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9 Pilates Exercises for a Stronger Core

By Dominic Pereira

The much talked about core is not just about strong abs. It’s about having a balance between strength and flexibility and the ability to stabilise your pelvic and shoulder girdle when needed. With weak abdominal and shoulder girdle muscles, your balance is thrown off and you have poor posture.

As they say, abs are formed in the kitchen, but exercise still comes into play. This is where workouts like Pilates come into focus. What is Pilates? Pilates is a series of low-impact exercises to help strengthen your stabilising and mobilising muscles while simultaneously working on your posture and flexibility. These exercises do involve a lot of abdominals or core, as it’s known, so you’ll definitely feel your abs work with every move!

So for those really wanting to do the good old ab workouts, there are tons of abdominal exercises in Pilates, ranging from mountain climbers to leg circles to criss-cross movements (not just planks), all available for you to strengthen your abs. But more than that Pilates is about creating body awareness and in so doing it helps you to understand where you are in space, to control your movements, and hence move better.

Benefits of a Strong and Balanced Core

Although having a six-pack is most people’s ultimate goal, a strong “Core” is so much more beneficial than merely to be shown off on the beach. Having a strong “Core” helps:

With everyday activities like standing still or simply sitting on a chair. You might not always notice, but with small acts like these, you still make use of your abdominal muscles.
With jobs that require you to lift boxes, twist your body or simply walking.
With balancing your body and providing stability. With a stronger “Core”, your body is able to stand still without letting you fall over on the spot.
With better posture. When your stabilising and postural muscles are weak, your body will start to slouch. It also helps prevent wear and tear on your spine, which can later lead to serious back issues.

9 Pilates Exercises for a Stronger “Core”

Now that we’ve discussed the benefits of having a strong “Core”, add the following moves into your workout routine to achieve the true “Core” as we define it.

For best results, do each move for 30 seconds (if you’re a total beginner) and once you’re stronger, aim for one minute.

1. Leg Circles

How to do Leg Circles:

Lie on your back with your arms by your sides. Palms facing up to open your shoulders or down, if more comfortable.
 Place your left foot on the floor by bending your left knee.
 Stretch out your right leg until it’s perpendicular to the floor.
 Form a circle with your right leg by moving it out to the side, then down to your mat, then return to the starting position with your leg straight. Make the circles only as big as you can maintain a stable pelvis and prevent your back from arching.
 Reverse the circle.
 Repeat the movement on one leg for 30 seconds, then switch legs.

2. Single or Double-Leg Stretches

With this movement, you can decide between performing single or double-leg stretches depending on your strength level.

How to do Single Leg Stretches:

Lie on your back and bring both of your knees to your chest.
Place both hands on your shins and curl your head up so that it’s off the floor.
Inhale, then slowly extend on leg straight out at a time. Alternate between left and right.
Ensure you keep your lower back pressed against the floor and your abdominals engaged.

How to do Double-Leg Stretches:

Lie on your back and bring both of your knees to your chest.
Place both hands on your shins and curl your head up so that it’s off the floor.
Inhale, then slowly extend both legs straight out at a 45-degree angle. While extending your legs, extend your arms next to your ears.
Exhale, then bring your arms back down to the starting position and hug your shins.
Remember to breathe throughout the exercise and keep your shoulders from touching the mat.

3. Criss-Cross / Bicycles

How to do Criss-Crosses:

Lie with your back on the floor, bringing your knees in towards your chest.
Curl your head up off the floor, place your hands behind your head, and keep your elbows wide.
Start by bringing your right knee in and rotating your left shoulder to the knee, while simultaneously extending your left leg.
Alternate sides for one minute.
Remember to engage your abdominals by drawing them into your spine and keeping your lower back pressed into the mat.

4. The Hundreds

The Hundred | Pilates for stronger core | moveOn 89

How to do The Hundreds:

Lie on your back, palms facing the floor.
Lift both your legs straight up towards the ceiling, then lower to a 45-degree angle.
Lift your head and arms up off the floor, keeping your arms straight alongside your body.
Inhale for five counts while pumping your arms up and down in short, quick movements. Exhale for five counts.
Hold this position while repeating the breathing pattern for about 10 counts.

5. Roll-Ups

How to do Roll-Ups:

Lie with your back on the floor and extend your arms towards the ceiling.
Exhale then curl your chin inwards to your chest, and roll up into a sitting position. Reach your arms to your feet.
Exhale and roll back to the ground. Imagine rolling back one vertebra at a time.
Try to control the movement without jerking your body up or down.

6. Mountain Climbers

When doing these mountain climbers, try to do them in slow motion, as if you are in the water.

How to do Mountain Climbers:

Start with your body in a high plank, hands underneath your shoulders.
Exhale and bring one knee to your chest. Slowly alternate between legs.
Remember to engage your core, and avoid your hips from rocking side to side.

7. Plank to Push-Up

How to do Plank to Push-Up:

Start by standing upright. Slowly roll down to the floor until your hands are on the floor.
Walk forward with your hands until you’re in a high plank position.
Lower your body by tucking your elbows into your ribs.
Straighten your arms as you push back up.
Walk your hands back to your feet and slowly roll back up to standing position. That’s one rep.
Repeat for one minute.

8. Hip Rolls/Pendulum

How to do Hip Rolls/Pendulum:

Start by laying on your back, extend your arms out to your sides until you form a T shape.
Bend both knees until your legs are in a 90-degree angle, with your feet off the floor.
Slowly let your pelvis and legs roll to the left whilst keeping the opposite shoulder down. Make sure your abdominals are engaged.
Return to the starting position and repeat on the left.
Repeat for one minute.

9. Plank Leg Lifts

How to do Plank Leg Lifts:

Begin in a high plank position with your hands underneath your shoulders.
Keeping your core tight, lift one leg off the floor. Lift the leg only to hip or shoulder height and keep your pelvis stable.
Repeat on the other leg.
Perform this exercise for one minute.

10. Bonus Move for Your Obliques

Hip Lifts

How to do Hip Lifts:

Start in a side elbow plank. Place your right elbow under your right shoulder and bend your knees, stacking your hips, knees, and feet.
Slowly lift your hips off the floor, pressing off your forearm as you exhale and then lower.
Repeat ten times, then switch.

With these moves, you can easily start to strengthen your “Core” to help ensure your body is able to handle all the tasks you perform daily in both your work and personal life.

Rediscover movement in its purest form and allow your body the freedom it once had as a child. Using the tools of Pilates, Yoga, Barre, and HIIT we encourage you to play, bend, twist, jump, roll, laugh, be precise, be silly, be imperfect, laugh, stretch, unroll, soften, and laugh some more. Get in touch to book a class at our studio.