It’s no secret that Pilates moves are great for strengthening the core. Pilates expert Brooke Siler, a celebrity trainer and author of The Pilates Body and Your Ultimate Pilates Body Challenge among others, has toned and re-shaped bodies around the world with her methods. In fact she spent more than 600 hours under the tutelage of Romana Kryzanowska, a protégé of Joseph Pilates for more than 30 years, making her a true Pilates expert.
Lucky for us, Brooke shared five top moves for the core. Give them a try, as these can be done right at home. And for more with Brooke, check out the October issue of FitnessRx for Women, where Brooke offers her top tips for flat abs!
Hold a rigid plank position with your arms pressing the mat away and abs lifted high into your back.
Bring your right knee to your chest and your chest forward to your knee (like an inverted single-leg stretch). Draw your ribs in deeply and hold this position for a count of three, then return to your rigid plank position.
Reps: Alternate legs a total of six times. Increase oppositional tension between the pull of the bent knee and the reach of the straight knee more and more with each chance you get.
2. Mountain Climbers
Instead of holding your knee to your chest, keep your toes lightly on the floor and switch knees rapidly as if running, or climbing, in the horizontal plane. Keep your ribs knitted by drawing in the abs tight. Stay light on your feet and hands.
Reps: Complete eight to 10 sets of mountain climbers before resetting your heels together and cycling through your push-up ending (that is, folding your chest to your thighs and walking back to your feet to roll up and stand).
3. The Hundred
Lie flat with your legs squeezed together and long, strong arms by your side. Lift both legs a few inches off the mat, squeeze your buttocks, and scoop your abs. Lift your head and look to your toes.
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.
Reps: Complete two to five sets (one set is 10 pumps) and work up to 100 pumps.
Sit with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor approximately 2 feet from your bottom. Place your hands behind your thighs with elbows wide. Inhale with control as you curl your bottom under and roll halfway back. Hold for a count of three, and exhale as you roll up to the starting position.
Reps: Repeat three to five times.
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 are balanced in the middle of your shoulder blades and the backs of your arms.
Point your toes and exhale with control as you roll back down your spine, leaning your body slightly to the right.
When your right glute touches the mat, circle your legs to the left and inhale slowly, rolling up the left side of your body while scooping your abs and lifting your bottom.
Reps: Continue reversing the circle direction each time and complete three sets, deepening the scoop of your abs and seeking more articulation in your spine with each revolution.
Corkscrew Prep II
Squeeze your legs together, tightly wrapping from the backs of your upper inner thighs, as if both legs were now one, and raise them straight up in the air as close to perpendicular as possible.
Point your toes and feet and inhale with control as you circle to the right and exhale with control as you come around to the left and back to center. (This breathing pattern can be reversed.)
As you circle your legs toward center, press the backs of your arms and shoulders firmly into the mat and lift your bottom up until you are balanced in the middle of your shoulder blades and on the backs of your arms (the wrists are flat, the triceps are firing).
Reps: Continue reversing the circle direction each time and complete three sets, deepening the scoop of your abs and stabilizing your spine further with each revolution.
5. Side Bend
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.
Bring the hand from overhead back to your outer thigh and turn your chin to your outer shoulder. Exhale slowly as you lower the side of your calf to the mat. Inhale slowly as you return to your high arc.
Reps: Repeat three breath cycles, fueling the height and depth of your arc with each complete breath.
Side Bend Prep II: Side Plank
Sit on one hip, propped up on one hand, with your legs slightly bent to the side in line with your body. Place your top foot just in front of your bottom foot on the mat and your top hand behind the base of your head.
Inhale with control as you lift your hip away from the mat, straightening your mat-side arm and elongating your legs. The top elbow is lifting to the ceiling, helping to create more length in your waist. Slowly exhale and return your hip to the mat with control.
Reps: Do three on each, seeking to gain more and more lift and elongation with each opportunity.
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. Inhale and exhale normally as you alternate lifting right arm/left leg and left arm/right leg 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 to heels for a counter stretch in your lower back, if needed.
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. The navel is pulled to your spine.
Inhale with control as you lift your chest, arms and thighs off the mat, opening up the underside of your body, and hold your breath and position for a count of one. Exhale slowly as you lengthen everything back to the mat.
Sit to heels for a counter stretch in your lower back, if needed.
Reps: Repeat three times with the goal of lengthening so much that you might reach your feet past the back edge of your mat while simultaneously reaching your hands past the front edge of the mat (if you were longer than your mat to begin with, use the perimeter of the room as your gauge instead).
Photo Credits: The Women’s Health Big Book of Pilates