Exercise

Best 15 Pilates Exercises For Your Core

Best 15 Pilates Exercises For Your Core

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What Is Pilates?

5 Benefits of Pilates

Is Pilates Good for Core Strengthening?

15 Killer Pilates Moves to Tighten Up Your Core

One of the best things about following a keto diet is that you learn to support it with exercise. Try to connect with successful ketoers and they’ll tell you that exercise has worked wonders for their body. In today’s topic, we’re going to explore fifteen fun pilates moves.

Pilates is an excellent exercise that works out your core. It improves your flexibility, strengthens and tone your muscles, and more. Keep reading this guide to learn everything you should about Pilates.


What Is Pilates?

Pilates consists of repetitive, controlled exercises that focus on core strengthening and stabilization. However, it’s not just your core that develops. Pilates also improves your back, arm, and leg muscles.

Pilates makes fitness convenient for everyone since it can be done with or without equipment. You may use a mat or Pilates’ specialized equipment called a Reformer which resembles a hospital bed. You’ll know why in a while.

So what’s the story behind Pilates? Pilates was born out of a sickly man’s determination to strengthen his body. His name was Joseph Pilates. While working as an orderly in a hospital during the latter part of World War 1, he created a system that helped non-ambulatory patients get exercise.

The doctors noticed that the patients who received Pilates’ therapy recovered fast. Since then, his exercise has been used over the years [1].


5 Benefits of Pilates

There are so many reasons why you should do Pilates on a daily basis. If you’re not sure what you can get out of this workout, here are five amazing benefits.


1. Relieves lower back pain

Lower back pain results from heavy lifting, a poor posture, a strenuous workout, or a chronic condition. Did you know that strengthening your core in Pilates relieves lower back pain?

Having strong abdominal muscles supports your spine and pelvis. A recent study showed that core strength training is effective in alleviating chronic lower back pain or pain which lasts over 12 weeks [2].


2. Promotes good posture

Good posture makes you look good and feel good about yourself. Even social psychologist Amy Cuddy believes in the power of posture to impact your self-confidence.

Pilates fixes poor posture by improving body awareness. In fact, a 10-week Pilates training program could reduce postural kyphosis in older adults [3].


3. Boosts energy levels

Do you feel tired most of the time even if you get a good night’s sleep? Studies reveal that 20% of adults worldwide experience constant fatigue and low energy. Physical activity is the solution [4].

Like most exercises, Pilates challenges your muscles, especially muscles that have gone tight as a result of sitting for long periods of time. As you inhale and exhale during a Pilates workout, blood circulates throughout your body. Your energy improves.


4. Helps with weight loss

A Pilates workout improves abdominal endurance, upper body muscular endurance, and flexibility as revealed by a study [5]. But does it help you lose weight?

If we do some research, there is little evidence suggesting that Pilates alone is an effective weight loss solution. How many calories you burn depends on the difficulty of the Pilates workout. Also, keep in mind that you cannot out-exercise an unhealthy diet.

Along with Pilates exercise, be sure to choose whole foods. Doing so reduces your calorie consumption and likelihood to feel hungry frequently [6].


5. Improves sleep quality

Pilates does more than just strengthening your body. It also soothes your nerves and calms your mind. As we all know, a calm, stress-free mind helps you sleep better.

A recent study on the effects of Pilates on mental health showed that Pilates reduced depressive and anxiety symptoms [7]. Another study that investigated the sleep quality of sedentary people showed that after 12 weeks of participating in a Pilates program, sleep quality improved [8].


group-of-women-and-man-doing-stretching-exercise-on-the-floor-in-gym

Is Pilates Good for Core Strengthening?

Yes. Many Pilates moves strengthen the core while targeting all other areas of the body. The best part is that these core strengthening exercises appeal to all levels. So whether this is your first time to try Pilates or have been doing it already, there’s always a new challenge to try -- thanks to the wide variety of movements.


15 Killer Pilates Moves to Tighten Up Your Core

Are you ready to add Pilates into your daily fitness routine? Here’s a list of beginner, intermediate, and advanced Pilates moves that engage your core.


Pilates for beginners

happy-woman-doing-abdominal-exercise-pelvic-curl

1. Pelvic curl

Start every workout session by warming up with the pelvic curl. It doesn’t only target your lower abs, but also your lower back and buttocks.


