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10 Pilates Exercises That Will Tone Your Abs

10 Pilates Exercises That Will Tone Your Abs

Are you looking for an effective way to strengthen your core muscles without having to hit the gym? Well we have the answer…Pilates. This low-impact form of exercise focuses on building core strength, improving posture, and enhancing overall stability and balance. And the best part? Many Pilates exercises can be done from the comfort of your own home, making it a great option for women who find it hard to find the time to get to the Studio. 


Today we’ve got 10 Pilates exercises for you specifically designed to tone and strengthen your abs. Whilst we all love to look great, our focus at Aleenta is on helping you prioritize strength and functionality, helping you to feel stronger and more confident in your everyday life. 


As an added bonus, if you’re coming into the studio these classic Pilates moves will often show up in class. So by practicing at home, you can try the more advanced variations in-studio with the guidance of your instructor! So grab a mat, clear some space, and get ready to feel the burn with these 10 Pilates exercises!

Why Pilates for Core Strength?


Joseph Pilates, the original creator of this popular fitness style, created exercises with the specific intent of strengthening the ‘center,’ which he considered the area of the glutes, back and abdominals. Hence, all movements in a Pilates workout usually engage these muscle groups. Instead of resorting to plank holds or fussing over which equipment will help strengthen your core, you can rest easy knowing that any Pilates exercise has got your back… literally!


Want to know more about how Pilates is proven in its effectiveness? We cover the science behind it in this blog.



10 Pilates Exercises for Core Strength

Here’s a how-to for each exercise. Not sure how many repetitions to do? Don’t worry, we’ll provide some suggested workouts too!

 

1. The Hundred 

This exercise involves bringing your spine into flexion (aka a ‘curl-up’) and holding your legs in a tabletop position. Pump your arms up and down while holding a static position with your core engaged. The ‘hundred’ aspect of this exercise comes in with your breath: inhale for 5 counts and exhale for 5 counts a total of 10 times. This adds up to 100 counts! 


For a more challenging version, extend your legs 45 degrees. Follow along with Angie here:

 


2. Roll-Up

Starting in a seated position, slowly roll down onto your back, then back up to a seated position while engaging your core muscles. This can be done with your legs extended, or with your knees bent and feet flat on your mat. Follow along with Alicia here:


This exercise requires more strength than you might think - if you find it too intense to roll all the way down at first, that’s okay! Try rolling down halfway, dropping into a ‘c-curve’ position instead. Once you get the hang of this, you can build up to a full roll-up.


3. Single-Leg Stretch

Lying on your back with your knees bent, curl-up so your head, neck and shoulders come off your mat. Alternate pulling one knee in towards your chest while extending the other leg straight out.

 


 

Spinal flexion is not accessible for everyone: you can modify this position by keeping your head, neck and shoulders on your mat and focusing on just the leg movement instead. 


4. Double-Leg Stretch 

Similar to the single-leg stretch, but both legs are extended out and then brought back in towards the chest.


5. Scissor

Lying on your back with both legs extended straight up, curl-up so your head, neck and shoulders come off your mat. Alternate lowering one leg towards the ground while the other stays lifted, as though your legs are scissors! Follow along with Alicia here:


 

To add a fun twist to this exercise, try passing a Pilates ball between your legs as you scissor them. 

Not everyone has the hamstring flexibility for this exercise. Don’t be afraid to bend your knees slightly to make it more accessible!


6. Criss-Cross 

Similar to the scissor, but with a twisting motion; bring one elbow towards the opposite knee. Follow along with Angie here:

 

7. Swan

Start by lying on your stomach with your hands placed on the mat near your shoulders. Keep your elbows close to your body. Inhale as you lift your head and chest off the mat, keeping your neck in line with your spine. As you exhale, lower your chest back down to the mat. Repeat the exercise for a few repetitions, gradually increasing the height of your chest lift as you get stronger. Follow along with Angie here:

 

While the primary focus of the Swan exercise is on the back muscles, it also requires the engagement of the abdominal muscles to maintain stability and control during the movement. By engaging both the back and abdominal muscles, the Swan exercise can help to improve overall core strength and stability. 


