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4 Pilates Exercise Combos for Visible Abs

Karla Tafra / LifeSavvy

Pilates is one of those activities that use combinations of exercises to fully exhaust and fatigue isolated muscle groups, and when it comes to your abs, there’s literally nothing better. These four sets will make your abs burn and help them pop out just in time for summer.

Boat Combo

Starting with the boat combo, this set of exercises challenges your balance and strengthens your entire core, front to back. 

Start in a seated position, bending your knees and placing your feet flat on the floor close to your sitting bones. Hug your knees tightly to elongate and prepare your spine. Lift up your feet, bringing your shins parallel to the floor. Stretch your arms by the outsides of your legs, palms facing inwards.

Hold for a few breaths and then extend your right leg, without touching the floor, and then your left. Alternate for 16 repetitions in total, before resetting by holding in starting position. Start extending your right leg diagonally up, and then your left. Alternate for another 16 repetitions and come back to the center.

Then, using both legs, extend them toward the floor on your inhale, and on your exhale bring your knees into your chest. Repeat 12-15 times. Stay in center position and hold. Slowly start scissoring your feet up and down for 20 repetitions, followed by crisscrossing your feet for 20 counts. Finish with a short, two-breath hold, and then relax and bring your feet to the floor, hugging your knees and stretching your spine.

If at any moment you feel like your form is getting impaired or you’re struggling with the exercises, bring your feet to the floor and take a breath or two to reset before continuing.

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Leg Lifts Combo

Start by lying on your back and finding a comfortable position for your lower back muscles. If you have hyperlordosis, it might be a good idea to double-cushion the area under your sacrum so you feel more comfortable and also avoid tension in your low back. 

Lift your legs up vertically into the air and start with toe taps. Extend your arms into the air and lift your shoulder blades from the floor. Pretend like you’re going to reach your left toes with the fingers of your right hand and then your right toes with your left. Alternate for 20 repetitions and then use both arms at the same time to lift up and touch your toes for another 20 reps.

Once you finish the 20 reps, lower your arms by your sides and start reaching to the side and behind your legs, tapping into your oblique muscles. Try to keep your shoulder blades lifted from the floor the entire time. Go for another 20 reps.

Going straight into leg lifts, place your palms on the floor beside you or under your sitting bones and start vertically lifting your legs into the air, using the power of your lower abs. Repeat 20 times and then bring your knees into your chest to reset. Hug them in tightly and feel your lower back stretched and supported. You can gently rock side to side to massage your spine and the muscles surrounding it.

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Plank Combo

No ab workout can be complete without a plank combo and this one is bound to challenge your entire core. Start by setting a good plank foundation, placing your palms right under your shoulders and keeping your hips in a neutral position. Stay here for a few inhales and exhales and then start lifting one leg and then the other, feeling your abs tighten with every move. Do 20 repetitions total (10 per leg). 

Going straight into commandoes, replace your left palm with your left elbow, right palm with right elbow, and then back up to your left palm and right palm, respectively. Keep at it for 10 full counts and try to prevent your hips from moving too much. After commandoes, start dropping your hips to the side, getting into hip dips. Come close to the floor each time but without actually touching it and use the power of your abs to lift your hips and transfer to the other side. Do 20 repetitions.

After 20 full reps, stay on your forearms and start moving forward and pushing back into a downward dog. Every time you move forward, you inhale and prepare, every time you push your hips diagonally back, you exhale and elongate your spine. Use long inhales and exhales to perform each movement 20 times.

On your final exhale, drop your knees to the floor and relax your torso over your thighs, getting into child’s pose and resting.

Lower Abs Combo

The lower part of your ab muscles is always the hardest to activate and work on. This combo really isolates and challenges this area of your body, one rep at a time. 

Start on your back and place your palms under your sitting bones. You can place a bolster or an extra mat under your lower back for support, and extend your legs down fully. Inhale and on your next exhale, start lifting your legs vertically into the air. Lower down on your inhale but leave your feet one inch off the mat. Repeat 20 times.

Right after your last exhale, stay low and start crisscrossing your legs, counting to 20 reps. Continue with opening and closing your legs for another 20 reps and then scissoring for another 20 reps. Finish off with another 20 leg lifts and then hug your knees into your chest and massage your lower back.

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Isolating your abs may be a tough workout, but it’s very effective and you can see benefits pretty fast. Especially when paired with a healthy diet and proper hydration.

Karla Tafra Karla Tafra
Karla is a certified yoga teacher, nutritionist, content creator and an overall wellness coach with over 10 years of international experience in teaching, writing, coaching, and helping others transform their lives. From Croatia to Spain and now, the US, she calls Seattle her new home where she lives and works with her husband. Read Full Bio »
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