How to do Pilates abdominal exercises

Pilates Blog

Pilates is a phenomenal exercise modality to strengthen your core, which consists of your rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, lower back muscles and obliques. A strong core will help to keep your body well balanced and stable. In addition, it will improve your posture and exercise form, help you to move in a more controlled and efficient way and keep your spine stable.

There are many ways to work your core and Pilates focuses on engaging your core muscles in a highly concentrated way. With every exercise you do in Pilates you target your core muscles. Even moves that aren’t core focused and target other muscle groups will still engage your core. Pilates strengthens all the different areas of your core.

Here are a few Pilates exercises that focus on your core and don’t require equipment.


Lie down on your back and bring both of your knees in towards your chest. Put your hands on the back of your head while keeping your elbows wide. Curl up your head and bring the opposite shoulder towards the opposite knee in turn. Extend the other leg. Continue doing this by alternating each side.


Once again, lie down on your back. Keep your legs together and bend them up over your hips at an angle just past ninety degrees and lift your feet off the ground. Then extend your legs while reaching your arms toward your feet. Make sure your head and shoulders lift off the mat. This move should create something resembling a V shape with your torso and legs. Hold this position for five breaths then return to the bent knees position.

Leg circle

Lie down on your back and keep your arms by your side with your palms facing downwards. Bend one knee and then place that foot flat on the floor while extending the opposite leg up so that it forms a ninety-degree angle to the floor.

Circle this leg out to the side, down to the ground and return it to the starting position. Reverse the circle. Complete between eight and 12 reps on one leg and then repeat with the other leg. Make sure to keep your lower back touching the floor at all times while performing this exercise.

Scissor kick

Lie on your back and extend one of your legs until it is perpendicular to the floor. Hold onto the calf and pull it in towards your chest. Curl your head up. Lift the other leg a few centimetres off the floor. Repeat this a few times while switching legs.

Single leg stretch

Lie down on your back and look at the ceiling. Curl both knees up towards your chest and place your hands on the shin of one leg while raising your head up off the floor.

Extend the leg you are not holding and then bring it back to your chest. Switch sides, holding onto the returning leg and extending the other one. Alternate extending each leg. Keep your lower back on the floor during this exercise in order to keep your core engaged.

You can pick a few of these moves and do them as a warm-up before engaging in an intense workout. You can then incorporate the rest of the exercises during your workout so you can keep targeting and working on your core.

These moves can also be used as a standalone core routine by picking a couple you like and doing them a few times. Try doing these moves for 30 seconds and then steadily working your way up to a minute and then two and so forth if you’re new to Pilates.

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