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Pilates Tip: Increase the Challenge By Lowering Your Legs

Someone recently asked me if Pilates was German for ab exercises. While the founder of Pilates hailed from Germany, his last name is now what we know his exercise method by. This question, however, is highly indicative of classic Pilates exercises - they work your abs!

In many Pilates exercises that focus directly on strengthening the abs, you lie on your back and have both your legs as well as your head and upper back off the ground. To increase the intensity of the exercise, lower your legs. This forces the abdominals to work harder.

There are a couple of caveats though:

  • Only lower your legs as far as you can keep your deep abs engaged. You will know they are no longer working if your belly is pooching. When the top layer of abs, the rectus, works alone it pulls away from the spine and creates a mound of abs. This is not good. You want to work all layers of your abdominals together. To ensure that is happening focus on pulling your navel to your spine.
  • Keep your low back glued to the floor. When working with your legs off the ground you don't want a neutral spine. Nope. You want every vertebrae in your low spine attached to the ground / You want to round your low spine into the floor by scooping your abdominals, not by squeezing your booty.

If you are having trouble finding and consistently working and/or feeling your deep abs, you should raise your legs. It might seem super cool and tough to have your legs lower, but if you are pooching then you are not doing Pilates.

Looking for an exercise to put these tips to use? Then

Join The Conversation
intensebandgeek intensebandgeek 9 years
Great tips!
MBAGirl2010 MBAGirl2010 9 years
I find it easier to keep engaged on a reformer than a plain mat. It is really tough not to let your sit bones creep up as you attempt to go lower.
Linda-McP Linda-McP 9 years
Thanks for the tips and the video, Fit. Love this exercise.
ktacce ktacce 9 years
We did this in PiYo last night and I've got some sore abs this morning! ;)
Moody Moody 9 years
Thank you for the tip, we've been doing this exercise for a while in the crunch class at the gym and apparently I was doing it wrong. :S
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