If you're ever looking to burn out your core, one of the best—and lowest impact—ways to do it is with Pilates. The entire fitness modality centers around the core, but it gives you added benefits of things like better posture and added strength, all while hitting other muscle groups, too.
In our latest episode of Well+Good's YouTube series Good Moves, Pilates instructor and physiotherapist Chloe Gregor from East River Pilates is taking us through a 15-minute Pilates core workout that will make you feel as though you did a thousand crunches. "Everybody wants strong abs so that we feel stronger and move better," she says. Rest assured that this 16-move, abs-centric workout lights up every single muscle within your core, from your obliques to your lower and upper abs.
What's even better is that the exercises within the workout secretly strengthen your hips, glutes, and shoulders, too. Basically, you could classify it as a full-body workout, but your core is what's really going to be sore the next day. Get ready to w-o-r-k—all you need is a mat.
Try this 15-minute Pilates core workout
Toe tap: Start on your back and float your legs up into tabletop position. Keep the back of the neck long and the spine neutral, and slowly lower one of your legs down toward the mat as far as you can with control. Then pull the leg back up into tabletop, and do the other leg. Inhale as you lower, exhale as you pull your leg back. Challenge yourself to go slower than what feels comfortable so that you can really engage the abdominals. Do this for 20 reps.
Curl up: Back in tabletop position with legs raised, place your hands behind your head with your fingers interlaced and thumbs pointing down. Lift your elbows slightly, then peel your head and chest up, coming up into a curl up. Then lower your head and chest back down. Exhale to curl up, bringing your chest to your thighs, inhale to lower. Keep your head heavy in your hands. Do 10 reps.
Curl up + toe tap: Now we're combining both of those moves for more of a challenge. Come into tabletop with your hands behind your head. As you curl your head and chest up, tap one of your toes down toward the mat. Then, bring everything back into the starting position as you exhale, then inhale as you lower your opposite leg. You can take both legs down together for more of a challenge. Do 10 reps.
Oblique curl with leg lift—right: With your hands interlaced behind your head, lengthen the spine and curl your head and chest up, twisting to the right side as you lift that leg up into tabletop. Then lower down almost all the way to the mat, then come straight back up, exhaling to twist, inhaling to come back in. Think about your opposite shoulder reaching to the outside of the thigh. Do 10 reps.
Leg extension—left: Hold at your last curl, lift up a little higher, and lift your opposite leg into tabletop. Then, your opposite leg is going to extend out and away, then fold in. Exhale to extend, inhale to fold in. Be sure to not rock or tilt your pelvis—stabilize your hips and keep them heavy on the mat. The knee in tabletop position should remain directly over your hip. Do 10 reps.
Leg circle: Hold at your last extension, then circle your extended leg for five reps in one direction, then five in the other. Then hug knees into chest and rock side to side.
Oblique curl with leg lift—left: Do 10 reps of this on your left side.
Leg extension—right: Hold in your curl and extend your right leg for 10 reps.
Leg circle: Do little circles with your extended leg in one direction for five, then reverse for five.
Hip dip—left: Bring your forearm down. You can do the side plank from your knees, with your elbow in line with your knees as you lift into a side plank. Or you can do a full variation on your toes—lift up and step one leg in front, and plant your back foot down so that the outer edge connects to the mat. Your top arm reaches towards the ceiling. Pull your abs and ribs in and dip your hips down, then lift up from the waist. Inhale to lower, exhale to lift, never touching the floor with your lower hip. Do this for 10 reps.
Pike twist—left: Come up onto your hand, fingers pointing away from you. In the same side plank setup that you chose, your top arm reaches up. Exhale to reach the top hand towards the back ankle, then open back out into a side plank. Lift your hips high, inhale to open, exhale to curl under. Think about your hips reaching towards the ceiling and opening them up. Do 10 reps.
Hip dip—right: Do 10 reps on your right side.
Pike twist—right: Do 10 reps on your right side.
Knee pull—left: From high plank position, draw your left knee in towards one side, step it back, and then then take it across to the opposite side, then step it back. Bring your left leg to the same elbow, then across. Exhale as you pull in, inhale to take it back. Do five on each side, keeping your hips steady and heart shining forward.
Knee pull—right: Repeat with your right knee.
Slow motion mountain climber: From high plank position, alternate your knees into your chest for a really slow motion mountain climber. Keep your chest lifted, hips level, and move with control. Keep a tiny micro-bend in your elbow so that they're not locked. Do this for 10 reps, then you're finished.
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