Roll Your Way to Strong Abs

After yesterday’s post on the importance of core muscles, I figured it was time to share a few more Pilates exercises that target these super-important stabilizing muscles specifically.

Pilates rolling exercises are a great exercise for improving not only the strength of your abdominal muscles, but many other elements that can be used in other activities, as well. When done correctly, you can also gain more control within your movements by being aware of the movement of your muscles and the rhythm of your breath.

As with most Pilates exercises, there are options to make them easier or harder – just depends on your level or how your body feels on any given day. Listen to your body, because it will tell you how far it can be pushed. Remember, it’s always best to start at the least difficult level, and gradually work yourself up, making modifications when necessary to keep good form.

Here are four rolling exercises to get you started:

Rolling Like a Ball

Start balanced on the sit bones, knees together, with hands on the hamstrings, opposite knees, or rested on top of the shins. Pull pelvic floor up tight, bellybutton to the spine, with a C-curve through the spine. Inhale, rocking back onto the shoulder blades, and exhale to rock back up to start.

Hint: The closer the legs are to the body, the harder it is to get up.

Hint: Think about controlled motion – you want to use your muscles, not momentum, to bring you up to the top. Don’t throw the legs – you should be able to let go and the legs stay where they started!

Open-leg Rocker

Same body positioning as Rolling Like a Ball, except legs are hip-width apart. Knees can be bent table top, extended straight, with the hands resting behind the legs, anywhere below the knee, or extended straight, yogi toe hold (thumb and first finger wrapped around the big toes).

Hint: The farther from the body the arms get, the harder it is to get up. Make sure your legs are only positioned about shoulder width – any wider, it will throw you off balance.

Crab

Start balanced on the sit bones, ankles crossed in front, with one hand holding each ankle. Draw belly button into the spine, and keep a C-curve in the back. Inhale, rolling back onto the shoulder blades, release and uncross the ankles, then recross. Exhale, and rock back up to start.

Seal

Start balanced on the sit bones, toes touching in front, with one hand holding the underside of each ankle. Draw belly button into the spine, and keep a C-curve in the back. Tap toes three times, inhale, rolling back onto the shoulder blades, and tap the toes three times behind the head. Exhale, and rock back up to start.

Good luck with these exercises – they’re harder than they sound! If you find yourself struggling with these, I always suggest one of two things to my classes: first, you can hold the seated position, eliminating the rocking and instead focusing on the feeling within your abs and your pelvic floor. A second option, if you have access to a BOSU, is to put the BOSU on the floor, black side down, blue side up, sit on it in the center, and simply pick up your feet (hold if you can). It’s actually really tough!

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