Prepare Your Core For a Pilates Crunch Variation That My Lower Abs Did NOT See Coming

POPSUGAR Photography | Maggie Ryan
POPSUGAR Photography | Maggie Ryan

I've been doing a lot of Pilates lately, and my abs are really liking all the new moves. One core exercise I really didn't see coming? Pilates double toe taps, a simple crunch variation done on your back that lit up my lower abs.

Double toe taps actually work your transverse abdominis, according to Heather Jeffcoat, DPT, a physical therapist and BASI-certified Pilates instructor at Fusion Wellness & Physical Therapy, which are your "deep core" muscles involved in stabilizing your low back and pelvis. "I love this exercise as prep to do the double leg stretch," also known as double leg lifts, Heather told POPSUGAR. "This bent-knee version allows for a shorter lever arm and is therefore less challenging on the core than a double leg stretch." So once you've collapsed after a set of double toe taps, just remember that there's an even harder move out there, ready to make your abs burn even more!

Want to try this move yourself? For beginners, Heather recommends building up your endurance by holding the starting tabletop position for two minutes. Then, progress to alternating toe dips (dropping one foot at a time) before attempting the full move.

How to Do Pilates Double Toe Taps

  • Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor. Contract your pelvic floor and your deep lower abdominal muscle toward your spine.
  • Lift one leg at a time, bringing your hips and knees to 90-degree angles. Make sure your pelvis is in a neutral position, so that there's a slight curve in your lower back (it's not pressed flat against the floor). Your ribs should also be in contact with the floor.
  • Inhale, then exhale as you pull in your deep abdominal muscle and drop both feet towards the floor. Maintain a neutral spine and rib positioning and keep your knees at a 90-degree angle. There should be no movement or hyperextension in your spine, Heather said. "I'll often cue my patients to 'imagine they are going back into a tilt, but still keeping that neutral spine.'"
  • Inhale as you bring your legs back to the starting position. This completes one rep.
  • Repeat for 12-15 reps.
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