Enter Pilates. Pilates emphasizes six key principles (listed below). Read through these before you attempt the moves demonstrated in this post. These principles are essential to each of the exercises shown here.
Centering: Bringing focus and initiation to the "powerhouse" (a.k.a., abdominals, back muscles, glutes, inner thighs, and hamstrings). When all of these muscles are engaged and movement occurs, there is complete control.
Concentration: Focusing the mind on the precision of physical movement and remaining present in the moment.
Control: The mind must control the body and all its movements, especially against gravity. In order to have control, you must have concentration.
Precision: Quality over quantity. Precise movement, placement, and structure are paramount to correct execution of each exercise.
Breath: Breath fuels the body; use inhalation and exhalation to fully execute movements and facilitate deeper connections within body.
Flow: A succession of exercises executed in a rhythmic flow.
I like to tack this series onto the end of workouts (i.e., after running, strength training, etc.) to make sure my core isn't overlooked. As you master each exercise begin to link them together without pausing to take a break. Your core will be on fire by the time you finish the series!
Note: if you're pregnant, less than 6 weeks postpartum OR have diastasis recti (abdominal separation) you should NOT attempt these exercises.
Concept: Work the abs, stretch the hip of the leg that is in and challenge coordination
Movement: Lie on back drawing both knees into chest. Lift head and shoulders off mat and look towards abdominals. Place both hands in the middle of right shin (one hand on top of the other). Extend other leg out to 45 degrees. Inhale, hold position. Exhale, pull knee deeper into chest. Inhale, switch legs. Exhale, pull other knee into chest and extend opposite leg.
Simplify: Rest head on floor; lift legs higher than 45 degrees if abs cannot maintain control at that lower angle
Concept: To strengthen and challenge abdominals
Movement: From single leg stretch, bring both knees to chest and place hands in middle of each shin. Inhale, extend arms overhead by ears and legs forward to 45 degrees. Exhale, circle arms around and pull knees into chest, emptying lungs.
Simplify: Do the arm action only or the leg action only; rest head on floor and make range of motion with arms/legs smaller and closer to body
Concept: Stretch hamstrings, challenge stability of pelvis in a stable position with legs, coordinate legs with rhythm and work abs
Movement: From double leg stretch, keep head lifted and extend legs straight up to ceiling. Hold one leg with both hands as close to ankle as possible. Lower the other leg to 45 degrees. Pull the leg that hands are holding towards chest two times (1, 2) keeping both legs straight. Switch legs like scissors and pulse the other leg twice in toward head.
Simplify: Hold behind thighs instead of toward ankle; softly bend knees, eliminate leg pulse (as shown in video); and/or rest head on floor
Concept: Challenge abs against weight of legs and gravity; learn how to deepen abs when contracting to return legs up (rather than pushing abs out)
Movement: From single straight leg stretch, bend knees into chest and place palm over palm at the nape of the neck. Extend legs straight to the ceiling. Inhale, lower both legs just a few inches for 3 counts (1, 2, 3). Exhale, lift legs back up directly over hips in one count.
Simplify: Place hands under rear to support low back; keeps knees slightly bent; rest head on floor; and/or make range of motion smaller
Concept: Work obliques and upper abs; challenge ability of obliques to twist upper body without moving lower body
Movement: From double straight leg stretch, bend knees to chest. Exhale, twist upper body toward the right knee and extend left leg out to 45 degree angle. Inhale and hold. Exhale and switch sides.
Simplify: Hold legs in table-top (feet floating off floor, shins parallel to floor) and only move upper body