7 Awesome Pilates Moves to Help Strengthen Your Core ...

It may seem a bit intimidating to learn new Pilates moves, but with a little practice, you'll catch on in no time. Pilates are an excellent way to tone your body and increase strength. You don't even need any fancy equipment to get started (except perhaps a mat if you'll be working on a hard surface). One of the best areas of your body to tone and strengthen is your core, which will help improve balance and stability, and give you a flatter belly to boot! Check out some of these awesome core-strengthening Pilates moves:

1. Row Boats

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One of the best Pilates moves I've learned is the row boat. In this move, start by sitting on your tail bone, leaning back slightly, with your knees tucked close to your chest and your arms bent at a 90 degree angle close to your sides. Next, lean backwards and extend both your arms and legs at the same time so that they're parallel with the ground. Keep your head, feet, and hands a few inches off the ground (the only part that should be touching the ground should be your lower back and buttocks). After holding for a few seconds, return back to the original position. Keep repeating these steps, and once you get the hang of things, you'll be able to increase speed, and the move will look a lot like rowing a boat (hence the name, of course!).

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The plank is an excellent core-strengthening exercise, and it helps tone several other areas as well! To start, lie down on your stomach and place your forearms on the ground and clasp your hands together, forming an upside down V with your arms. Next, push up on your toes and keep your legs together, a few inches apart. Hold your body in a straight plank like this for 30 seconds at a time, and make sure that your bottom is perfectly in line with your body so you're not in an arced position. You can also do side planks by holding the plank position on either your right or left side, keeping one arm straight and propping yourself up with that same hand, keeping the other hand on your hip, and your feet stacked on top of each other.

3. Pike-Ups

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Start by lying on your back with your feet placed slightly apart and your arms straight above your head on the ground. Next, slowly bring both arms up at the same time while simultaneously bringing one leg straight up. Your body should form a V shape, and try your best to touch your hands to your foot (remember to keep everything straight!). The key to this move is to use your stomach to bring your arms and legs up so that you work your core better and don't strain your neck. Once you've got the hang of this, increase your speed and do 10 reps per leg.

4. Bicycles

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Lie flat on your back and lace your fingers behind your head. Bring your knees up and bend them at a 90 degree angle so you're in the "crunch" position. Lift up from your abs so that your torso is at a 45 degree angle. Slowly bring up one knee at a time and alternate your right elbow with your left knee, and your left elbow with your right knee. Speed things up and alternate knees and arms quickly, twisting your torso with each knee-elbow touch.

5. Russian Twists

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That part I said above about not using equipment? I may have fibbed a bit, as this exercise would be even better with hand weights or a medicine ball. In any event, bring yourself to the starting position of the row boat exercise. Next, rotate your torso and top frame from left to right, while keeping your feet off the ground. Your arms should be bent at 90 degrees, held in front of you either clasped together or holding weights.This exercise will really work your obliques and ab muscles. Bye bye, muffin top!

6. Swimmer

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This exercise comes in a variety of names, but the idea is that while doing so, you look as though you're swimming. Lie flat on your belly and extend your arms and legs straight, like a "Superman" move. Raise your arms, chest, and both legs so only your torso and pelvis are touching the ground. Next, alternate raising your left arm with your right leg and right arm with left leg interchangeably, as if you're swimming. Do this for about 30 seconds at a time.

7. Leg Lowers

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Lie flat on your back and lift your legs while keeping them together at a 90 degree angle straight up in the air. Keep your arms down at your sides. Now, every 10 seconds, slowly lower your legs a few inches, and hold for 10. Do this about 10 times all the way down until your legs are just a few inches above the ground, and release.

Pilates are a great way to tone and strengthen your body, and are fun to do too! You don't need a gym membership or a personal trainer to do these exercises, and if you keep up with it and repeat exercises a few days each week, you'll see results in no time. Do you have any favorite Pilates moves or core exercises?

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