Stories from Pilates

We found the ultimate way to make your abs work harder during any at-home workout

Zoe Weiner

Zoe WeinerApril 23, 2020

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Photo: Stocksy/Ivan Gener

Even if you haven’t decided to invest in an actual home gym, there’s workout equipment everywhere you look. Need a set of light weights? Pick up a pair of wine bottles. Want to try some pushing and pulling? Load up the vacuum cleaner. Looking to make your ab exercises harder than ever? Usually, we’d tell you to grab a resistance ball. But when that’s not an option, all you need is a pillow.

In the Pilates world, resistance balls—which are squishy and the size of a basketball—have become the go-to choice as a workout ball for abs that will amp up any routine. When you do planks on top of them, they add an element of instability that forces your muscles to work harder. When you place them under your obliques, they increase your range of motion. And when you place them in between your legs for crunches or leg lifts, you’re able to engage your glutes and inner thighs in an entirely different way that will leave them burning.

But you don’t have to have an actual resistance ball to reap these types of benefits. All you really need, according to Barry’s founding trainer Keoni Hudoba, is a pillow. “A pillow allows you to engage so much more than just your core—the entire body must be engaged,” he says. “Instability makes core work so much more challenging, as well as interesting because it really takes mental focus.” Plus, it’s a whole lot more comfortable to do moves on a pillow than on the floor or a mat—even if it does technically make them harder. One of his favorite moves to get your entire body burning? Hammer punches, where you start in a forearm plank and alternate punching the pillow. They activate your entire core, and (bonus) are a great way to get out all of the anger you might currently be feeling about the state of world right now.

Since we’re all limited by what sorts of workout tools we’ve got in our homes—at least for the time being—getting creative is key. To make use of a pillow in your own routine, follow along with the workout ball for abs (and glutes!) series below. No actual workout ball required.

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