Duration

5 minutes

Frequency

Every other day or three times a week.

How to do it

1. Lie down comfortably on your back.

2. Bend your knees. Place your feet flat on the floor.

3. Inhale and exhale.  

4. As you exhale, draw your abs down and then gently lift your tailbone and then up to your vertebrae.

5. When you’ve reached the top vertebra, take one last deep breath.

6. As you exhale, slowly relax the top vertebra, going down, until you reach the tailbone.

7. The movement ends with your back lying on the floor.

8. Repeat.

Tips

1. Keep your neck and shoulders relaxed.

2. Use an exercise mat for the exercise.


Group-of-young-people-practicing-pilates-position-the-hundred-in-a-gym

2. The hundred

Here’s another basic mat exercise that gets your blood flowing. Aside from strengthening your ab muscles, it increases your endurance so that you don’t become easily tired.


Duration

5 minutes

Frequency

Every other day or three times a week.

How to do it

1. Lie down comfortably on your back.

2. Bend your knees so that your feet touch the floor. Relax your shoulders.

3. Next, lift your shoulders just a few inches off the floor with your arms stretched on the sides of your body.

4. At the same time, lift your legs just a few inches off the floor.

5. Now, you’re in a position where your abs are tense.

6. While holding the position, inhale for 5 seconds then exhale for 5 seconds.

7. Make small pumping movements with your arms.

8. Repeat the entire cycle 10 times.

Tips

1. Tuck your chin to avoid neck tension.

2. If you want an easier version of The Hundred, keep your knees bent.


woman-doing-Pilates-single-leg-stretch

3. Single leg stretch

Targeting your lower abs and stabilizing your spine, this move can be used as part of your Pilates warm-up.


Duration

1 minute or 10-15 repetitions for each leg

Frequency

Every other day or three times a week.

How to do it

1. Lie down comfortably on your back.

2. Bring your knees towards your chest.

3. Lift your shoulders off the floor and hold each knee with your hands.

4. Now this time, stretch your arms and legs so that they point to the ceiling.

5. Next, hold your right leg (behind your calf) using your right and left hand.

6. Gently pull your right leg towards you two times.

7. Switch to the left leg to perform the same move that you did with your right leg.

Tips

1. Avoid making bicycle-like movements.

2. If you’re a complete beginner, you can keep your head and shoulders rested on the floor.


woman-doing-double-leg-stretch-exercise-workout-at-gym-indoor

4. Double leg stretch

A more challenging exercise than the single leg stretch, the double leg stretch demands a lot of ab work. If you do it consistently, your body coordination will improve.


Duration

1 minute or 10-15 repetitions

Frequency

Every other day or three times a week.

How to do it

1. Lie down comfortably on your back.

2. Place your legs in a tabletop position (your thighs and lower legs are off the ground and form a 90-degree angle).

3. Place your hands at the top of your knees.

4. Lift your head and shoulders off the floor.

5. Extend your arms and legs so that they point the ceiling.

6. Next, circle your arms and bring them to your knees. Think of a hugging motion.

7. Repeat the hugging motion until you complete at least 10 reps.

Tips

1. Remember that you should only feel tension in your abs, not pain.

2. Don’t forget to inhale and exhale throughout the workout.


Young-woman-doing-single-leg-circle-exercises

5. Single leg circle

This super easy Pilates move will tone up your thighs. At the same time, it stabilizes your shoulders and pelvis.


Duration

3 minutes

Frequency

Every other day or three times a week.

How to do it

1. Lie down comfortably on your back.

2. Put your arms at your sides with your palms touching the floor.

3. Both your legs should be flat on the floor.

4. Next, bring your right knee to your chest, and slowly extend it so that it points to the ceiling.

5. Circle your right leg, bring it to the ground, and back to the midline. Imagine making a half circle. Reverse the circle.

6. This time, repeat step number 5 on your left leg.

7. Do 30 seconds for each leg.

Tips

1. Keep your circles precise and controlled.

2. Tighten your abs throughout the workout.


Intermediate pilates moves

woman-doing-teaser-exercise-workout-at-gym-indoor

1. The teaser

This move entails rolling your vertebra one at a time. It enhances your balance and improves your spinal strength.


Duration

5 minutes

Frequency

Every other day or three times a week.

