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Pilates is known for toning the entire body through various movements, but the abdominal muscles are what many people aim to improve the most. There are many different types of Pilates for abs, most of which require little equipment aside from a comfortable mat. For instance, some moves involve stretching the legs out while lying down, such as with the single or double-leg stretch. Others involve rolling the body into a ball, which is the required position for movements like the rolling ball and the roll-up. Of course, some Pilates for abs moves actually use an exercise ball, instead, which can be a unique twist on regular crunches.
One of the most effective types of Pilates for abs is stretching, in which the legs are stretched out straight, with the abs supporting them. For instance, people performing the single-leg stretch start out lying on their back, and are then expected to lift the head and shoulders up while pulling one knee into the chest. During this time, the other leg should be straight and lifted, and the abs should be contracted as the legs switch positions. The double-leg stretch, on the other hand, involves starting out on the back with both legs stretched out straight. The abs should be contracted as they pull the legs inward to the chest so that the arms can wrap around them easily in a hug.
Some types of Pilates for abs involve rolling the body up into the shape of a ball, rather than stretching it out. One example is called the roll-up, which requires starting out sitting, with the legs stretched out in front. The abs should be contracted as the body rolls backward slowly in a controlled movement, allowing every part of the back to slowly touch the mat. The next step is to slowly pull upward, using the abs, until reaching the starting position. On the other hand, rolling like a ball is just as it sounds, as it involves hugging the bent legs and then rolling the body backward and forward.
Conversely, some exercises referred to as Pilates for abs use an actual ball, rather than rolling the body up like one. One of the most popular movements that uses an exercise ball is a modified version of the crunch. In this move, it is usually necessary to lie down over the ball, with the lower spine on the top. The feet should be planted hip-width apart on the ground, with the knees bent above the ankles. Then, just like a regular crunch on the floor, the abs should contract, bringing the torso upward and then back down in a smooth, controlled motion.