The abdominal region consists of many muscles which contribute to overall well-being. Fat accumulation in the abdominal region can result in a lot of underlying diseases such as cholesterol, unfortunately for many individuals it also results in low self-esteem. In this article we pay special attention to the waistline. 

There are two sets of abdominal muscles which run diagonal along the sides of the lower ribs to the top of the hip bones these muscles are referred to as obliques namely, the internal and external obliques.  They are put to work in compressing the abdomen, forward bending, and in bending to the side and twisting your torso. 

When these obliques are toned, they not only shape the waistline but are also strengthen the torso. 

In Pilates there are several exercises which assist in trimming and toning the waist. Below we have highlighted our top five exercises:

The hundred:

No pilates session would be complete without the hundreds. The hundred is one of the classic exercises in pilates which can be used as a warm for the lungs due to the breath pattern. The hundred is a great abdominal exercise to start off with and holds various variations which results in great toning of the abdominal region. 

Execution:

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet and knees in line with the hips and your hands approximately 45 degrees overhead. 
  • The legs are brought up to a tabletop position, i.e., knees and hips bent at a 90-degree right angle and shins parallel to the floor.
  • Lift the head and shoulders off the floor until the bottom of the shoulder blades just touches the floor. This is called a chest lift position. Simultaneously bring the arms to the sides of the body. 
  • Begin to move the arms in small pumping movements (moving from the shoulders) breathing in for five counts and out for 5 counts and if you can, for a count of 100 breaths. 

Avoid:

  • Arching the lower back.
  • Drawing your shoulders up towards the ears.
  • Pumping vigorously resulting in instability.
  • Nodding or hanging of the head.
  • Try to keep the pelvic region still and stable.
  • Keep the eyes on the navel. 

Criss-cross:

The rotation of the trunk is key because it emphasizes the work of obliques which help define the waist. 

Execution:

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet and knees in line with your hips. 
  • Place your hands behind your head, supporting your head. Keep the elbows in your peripheral view. 
  • Inhale: Slightly tuck the chin as if you were creating a double chin and shoulders off the mat up to the base of the shoulder blades. 
  • Your upper body is in a full curve, your abs are pulling your belly button down to your spine, and your legs are lifted in a tabletop position (shins parallel to the floor, knees and hips at a 90-degree angle). 
  • Exhale: Reach your left leg out long, and simultaneously rotate your torso toward the bent right knee, with an open front of the shoulder pointing towards your right knee/hip. 
  • Inhale: back the center to switch legs 
  • Extend the right leg. Rotate your upper body toward the left knee. Focus the movement in the waist area and do not allow the shoulders to lead the movement.

Avoid:

  • Instability at the hips/pelvis.
  • Using the shoulders and elbows.
  • Haunching the shoulders (rounding the shoulders forward).
  • Lateral flexion (side movements) instead of rotation. 
  • Bringing the knee to the chest.
  • Closing the elbows.

Teaser: 

The teaser is almost 100 years old, and it is one of the original exercises found in Joseph pilates repertoire. The teaser can be very difficult to execute but it is not the most difficult exercise in the repertoire. The teaser was given its name because it is a combination of all the principles of pilates. Joseph Pilates found it to be quite the tease.

Execution:

  • Lie flat on your back on the mat, with legs in a table–top position. knees bent 90 degrees with the shins parallel to the floor. The arms are extended overhead at an approximate 45-degree angle, palms facing forward/up to the ceiling. 
  • Inhale: Lift your head off the floor as you are bringing your arms up to the ceiling. 
  • Exhale: As you roll your body up and forward (rolling up from the floor) slowly and with control and extend the legs to a 45-degree angle simultaneously, making sure to engage your abdominals. 
  • Inhale: Straighten the upper back at the top. Your body should now be in a “V” position (flat back) with your arms straight forward and at a slight diagonal above the shoulders, palms facing down. 

Avoid:

  • Lifting shoulders.
  • Using momentum.
  • Arching in the lower back in the V position.
  • Dropping the legs. 

 

If this version proves to be too difficult, you can try the easier version, which is called the Teaser Prep.

