Pilates is an exercise method based on the work of Joseph Pilates. Its primary function is to focus on strengthening the “powerhouse” (abs and buttocks) while increasing flexibility, strengthening muscles and improving posture.
These exercises involve concentration and the coordination of breath and movement, which helps to balance the mind and body.
Pilates is excellent for someone who wants to tone their stomach and abs because it works to make the entire body lean. And as I’ve said numerous times on this site, you cannot have leaner, toner abs until you work on making your entire body lean.
There’s no such thing as spot toning. You have to work everything so Pilates is ideal for helping your whole body become leaner so you can get the stomach and abs you’ve been desiring.
Now you can purchase several different Pilates exercise programs that focus solely on the abs. I bought Pilates Abs Workout with Ana Caban. I like it because the exercise routine is not very long (25 minutes) and it’s not too difficult to do.
The nice thing about the video is that there are two levels. You can follow Ana for more advanced moves and there’s another girl you can follow if you want to take it easy at first and do the beginner moves. Another plus for Pilates is that if you perform the exercises regularly you’ll see fast results.
Unlike many fitness programs, Pilates exercises are not based on the principle “more is better”. Instead it focuses on limited repetitions of each exercise and quality of each movement.
So instead of doing 50 leg raises, you may only do 10 to 12. A smaller number of reps are important because you don’t tire as easily and you can focus on the quality of every move instead of just trying to finish.
Here are some good Pilates exercises to do if you’re just focusing on your abs. All of these moves are from Ana Caban’s DVD I mentioned above.
Note: Before beginning any type of exercise routine, you should always consult a physician.
The Roll Up
1. Lie on your back with your legs straight and arms stretched above your head. Relax your shoulders.
2. Keeping your back on the floor, slowly lift your arms toward the ceiling as you slowly breathe in.
3. As you breathe out, slowly roll forward, peeling your spine off the mat. Keep your stomach tight.
4. Breathing in again, stretch out over your legs trying to keep them as straight as possible. Breathing out, slowly roll back down to the floor.
5. Breathe in roll up again to begin the second repetition.
6. Repeat 5 times.
Single Straight Legged Stretch
1. Lie with your back flat on the floor. Extend legs in air, parallel, with knees bent.
2. Rest your hands firmly on your knees. Slowly inhale.
3. Exhale and flex your upper body, extending both legs. Extend one leg away from your torso while bringing the other leg toward torso.
4. Pulse twice. Reach your hands near the bottom of your leg (near your ankle).
5. Inhale and switch legs, keeping knees extended. Exhale and pulse twice as legs reach.
6. Repeat 5 times on each side, for a total of 10 movements.
Double Straight Legged Stretch
1. Lie on your back with your legs straight.
2. Slowly raise your head and neck off the mat as if you’re starting a basic crunch. Place your hands behind your head.
3. Bend both legs in and raise them off the floor then straighten and point them in the air at 11 o’clock. Keep your head and neck off the floor.
4. Slowly move both legs down (keeping them together and as straight as you can) until they are about a foot from the floor.
5. Now raise them back up and begin again.
6. Repeat this 10 times.
One Leg Circles
1. Lie on your back with arms at your sides. Pulling in your abs, extend the left leg toward the ceiling, and point your toe. Now rotate your foot slightly inward.
2. Rotate leg clockwise. Breathe in as you round your leg down without touching the floor. Exhale as you rotate your leg up to 12 o’clock.
3. Repeat this 5 times and switch legs.
Sample Pilates Video
If you want to see pilates in action, check out the video below. You can get an idea of the type of movements you will perform. The video is for beginners.