Summer is in full-swing … how are you feeling about your abs? If you’re sitting next to the pool or on the beach wrapped up in a towel, you still have some time to build some abs you’re proud to show off.
One of the best ways to start: break free of your standard crunches. Try these great Pilates exercises to work your core hard, hitting all the muscles from underneath your ribs, all the way down into your hips – and they’ll hit the deeper muscles crunches don’t hit, too.
Here’s a few suggestions to get you started:
Start lying flat on the floor, belly button tucked tight into your spine, with arms extended long behind the head. As you inhale, reach the hands toward the sky, and as you exhale, slowly lift the upper body and reach toward the toes, keeping the abs scooped (as if you are reaching over a ball and past the toes). Inhale, lifting the hands back to the sky, and exhale, lowering the body back to the starting position as slowly as possible. Make sure to keep the shoulder blades pressed down and back, and the legs firmly on the floor (they will shift back and forth slightly; you just want to make sure they don’t come off of the floor – if they do, you are using your legs to lift you, versus your abs). If you find yourself struggling to keep the legs down, you don’t have to roll all the way up – as long as the abs are engaged, you are still getting the benefits, even if the upper body is only coming two inches off of the floor.
Single Bent Leg Stretch
Lift your head and shoulders off of the mat, tucking your bellybutton tucked tight to the spine. Position your hands on the inside and outside of one knee, as you extend your opposite leg straight. Release and switch sides, reaching the toes of your extended leg straight in front of you, with controlled motion.
Double Bent Leg Stretch
Lift your head and shoulders off the mat, bellybutton tucked tight to the spine, both legs tucked in, with your fingers extended in blades atop the shins. Inhale, extending arms and legs in opposite directions. Exhale, using angel arms circling the body, and pulling arms and legs back in tight. Halfway through, reverse the arms, with angel arms back, then pulling up and over, legs stay the same.
Single Straight Leg Stretch
Lift your head and shoulders off the mat, bellybutton tucked tight to the spine, legs at 90+ degree angle – one parallel to the floor, the other leg extended to the sky, hands behind the leg. Reverse the legs, drawing straight lines to the front with each leg.
Double Straight Leg Stretch
Start with your legs extended up to the ceiling, with your low back grounded and bellybutton tucked into the spine. Keeping your legs together, inhale as you draw a straight line down, as close to the ground as you can get without allowing the low back to pull up. Exhale as you draw the toes back to the ceiling. You can choose one of three upper body/arm positions: for low back issues, keep hands underneath hips, head and shoulders on the ground; or keep head and shoulders on the ground, hands next to hips; or head and shoulders off the mat, hands placed lightly behind the head.
Start lying flat on the mat, head and shoulders up, hands lightly behind the head, with the knees bent at 90 degrees. Angle the front of one shoulder toward the opposite knee, reaching long (not crunching), then reach toward the opposite side.
Start on lying on the back, with knees bent and feet flat on the ground and arms extended straight behind the body. Inhale, lifting the hands up to the sky, and exhale, lifting the upper body to a seated position. Inhale, lifting the hands to the sky, and exhale, slowly lowering the body to start, hands parallel to the ground. Once you’ve mastered the level one, there are several progressions you can work into, as well.
Add these exercises to your regular routine two or three times a week, and you’ll be on your way to feeling stronger and leaner by the end of summer. Remember, diet and cardio play a role in getting those six-pack abs, so watch what and how you eat, and get your sweat on at least a couple hours each week.