Skip the crunches and drop the medicine ball! It's time to challenge your abs with a short Pilates routine. I pieced together the following moves from my favorite Ana Caban video. In my humble opinion, Ms. Caban has some of the best Pilates videos on the market. I'm fairly certain you can find them at Target. I use mine twice a week in between my strength training/cardio days. Pilates is a very low impact, yet powerful form of exercise that really digs deep to strengthen, tone and stretch your core abdominal muscles—with little to no effort, I might add, which makes it an absolutely perfect form of exercise for those days when you really don't feel like working out. And I know you have those days. But I digress, so let's begin.
1) First and foremost, my favorite. THE PILATES 100.
2) ROLLUPS: Lie down flat. Keep your legs together, squeeze your abdominals and extend your arms above your head to create one long line with your body. Don't arch your back, and keep your shoulders relaxed as you inhale to roll up. Arms should stay at your ears the entire time—the goal is to use your abs to lift your upper body. Exhale and continue to roll forward toward your feet for a nice stretch. Keep squeezing your abs! Inhale and roll back down. Repeat eight times. Slow but sure.
3) TWISTS: Also known as "bicycle crunches." Lie down flat, put your fingertips on the back of your head with your elbows out, and bend your legs to 90 degrees. Lift your chin to your chest as you inhale, then exhale as you slowly rotate your shoulders, extending your left leg as you bring your left elbow and right knee together. Inhale again as you switch, exhale when your right elbow and left knee meet. This completes one repetition. Do four reps quite slowly, then another four at a much faster pace. If you keep track of the breathing pattern, you'll feel the burn. For sure!
4) CORKSCREWS: Lie down flat and extend your legs directly above your hips. Keep your legs as straight as you possibly can, and squeeze your ankles together. Place your arms by your side as you relax your shoulders and squeeze your abdominals. The goal is to draw a medium-sized circle with your toes, so inhale as you drop your legs to the right. Swing them down and around to the left as you exhale back to start. Repeat, but start toward the left. Draw eight circles, then relax.
Of course, these are just four of many Pilates moves. Consider them alternatives to crunches, but seek out a full video if you're looking for an entire Pilates workout. As I said before, Target (and stores like Target) usually have some to choose from. You can also look online, as there are plenty of sites that offer free videos. Any questions? Just let me know.