Fitness trends go out of style nearly as soon as people even know what they are, so it’s remarkable Pilates has managed to stick around for so long. It probably has a lot to do with the workout program’s focus on core strength. Most Pilates routines call upon the muscles around your midsection, so it’s nearly always a great abs workout.
Whether you’re male or female, fitness newbie or gym junkie, Pilates can seriously help strengthen your core. Get started with these five exercises.
1. Wind down
For this move, sit in the center of the mat with your knees bent and your feet lightly resting on the ground. Sit straight up so your shoulders, back, and hips are all in alignment. Bend your elbows and curl your hands into fists directly in front of your chest. Move your fists in a circular motion as you roll your body down toward the mat, keeping your stomach tight. Stop before your back touches the ground, then reverse the direction of your hands as you sit back up.
2. The hundred
Begin lying on your mat with your legs together and your arms at your sides. As you tighten your glutes and core, raise your feet off the ground, keeping your toes pointed. Extend your arms in front of you so your hands are just above your hips and raise your upper back and shoulders off the mat. From this position, pump your arms several inches up and down five times as you inhale, then do five more as you exhale. Repeat as you’re able, eventually building up to 100 total pumps.
3. Double-leg stretch
Start on your back with your knees lifted directly above your hip points, heels together. Extend your arms out to your sides as you lift your shoulders and upper back off the ground, keeping your gaze just below your knees. In a slow, controlled movement, simultaneously extend your arms and legs in opposite directions as you exhale. Inhale as you return to the starting position. Shape recommends performing 15 repetitions.
4. Extension arrow
Begin on your stomach with your arms at your sides and your legs extended in a straight line. Maintaining steady breathing, gently arch your back to lift both your arms and legs off the ground. Hold the position, then release your limbs back to the ground. You can check out a variation using dumbbells by heading to Muscle & Fitness. Beginners should start without the weights, then reach for a set of light dumbbells as the move becomes easier.
Lie on your back with your legs together and toes pointed. Raise your arms so they point toward the ceiling with your palms facing forward. Moving slowly, engage your abs and exhale as you slowly roll up to a seated position. As you move, bring your arms down so they end parallel to the ground. Self suggests aiming for 10 repetitions.
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