These *Intense* Pilates Moves Are a Hard-Core Challenge for Your Abs

Kells McPhillips

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Photo: Stocksy/Mauro Grigollo

If you've spent any time in a Pilates mat class, you know the workout's signature moves—including the hundred, rollups, and sliding lunges—are capable of seriously sculpting your body. That's because each one requires engaging and elongating multiple big and small muscle groups at the same time. But like most workouts, once you've got the basics down, if you want to continue to see results, you need to keep your body guessing. A good way to do this is by switching up your routine and adding in more advanced (read: challenging) moves to your sequences.

To kick your Pilates regimen up a notch, celebrity instructor Andrea Speir (her star-studded roster of clients features names like Rashida Jones, Ashley Olsen, and Jonah Hill) is sharing six next-level moves you can do on a mat or Reformer from her buzzy, Pilates-fusion method, SPEIR Pilates.

Ready to strengthen your practice? Keep reading for a guide to hard-core Pilates moves that'll help sculpt your abs and tone your lower body.

GIFs: Well+Good Creative

Cross-over reaches

"The entire core is being worked and challenged in this exercise, but what you're really targeting are the obliques," says Speir.

Get it done: Lie on your back with legs extended toward sky. Lower one leg down to a 45-degree angle. Curl head and shoulders up off the mat, and reach toward your toes. Pulse up 8 times. Repeat 5 times on both sides. 

Elbow slides

"This move strengthens the deep transverse abdominals," explains Speir, referring to the corset-like muscles that wrap around your core.

Get it done: Sit with your knees bent, feet hip distance apart, arms at 90-degree angles and tucked into side body. Roll back onto your sacrum (the flat part of your lower back above your tailbone), maintaining a C-curve in your spine by hollowing out your stomach and sucking your naval back and up between your ribs. Slide elbows forward to extend arms toward knees. Slide elbows back slowly. Repeat 10 times. 

Rolling like a ball jump

Now for the cardio element of this circuit.

Get it done: Sit with your knees bent and feet hovering off the mat, holding on behind your thighs. Round body forward into a tight ball position. Rock back to shoulder tips. Roll back forward until you can plant your feet on the ground and jump up, reaching for the sky. Gently return to your seated start position. Repeat 10 times. 

Burpee side plank

"This killer combo cannot be beaten—it'll change your body quickly, safely, and efficiently," says Speir.

Get it done: Start with a burpee: Jump up reaching for the sky. When you land, plant your hands on the mat outside of your feet and hop back into a plank. Rotate your body into a side plank, balancing on one arm and the sides of the feet with your torso squared to the side of your mat. Reach your top arm up toward the sky. Place hand back down in plank. Repeat 8 times on both sides. 

Dancing leg sweep

"The glutius medius helps to support your lower back, hips and pelvis, and the bonus of it is this muscle will help lift your booty and tighten the outer hip zone," explains Speir. "This area is sometimes ignored, and it’s so important to getting that deep strength." 

Get it done: Lie on your side, either propped up on your forearm or with your head resting on your arm and knees slightly bent. Extend leg and kick forward. Sweep leg back straight behind you. Bend leg back in. Repeat 8 times. 

Heel click jumps

Speir says this move will make your heart race, and seriously boost your endurance. 

Get it done: Stand with feet wider than hips. Jump and click heels together and land wide. Repeat 20 times. 

Celebs *love* a good Pilates sesh: Check out Kate Hudson's and Vanessa Hudgens' go-to moves




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