Do you wish you have a flat tummy with a hour glass shape? Pretty much every move in Pilates targets your core, but if flat abs are your goal then there’s definitely a way to step things up. Case in point: These 9 belly-sculpting exercises from the Women’s Health Big Book of Pilates. Learn the moves and you’ll be staring at a six-pack in no time.
Lie flat with your legs squeezed together and long, strong arms by your sides (A). Lift both legs a few inches off the mat, squeeze your buttocks, and scoop your abs. Lift your head and look to your toes (B). Raise your arms over your thighs and pump your arms up and down with energy. Take a long, steady inhale for five pumps and a long, steady exhale for five pumps (C). Complete two to five sets (one set is 10 pumps) and work up to 100 pumps.
Sit tall with a straight back and long waist. Open your arms straight out to your sides at shoulder-height and “crack a walnut” between your blades. Open your legs wider than your shoulders, flex your feet from the ankles, and anchor your bottom to the mat (A). Inhale as you rotate your trunk to the left and round over your left knee; pressing your right hand against the outer edge of your left foot and lifting your back arm as high as possible, palm down (B). Exhale as you slide your right hand along your outer foot in three progressive forward “sawing” motions while drawing back in your right hip to create diagonal opposition for your oblique abs (keep the weight of your lower body even on the mat no matter what the upper body is doing) (C). Inhale and return to start. Repeat the sequence, twisting right. Perform three sets.
Hug both knees into your chest with your head lifted forward and your elbows wide (A). Inhale with control as you reach your legs forward and arms backward—stretching in opposition—and drawing your abdominals in deeply to support your spine (B). Exhale slowly as you deepen back into your hug position, using the pull of your knees into your belly and chest to expel more and more air from your lungs (C). Repeat six times.
Lie on your back with your hands layered, palm over palm, behind your lifted head and with your knees bent tightly into your chest (A). Inhale slowly and twist your torso to the left until your right elbow connects with your left knee, straightening your right leg forward and holding it a few inches above the mat. Exhale with control and twist right, connecting your left elbow to your right knee and extending your left leg (B). Continue alternating sides, completing six sets of twists.
Lie flat on your back with long, sturdy arms by your sides. Squeeze your legs together tightly from the backs of the upper inner thighs. Inhale slowly as you lift your legs overhead, rolling back until you’re balanced in the middle of your shoulder blades and the backs of your arms (A). Point your toes and exhale with control as you roll back down your spine, leaning your body slightly to the right (B). When your right glute touches the mat, circle your legs to the left and inhale slowly (C), rolling up the left side of your body while scooping your abs and lifting your bottom (D). Continue reversing the circle direction each time and complete three sets.
SINGLE-LEG CIRCLES I
Lie flat with your legs squeezed together and long, sturdy arms by your side (the backs of your shoulders are anchored to the mat). Stretch one leg up to the ceiling as straight and as close to the perpendicular as possible (A). Draw circles in the air with your leg, beginning across your body (B), then down toward the ankle (C), out, around, and back up (D). Keep your movements controlled. Complete five circles in each direction and then switch legs.
Lie back with your arms overhead, your biceps by your ears, and your lower legs in opposition to the fingertips, keeping your back flat and the legs squeezing together tightly. Your abs are scooped and your legs are wrapping from the backs of the upper inner thighs (A). Inhale with control as you bring your arms forward, shoulder-width apart, and begin lifting your legs (B). When your arms are parallel to your thighs, begin rolling up toward your feet, articulating one vertebra at a time and not allowing your pelvis to tip forward. Exhale slowly as you descend, replacing each vertebra 1 inch behind where it was taken off (C). Do this move three times.
Lie on your stomach with your forehead down, the pubis anchored to the mat, and the inner thighs pressed tightly together. Your arms are stretched forward with the palms down, and your feet are pointed. Lift your arms, legs, chest, and head up on one count and hold (A). Inhale and exhale normally as you alternate lifting right arm/left leg (B) and left arm/right leg (C) without touching them down to the mat. Count slowly from 1 to 10 as you swim, lifting higher and reaching longer with each progressive count. Sit back to your heels for a counterstretch in your lower back, if needed.
Sit on one hip, propped up on one hand, with your legs nearly extended (slightly bent) to the side and stacked ankle over ankle. The palm of the top hand is pressing onto your outer thigh (A). Inhale with control as you lift your hip away from the mat and reach your arm overhead, creating a high, lifted arc in the torso (B). Bring the hand from overhead back to your outer thigh and turn your chin to your outer shoulder (C). Exhale slowly as you lower the side of your calf to the mat. Inhale slowly as you return to your high arc. Repeat three cycles.