8. Plank 

A classic exercise we all have a love-hate relationship with, planks are great to strengthen your abdominals, back, glutes and arms. It really is a full-body workout! 

Starting in a push-up position with your hands under your shoulders, hold a straight line from your head to  your heels whilst drawing in your abdominals.

 


 

You have the option to drop to your knees in half-plank if you feel back tension here, and move onto your forearms for any wrist soreness.


9. Side Plank

From your plank position, turn sideways lifting your top arm toward the sky. Your hips stay up off the ground while supporting your weight on one hand (or forearm) and the blades of your feet. This targets the oblique muscles in the sides of your abdominals, which are important to strengthen for any twisting you do in your daily life. Follow along with Alicia here:


 

To decrease the load, you can drop your bottom foot and balance on the knee instead, providing extra support.


10. Teaser

Start lying on your back with your legs extended and arms reaching overhead. Slowly peel your spine off your mat, starting with your chin to your chest, followed by each vertebrae. As you begin to approach your hips, lift your legs as well, reaching your arms toward your toes. Ideally, the final position you reach is a V-shape with your body. Roll back down and repeat. Follow along with Alicia here:


Teasers are hard, so you might like to start with your knees bent to decrease the load on your abs until you get used to the movement..




How to Incorporate Pilates into Your Fitness Routine

Here are some tips for incorporating Pilates exercises into a regular fitness routine:


  1. Start slow: If you're new to Pilates, start with just a few exercises at a time and gradually build up your routine. This will help you avoid overexertion and injury. 10 abdominal exercises all at once is a lot! Try 2 or 3 from this list at a time instead. Here are some suggested Pilates ab workouts using the exercises from this blog which you can combine with the rest of your usual workout:

    5-minute plank workout

    • 8x Swan
    • 30s plank hold
    • 8x alternating side planks
    • 30s plank hold
    • Child’s pose + wrist stretches to release

    5-minute upper ab workout

    • 8x roll-up
    • The Hundred (once through)
    • Full body stretch (arms overhead) to release
    • 4x teasers

    5-minute total ab workout

    • 8x single-leg stretch
    • 8x double-leg stretch
    • Full body stretch to release
    • 16x scissors
    • 16x criss-cross

  1. Mix it up: Pilates can be a great complement to other forms of exercise, such as cardio (which provides greater cardiovascular benefits) or weight training (which provides greater musculoskeletal benefits). Try alternating Pilates exercises with other workouts to keep things interesting, challenging and to ensure you are gaining as many whole-body benefits as possible.

  1. Set a schedule: Just like with any other form of exercise, consistency is key. Set aside a specific time each day or week for your Pilates practice and stick to it… Even if it’s just 15 minutes!

  1. Find a class or instructor: While Pilates can be done at home, taking a class or working with an instructor can be very helpful in ensuring proper form and technique. Here at Aleenta Health Club, we offer both mat and Reformer Pilates!

  1. Listen to your body: As with any form of exercise, it's important to listen to your body and modify exercises as needed. If something doesn't feel right or causes pain, stop and consult with a healthcare professional or instructor.

 



Incorporating Pilates exercises into your fitness routine can be a great way to improve your core strength, posture, and overall stability. The 10 Pilates exercises we've shared in this post are designed to help you tone and strengthen your abs, whilst prioritising functionality. Remember, consistency is key when it comes to seeing results with Pilates. Start with just a few exercises at a time and gradually build up your routine, listening to your body and modifying exercises as needed. 



Ready to get started? We have plenty of Pilates classes available for FREE on the Aleenta Health Club YouTube channel!

Want the guidance of an instructor in-person? Book into your first Pilates class with our exclusive intro offer for new clients.
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