your right calf, or below the knee if you have tight hamstrings. Stretch your left leg toward the ground at a 45 degree angle. You can adjust the angle of the outstretched leg to make the exercise more or less difficult. The lower the leg, the harder the abdominals have to work to maintain alignment. Inhale: Gently pull your right leg toward you. Pulse the leg toward you twice, increasing your stretch. Switch legs quickly. Exhale: Pull your left leg toward you. Pulse the leg toward you twice, increasing your stretch. Switch legs quickly. Modifications for this exercise include leaving the head down, bending the knees slightly, and increasing or decreasing the distance between the legs. 2. Leg Raises + Pulse Lie on your back with your arms and legs fully extended. Lift your shoulders up off the ground and contract your abs into a crunch. With your feet together, raise your legs so they are at a 90 degree angle, feet pointing towards the ceiling. Slowly begin to lower your legs perpendicular to the floor, while pulsing your arms at your sides. This pulse is a small motion and can be removed for those who need to modify (you can also lower your upper body). Hold the contraction at the bottom for a second, then slowly lower your legs to the start position. Make sure you are inhaling as you raise your legs up to 90 degrees, and exhaling as you're lowering towards the floor. 3. One Legged Hand Stand This move is definitely more advanced, but is great for those working on inversions. Come into downward facing dog with your heels right against a wall. Bend your knees and start to walk your feet up the wall; as you do so, your shoulders will move forward & you want to make a 90 degree angle with your body. Your hips will end up over your shoulders. Activate your core by drawing your navel in & firm your outer arms in towards your ears. With your core and upper arms engaged, lift one leg up while you keep the other foot firmly planted on the wall. Push into your hands and your foot on the wall, while you lift through the toes of your other leg. Hold for a few breaths, then switch legs. For an added challenge, shift some of your weight away from the foot braced on the wall. This is a great challenge for your core & shoulder strength. 4. Teaser Begin lying down, arms along your sides or extended over your head to stretch. Extend your legs to a 45 degree angle (you can also start with legs straight for a more advanced version. Inhale. Exhale: Lengthen your spine to nod your head slightly and begin scooping your abdominal muscles in and up so that your upper body begins to roll off the mat. Simultaneously your arms are coming up to parallel your legs into a v-sit. Fingertips reach past the toes but the shoulders stay down. Inhale as you come to the top and open your chest. Pulse back slightly with your upper body, simultaneously lowering your legs towards the ground. Return to the full teaser/v-sit position, before exhaling to roll down. Start from the low abs and use control, rolling down sequentially along the spine. Keep the legs together.