How to do it

1. Lie down comfortably on your back.

2. Put your arms at your sides with your palms touching the floor.

3. Bring your knees in towards your chest.

4. Stretch your arms so that it points towards the ceiling.

5. Extend your legs to form a 45-degree angle.

6. Inhale. Exhale while rolling your body up towards your legs.

7. Inhale. Exhale while returning your body to the mat.

8. Repeat the entire move.

Tips

1. If you have balance problems, consult with your doctor first.

2. Before you do the teaser, you can practice balancing on your butt.


woman-doing-reverse-plank-exercise-on-a-mat

2. Reverse plank triceps dip

The reverse plank triceps dip targets your core, arms, and hip and spine muscles. If you live an active lifestyle, this exercise helps you move better.


Duration

5 minutes

Frequency

Every other day or three times a week.

How to do it

1. Start at a tabletop position.

2. Make sure that your palms are beneath your shoulders, supporting your upper body.

3. Next, extend your legs. The space between your arms and back should form a right triangle.

4. Now, bend your elbows and bring them up again. Feel your triceps doing the work.

5. Do three sets.

Tips

1. Maintain a straight line from your head to your feet.

2. Your neck should be in line with your trunk to avoid strain.


woman-doing-Pilates-swimming-exercise

3. Swimming

The swimming exercise engages your back muscles as you lie on your core. As a result, you’re less likely to sustain back injury and experience back pain.


Duration

5 minutes or 50 repetitions

Frequency

Every other day or three times a week.

How to do it

1. Lie comfortably on your stomach with your forehead resting on the mat.

2. Next, lift your head, chest, arms, and legs off the mat.

3. Flutter your arms and legs as if you’re swimming.

4. Throughout the workout, inhale for 5 seconds, and exhale for 5 seconds.

Tips

1. Keep the length of your arms and legs long, as if you’re reaching away from your core.  

2. Don’t force the required breathing pattern if you find it difficult.


Fit-woman-doing-push-up-exercise

4. Pilates push up

If you’ve done push-ups in the past, you already know that this exercise works mainly your triceps. It also recruits your chest, shoulders, and core.


Duration

1 minute or 10 reps

Frequency

Every other day or three times a week.

How to do it

1. Begin in a standing position with your arms above your head.

2. As you inhale, lower your body and land just right in front of your feet.

3. Slowly crawl away until you reach a push-up position.

4. Make sure that your hands are directly under your shoulders.

5. Bend your elbows and lift them. When you inhale, lower yourself. When you exhale, lift yourself.

6. Repeat the push-ups.

Tips

1. Don’t position your arms too wide or too far apart.

2. Don’t let your lower back sag.


Woman-doing-pilates-neck-pull

5. Neck pull

If you tried the Pilates roll-up, the neck pull is related to that exercise. What this move does is that it strengthens your abs and the muscles at the back of your body such as your neck extensors, spinal extensors, and hamstrings.


Duration

3 minutes or 3 sets with 5 repetitions per set

Frequency

Every other day or three times a week.

How to do it

1. When you lie on your back, press your spine to the mat.

2. Place your hands behind your head. Inhale.

3. Exhale as you roll your head and spine up.

4. Continue bending your torso towards your knees.

5. Return to a seated position with your hands still behind your head.

6. Slowly roll back to the mat.

Tips

1. Gradually increase your repetitions per set when you are more comfortable with the exercise.

2. Focus on quality, not quantity.


Advanced pilates

Pilates-woman-scissor-exercise-workout-at-gym-indoor

1. Scissors

For this exercise, your legs will be doing most of the work. You’re going to be in an upside down position. Yes, it’s a challenging exercise but it does wonders to your upper and lower abs.


Duration

3 minutes

Frequency

Every other day or three times a week.

How to do it

1. Lie down comfortably on your back.

2. Put your arms to your sides, bend your knees, and keep your feet flat on the floor.

3. Lift your hips off the mat and support them using the palms of your hands.

4. Make sure that your upper arms should be planted to the mat.

5. Cross your legs in a scissor-like movement. Make 2 pulses with your legs when they open, just before you switch positions.

Tips

1. Be careful not to bring the front of your thighs close to your head as you scissor.

2. Avoid this exercise if you have osteoporosis.


young-woman-doing-exercise-side-plank-with-raised-leg

2. Side plank with leg raise

Firm obliques make you look good and improve your posture. This exercise achieves that. To maximize it, use proper form.


