Five Pilates Ab Moves to Keep Your New Year Strong!

January 22, 2013

rolling like a ballIn this guest article, Marin mom and Pilates trainer Jennifer Raby shares her top five Pilates ab moves to help keep your New Year strong!

Looking to keep your fitness resolutions on track? Your core will thank you for adding these moves to your New Year's workout!  I love these Pilates ab exercises because they can be done anywhere… at home, the office, outside, wherever! No equipment needed, just a mat, and some space to move. Plan: 6 to 12 reps 3 to 4 days/week, choose healthy foods, include cardiovascular exercise, and start to see your 2013 core transform!

Tip: Keep the five basic principles of Pilates* in mind when doing these exercises, this will help give you an edge on doing each move with ease (see *BP key below).

  1. Rolling like a ball
    Start position: sitting with spine flexed creating a "c" curve, knees and feet together, feet a few inches off floor, toes pointed. Hands on shins or under knees, shoulders down.


    Exercise: inhale, maintaining "c" curve pull your naval in towards your spin and roll back to bottom of your shoulder blades.

    Exhale, maintaining "c" curve pull your naval in deeply to your spine and roll forward to start position.

    • Single leg stretchSingle leg stretch
      Starting position: laying down with upper body flexed off mat. Legs tabletop. Hands resting on outside of legs, shoulders down.

      Exercise: exhale: extend one leg out only as low as your back can stay flat on mat, moving each hands to outside of bent knee leg.

      Inhale: begin to switch legs and hands.

      Exhale: fully extend other leg, changing hands to flexed leg.

      Inhale: begin to switch legs.
    • obliquesObliques
      Starting position: laying down face up (supine) with upper body flexed off mat. Imprinted position. Legs tabletop. Hands behind head, shoulders down.

      Exercise: exhale extend one leg as low as imprint can be maintained. Simultaneously rotate upper body toward flexed knee.

      Inhale: increase spinal flexion as spine returns to center and legs begin to switch

      Exhale: extend other leg and rotate upper body to opposite side.

      Inhale: maintain spinal flexion as spine returns to center and legs begin to switch.(PHOTO)
    • double leg stretchDouble leg stretch
      Starting position: supine with upper body flexed off mat. Imprinted position. Legs tabletop. Hands reaching towards ankles, shoulders down.

      Exercise: exhale stabilize shoulders, and reach arms overhead, simultaneously extend legs as low as imprint can be maintained ie don't arch your back!

      Inhale flex knees to tabletop position and circle arms open and around to ankles.
    • scissorsScissors
      Starting position supine with upper body flexed off mat. Imprinted position. Legs together extended toward ceiling, toes pointed. Hands reaching towards ankles.

      Exercise: exhale reach one leg up and other leg down as low as you can maintain imprint reaching hands towards ankle of leg coming towards you.

      Inhale start to switch legs by reaching them to ceiling so they pass each other.

      Exhale: reach opposite leg away from you and other leg towards you

      Inhale: start to switch legs by reaching them to ceiling so they pass each other.

    *Five Basic Pilates Principles:

    1. Breathing: each movement is done with the breath. Breathing in through the nose (inhale) breathing out through the mouth (exhale). Breathing helps to connect the mind with the movement as well as helping to access the deep abdominal muscles. Think of breathing deep and wide to the back and sides of the ribcage.
    2. Pelvic Placement: Try to keep the Pelvis in Neutral or Imprint. Both positions help to stabilize the pelvis to prevent injuries and promote strength. To find Neutral lay down on back (supine) on mat knees bent feet hip width apart, arms long by sides. Rock your pelvis (hips) back and forth; neutral position will be somewhere between the two. If not strong enough, neutral position can sometimes create strain in lower back area if both legs are off the ground during some exercises, if so Imprint is the solution. To find Imprint position inhale, and on the exhale contract the abs and feel your lower back press into the floor as if you where imprinting it into sand. Imprint is recommended for moves when both legs are lifted off floor when in supine position.
    3. Jen RabyRib Cage Placement: Make sure when doing the exercise your ribs have a feeling of staying “knitted” together. Don’t forget your abs are attached to your lower ribs, by keeping them knitted you’ll help to work abs more, as well as help to keep you spine in strong, safe position.
    4. Shoulder or Scapula Placement: Keeping your shoulders down and back will help keep the exercises focused on the muscles of the abs not the upper traps and other muscles around the neck and shoulders.
    5. Neck Placement: Before lifting head and neck off mat or floor inhale and imagine creating length in the back of the neck simultaneously gently nod your chin. Placing the head and cervical spine in this position can set you up for less neck strain and tension. Placing a small pillow, pad under head, or using hand towel to support head and neck is an option too.

    Remember... Check in with your doc before starting any new exercise program.

    Jennifer Raby is a STOTT Certified Pilates Instructor. You can contact her atjenbraby@me.com"> jenbraby@me.com.