In a previous blog post, 30 hours to a swimsuit stomach with Pilates, we shared one our favorite ab exercises — the Stomach Series. Sometimes referred to as the “Belly Burner,” these five Pilates mat exercises will challenge your abdominal endurance. Try it for yourself!
Exercise #1: Single Leg Stretch
- Perform an Upper Body Curl* (UBC). Grasp your right ankle with right hand. Left hand holds just below right knee. Left leg is at a 45 degree angle or lower to challenge abdominals.
- Inhale: Pull the bent right leg deeply into the chest and reach the straight left leg long. Switch legs quickly. Keep hips level. Elbows wide and high.
- Exhale: Pull left leg towards you (left hand/left ankle, right hand below left knee). Right leg outstretched long. Switch quickly.
- Repeat 6-10 times.
Exercise #2: Double Leg Stretch
- Maintain UBC. Grasp hands around each ankle or shin. Hug both legs deeply to chest. Elbows wide. Knees can be slightly apart.
- Inhale: Stretch arms overhead inline with ears. Simultaneously extend legs out to 45 degrees or eye level.
- Exhale: Reach arms out wide toward opposite sides of room. Pull legs back into chest. Hold torso still.
- Repeat 5 times.
Exercise #3: Single Straight Leg Stretch (Scissors)
- Maintain UBC. Extend the right leg straight up to the ceiling. Grasp both hands on right ankle (hold calf, or hamstring if leg is tight). Lower the straight left leg to approximately eye level.
- Inhale: Pull and pulse your right leg into your body twice.
- “Scissor” straight legs past each other so left leg arrives into the body while hands grasp the ankle. Lower the right leg to approximately eye height.
- Exhale: Pulse the left straight leg into your body twice.
- Repeat 10 times or 5 sets.
Exercise #4: Double Straight Leg Stretch (Double Leg Lower Lift)
- Maintain UBC. Place hands behind head with elbows wide in peripheral view. Extend both legs straight and together toward ceiling. Maintain a 90 degree angle between legs and torso.
- Inhale: Stretch both legs away from you and lower to about eye height.Decrease the range of motion if needed.
- Exhale: Return legs to start. Hold torso still.
- Repeat 5 times.
Exercise #5: Criss-Cross
- Maintain UBC. Place hands behind head with elbows wide in peripheral view. Pull the right knee into your chest as you extend the left leg straight out at eye height. Curl your upper body even higher as you twist the left armpit, torso and the bent right knee together.
- Inhale: Bring right knee to chest and extend left leg out inline with hip bone. Twist upper body to right from waist, not shoulder. Elbows wide. Eyes look toward opposite elbow.
- Exhale: Repeat twisting left. Keep hips level.
- Repeat 10 times.
- To make it more challenging, perform two alternating twists on the inhale and two on the exhale.
* To perform an Upper Body Curl, lengthen spine, pull in abdominals, curl chin and lift upper body up and off mat until tips of shoulder blades touch the mat. Maintain UBC throughout the entire series. UBC is supported by the abdominals NOT the neck or back.
Suggested modifications include always placing your head down if neck hurt and bend knees slightly and/or adjusting angle of outstretched leg to make exercise more or less difficult.