Summer is in full bloom and at the gym, everyone is crunching their way to swimsuit readiness. There are so many abdominal exercises that it can be overwhelming as to which ones really do the job — not only firming, but also increasing the core support of your torso. That’s where the Pilates method shines! It’s all about form, not how many you do. Ten well-executed abdominal exercises will reap a far better results than 50 crunches that are done fast and without using proper form. So here’s how to do the perfect abdominal exercise, without straining your neck, tweaking your back, or rolling off your exercise ball.
The Pilates Core Abdominal Exercise
- On a mat, laying supine, knees bent and hip distance apart. Heels of feet will be just about under the bend in your knee.
- Arms are lengthened by the side of your torso. From the shoulder, drawing your shoulder blades down and toward your fingers tips.
- Head is flat on mat with your gaze looking up. If you have a deep curve in your neck, and laying with your head flat is uncomfortable, roll a small towel and place it at the back of your neck where your scull and neck frame meets.
- Pelvic Position: This is the most important part of your position. There are two primary positions: Neutral or Imprint. No matter which position you use, it is paramount that where you begin is where you end and you do not move out of the position as you move through the abdominal contraction. The pelvis should remain in the same position throughout the entire movement.
- Neutral: this mean both hip bones and pubic bone are on the same plane. If you place the heels of your hands on each hip bone and bring your fingertips toward the center (in a V) onto the top of your pubic bone, the position of your hands should be nearly flat. You should feel a lightness in your low back against the mat allowing the natural curve of your back to be present.
- To imprint your spine, press your low back into the mat, this will remove the natural curve of the low back. Do this without contracting your glute muscles.
- Inhale to prepare
- Exhale and lengthen through the back of your neck (if you had a small ball and place it beneath your chin in front of you neck it would not move or pop out.) Keep your gaze in the same view. Curl up through your head to your upper back. Your scapula will be off the mat and your mid back and low back remain on the mat.
- Hold at the top and inhale and exhale. Inhale again
- On you next exhale, roll down and return to the mat.
- When you are moving up, be mindful about your pelvis not lifting up and your glutes contracting.
- When you inhale, focus on bringing the breath out to the sides of your ribcage, keeping your abdominals down and not popping up. You want to build this muscle structure to be strong, firm and down – not up and out.
- If your neck does bother you during the curl up, place a towel under your head, holding both side of the towel like a sling. Be mindful to keep your shoulders down and relaxed.
Repeat 10 repetitions and work up to 3 sets. In between the sets, throw in a few Planks from my May Exercise.
If you feel any pain or discomfort, consult your personal physician.
If you have any medical concerns, please be sure to always check with your primary physician before performing any exercises.