Duration

1-3 minutes

Frequency

Every other day or three times a week.

How to do it

1. Lie on your right side. Use your lower arm to support your body.

2. Keep the line from your shoulders to your ankles straight.

3. Place your left hand on your waist.

4. Next, lift your left leg as high as you can and bring it back to the starting position.

5. Do a few repetitions and switch to the other side.

Tips

1. Engage your core throughout the exercise.

2. Don’t let your hips drop.


girl-exercising-back-bow-pilates

3. Pilates back bow

Reduce back pain, especially lower back pain, with this exercise. It effectively loosens up tight muscles while doubling as an ab workout.


Duration

3 minutes

Frequency

Every other day or three times a week.

How to do it

1. Lie face down on a mat. Stretch your arms in front of your head.

2. Inhale.

3. As you exhale, contract and lift your arms and legs off the mat, as high as you can.

4. As you inhale, bring your arms and legs down just a few inches from the mat.

5. Bring your arms and legs up again.

6. Do as many repetitions as possible. One up and down motion makes one repetition.

Tips

1. Keep your abs contracted.

2. Make sure that your arms and legs are straight.


beautiful-girl-doing-rocking-pilates-exercise-in-a-gym-studio

4. Rocking pilates

Stabilize your lower back with the rocking pilates exercise. Most people who do this exercise say that they feel great afterwards. Why don’t you try it yourself?


Duration

1 minute

Frequency

Every other day or three times a week.

How to do it

1. Lie down on your stomach.

2. Bend your right knee and grasp your right ankle.

3. Bend your left knee and grasp your right ankle.

4. On inhale, lift your knees and chest off the mat.

5. On exhale, bring them down.

6. Repeat.

Tips

1. Avoid moving your head forward and backward as you create rocking movements.

2. Follow a rocking rhythm that you feel comfortable with.


woman-doing-corkscrew-exercise-on-a-mat

5. Corkscrew

The corkscrew exercise builds strength in your neck and shoulders. It targets your abdominal muscles especially your obliques, as you circle your legs from side to side.


Duration

1-3 minutes

Frequency

Every other day or three times a week.

How to do it

1. Lie down comfortably on your back.

2. Place your arms by your sides

3. Raise both of your legs up to the ceiling. Your heels should be close together.

4. Circle your legs to the right, then bring them back to the center.

5. Circle your legs to the left, then bring them back to the center.

6. Repeat the motion.

Tips

1. Move your legs in a controlled manner.

2. Inhale as you circle your legs and exhale as you bring them back to the center.


Conclusion

Exercising on top of following a healthy diet such as keto leads to the best results. If you need a good core workout that comes with other benefits like flexibility, relief from back pain, and higher energy levels, choose Pilates.


Takeaways

  • While Pilates focuses on core strengthening, it also targets the muscles of your back, arms, and legs.
  • The exercise was created by Joseph Pilates, an orderly who saw the need for non-ambulatory patients to get movement.
  • Benefits of Pilates include relief from lower back pain, good posture, higher energy levels, weight loss (with the help of a healthy lifestyle), and better sleep.
  • You can find many Pilates workouts for all levels -- beginner, intermediate, and advanced.
  • When doing Pilates, always focus on proper form.

References

  1. Kloubec J. Pilates: how does it work and who needs it?. 2011 December 29 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3666467/
  2. Chang W-D, PhD, Lin H-Y, PhD, Lai P-T, BS. Core strength training for patients with chronic low back pain. 2015 March 31 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4395677/
  3. Lee S-M, MS et al. Clinical effectiveness of a Pilates treatment for forward head posture. 2016 July 29 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4968495/
  4. Puetz TW. Physical activity and feelings of energy and fatigue: epidemiological evidence. 2006 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16937952
  5. Kloubec JA. Pilates for improvement of muscle endurance, flexibility, balance, and posture. 2010 March - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20145572
  6. Piazza G. Biological factors and weight loss methods. 2018 February 27 - https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/biological-factors-weight-loss-methods
  7. Fleming KM, Herring MP. The effects of pilates on mental health outcomes: A meta-analysis of controlled trials. 2018 February 13 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29609943
  8. Leopoldino AA et al. Effect of Pilates on sleep quality and quality of life of sedentary population. 2012 November 20 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23294677

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