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Top 5 Pilates Exercises for a Tighter Core

Pilates principles focus on strengthening the entire “Powerhouse” region - abs, back, glutes, hamstrings, and inner thighs.

Having a strong core allows you to perform functional activities at their peak and let’s face it, tight abs look great, give you better posture, and make you feel all-around more confident.

Here are my top 5 Pilates moves that burn fat, sculpt, and tone your entire core region (you can slow each exercise down or pick up speed to burn more calories in a shorter amount of time - all depends on your available time and fitness goals):

1. Roll-ups (or Neck Pulls)

  • Start laying down on your back with legs extended and arms by your sides

  • Float your arms all the way back behind you, zip your legs together, and flex your feet

  • Inhale through your nose and slowly lift your head, neck, and shoulders and peel your spine off the mat one vertebra at a time (keep legs zipped together with feet flexed the entire time)

  • Exhale and fall over your legs arms extended forward and head down

  • Inhale, scoop your abs in, and slowly roll back down into the mat articulating your spine

  • Exhale and bring your arms all the way behind you

  • *For neck pulls, try interlacing fingers behind your head and lifting up keeping head heavy in your hands and elbows out - before rolling back down, keep hands behind your head, roll up to sit up tall, hinge back on a straight diagonal, and then slowly roll down into the mat

2. Hundreds

  • Lift your head, neck, and shoulders off the mat, arms floating up by your sides, and bring your legs into a tabletop (knees above hips and feet in line with knees)

  • Zip legs together and then extend legs out to a 45 degree angle

  • Lift higher off your shoulder blades and then start pumping your arms down as you inhale through your nose for 5 counts, and then exhale out your mouth for 5 counts

  • Repeat this series 9x for 100 counts in total

3. Criss-cross

  • Lift your head, neck, and shoulders off the mat and interlace fingers bringing hands behind your head (head heavy in your hands with elbows out)

  • Bring your legs into tabletop and then extend your left leg 45 degrees

  • Twist up and over by using your obliques to bring your left shoulder towards your bent right knee

  • Switch legs and then twist to the left bringing your right shoulder towards your incoming left knee

  • Switch back and forth remembering to keep elbows out the entire time

4. Double Straight Leg Stretch (w/ 45 degree pulses)

  • Lift head, neck, and shoulders off the mat interlaced fingers hands behind your head (or option to keep head on the ground - can also make a diamond-shape with your hands and place under your tailbone for extra back support)

  • Lift both legs straight up to the ceiling, feet in line with hips (legs zipped together)

  • Keeping your legs lengthened, bring both legs down for 3 separate counts (pause at each count while squeezing your abs in and down, ribcage closed) and then bring both legs straight back up in 1 count

  • Repeat a few times and then stop your legs right around 45 degrees. Option to hold and take tiny pulses with both legs and up and down right around that 45 degree mark

5. Plank variations

  • Place hands right below your shoulders and knees below your hips so that you start on all fours on the mat

  • Extend both legs back tucking your toes under to come up into a plank keeping your body in one straight line (zip legs together and keep seat low enough so that it’s in line with the rest of your body)

  • Lift your right foot off the mat and take tiny pulses up to the ceiling, squeezing your right glute and then switch sides

  • Shift forward on your toes and then press your heels to the back of the room, keeping your body in one straight line

  • Come down onto forearms, keeping elbows in line with shoulders, tap your right knee down to the mat, bring it back up, and then switch knees (can pick up the speed and wiggle your hips bringing each knee across your body)

  • Tap both knees down to the mat keeping legs (and even heels) pressed together and continue to pick up speed. Remember to bend just the knees and lift back up as soon as they touch the mat.

  • Squeezing your legs squeezed together, swing your right hip down to tap the mat, and then swivel to the other side. Continue to swivel your hips back and forth to tap the mat, working your obliques

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