Teaser Prep Execution:

  • Lie down on your back with 1 leg extended, the other knee bent, foot on the floor & both knees squeezed together. Arms stretched out at an approximate 45-degree angle overhead, palms facing each other. 
  • Exhale: Scoop into your abdominals, reach both arms up to the ceiling and lift the chest and with a round spine, keep reaching forward towards the leg.
  • Inhale: With the body now in a “V” position, keep the abdominals engaged, and extend your upper back (upper back only) at the top.
  • Exhale:  Roll the torso back down onto the mat very slowly. 

Repeat a few times, then change legs.

Avoid:

  • Using momentum to roll the torso up and down, this should be done very slowly, vertebrae for vertebrae, i.e., articulate the spine up and down.
  • Keep the shoulders down and next to the body.
  • Keep the legs still and together – no movement.

Corkscrew: 

The corkscrew is a great exercise to train the abdominal muscles specially the obliques helping to trim the waist even more due to the rotational movement taking place at the waist area being led by the obliques. 

Execution:

To start, lie on your back with your shoulders away from your ears and arms along your sides, palms down. Extend your legs up to the ceiling. Keep them together, as though they are glued together. 

Keeping your belly scooped in, use abdominal control to take your legs over to one side. The legs stay together. Make this a small move at first, keeping the hips on the mat. As you get stronger, let just the hips tip slightly with the move. (Eventually, the hips will lift on the opposite side to the direction that the legs are moving in). 

Inhale: Circle the legs down to an approximate 45-degree angle in the center – creating a half circle. Don’t take your legs so low that your lower back comes off the mat. Your upper body will remain calm and stable. It helps to lightly press the backs of the arms on the mat.

Exhale: Move the legs up the other side to complete the circle, and back to starting position. Keep alternating sides.

Avoid:

  • Your abdominal muscles are going to get a workout, but you want your upper body to stay as relaxed as possible throughout the exercise. 
  • No momentum should be used if you are moving with control and the movement is coming from the abdominal muscles. 
  • Avoid separation of the legs. 
  • Do not arch in the lower back. 
  • Do not lift the upper body during movements.

Hip circles or twist: 

Hip circles follow the perfection of the Corkscrew exercise and plays a great role in the strengthening and toning of the oblique muscles. 

Execution:

Begin in an upright seated position with your leg straight in front of you. 

Broaden your collarbones (wide chest) and reach your arms behind you. They will be supporting you through this exercise. 

If you feel like your shoulders are too tight for the chest to stay in an open position, with upper back extended or you struggle to keep your legs up, feel it in your lower back, or you find this position difficult for whatever reason, lower down onto your elbows and forearms. (Elbows bent and in line with your shoulders). This is the prep version, which is easier. 

Inhale: to begin circling your legs downwards in a clockwise motion, making sure to keep your legs parallel and together throughout this exercise. The movement is in the waist, therefore the as the legs lower, allow your pelvis to rotate and move from side to side as the legs draw a large circle. The torso is stable and still and the chest stays wide and open. 

Exhale: Circle the legs back up the other side to complete the circle and to return to the starting position. (The legs will move as one unit through the full circle. Avoid any leg shifting and make sure that your legs stay together and parallel and that you remain seated just behind your SIT bones. 

Make sure to continue alternating the direction of your circle as you complete 2-4 more repetitions.

Avoid:

  • Sinking into the shoulders.
  • Movement in the trunk.
  • Sliding the legs.
  • Hanging the head. 
  • Losing the extension in your upper back.

Additional information:

With each of these exercises one must remember the activation of the abdominal muscles throughout the exercise and the correct use of a breathing pattern to assist you with execution of the exercise. Muscles perform different functions and in Pilates we co-ordinate the breath with the muscle function to optimize functionality and safety and therefore a more intense workout. Doing these five exercises several times a week will result in a strengthened and toned waistline.

These exercises are advanced Pilates exercises and not suitable for everyone. Please consult your physician, before executing them. 

Pilates Dynamics offer both basic, intermediate, and advanced Pilates and Yoga training classes. For more information or to book any classes, contact us.