9 Pilates exercises that will tone your core

As a certified Pilates instructor, I always recommend my clients to train their core with Pilates exercises. Pilates focuses on precision and smaller movements that challenge the core to remain stable. The subtle movements with our arms and legs challenge the core and force it to engage to keep us from rolling from side to side or using our back to complete exercises. I’m a big fan of doing ab exercises this way, especially for beginners who need to work their core to get engaged.

As a young child, I suffered from severe back pain. For 10 years I have tried massage, stretching and other fitness modalities. It wasn’t until I discovered Pilates that I was finally able to teach my body to turn on my core and learned how to properly strengthen my core, which reduced my chronic back pain.

Here are my favorite Pilates exercises that you can do as a routine for a complete core and abdominal workout. I do many of these exercises every day to keep my core engaged and working to properly engage in my daily movements even after I’ve lifted off the mat!

Pilates pelvic tilt

Lie on your back on a mat, bend your knees, and place your feet flat on the floor. Make sure your feet are open as wide as your hips. Extend your arms down towards your feet. Take a deep breath. As your stomach lifts, you’ll feel your lower back lift slightly off the floor. Then exhale as you tilt your pelvis forward and press your lower back into the floor. Draw your navel towards your spine as if you are about to slip on tight pants. Release and repeat 10 times.

Pilates ab crunch

Pilates ab crunch

Come into the pelvic tilt position from the exercise above. From this inclined position with your lower back pressed into the floor, place your hands behind your head. Exhale while curling your head, neck, and chest together. Pretend you’re holding an egg between your chin and chest that you don’t want to crack. Then gently pulse upwards 10 times and rest.

Toe tapping exercise

Toe Knocker

Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Take a deep breath, then exhale as you pull your umbilical cord toward your spine and slowly bring both knees into a tabletop position. Draw your lower ribs down towards your hips and tighten your core as if you were wearing a corset. From here, lower your right leg down to tap your toe on the floor while maintaining core engagement. There should be no movement above the hips and the back should gently press into the floor while the abs are tightened. Exhale as you bring the leg down and inhale to bring it back up. Repeat on left leg. Continue taking turns, making a total of 20 tapping motions.

Double toe tap exercise

Double toe tap

Go into the same position as you did for the toe taps, but this time squeeze your knees together so your inner thighs are engaged. Squeeze your legs and tighten your abs. Lower your toes toward the floor and keep your knees bent. Then come back to the center. Repeat 10 times.

Pilates Bridge

Pilates Bridge

To begin, lie on your back and rest your head on the floor. Keep your arms straight at your sides with your palms on the floor and bend your knees so your heels are under your knees. Slowly raise your hips toward the ceiling by lifting your lower back, middle back, and then upper back off the floor. Once in the air, take a deep breath. Then exhale as you slowly roll down, vertebra by vertebra. Lower your hips and repeat 10 times.

Pilates frog

Pilates frog

Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Lift your legs up and bring your heels together, with your toes apart and your knees as wide as your shoulders. Exhale as you push your legs outward at about a 45-degree angle, bringing your inner thighs together. Inhale to return to center. Repeat 10 times.

Pilate's 100th

Pilate’s 100th

Lie on the floor and extend your legs to a 45 degree angle (or closer to 90 degrees if your lower back is sensitive). Curl up using your abs and lift your head, neck, and chest off the floor. Extend your arms along your sides, palms down. Breathe in five times while pumping your arms up and down, and then breathe out five times while continuing to pump your arms. Repeat for a total of 100 pumps!

Half roll down exercise

Roll halfway down

Sitting on the floor, bend your knees. (For a more advanced exercise, straighten your legs.) Then, with your shoulders relaxed, stretch your arms out in front of you. Draw the navel towards the spine and slowly roll it down halfway to the floor. Extend your arms overhead, then bring your arms back to center and slowly roll back to the starting position. Repeat this abdominal exercise 10 times.

One leg straight stretch

One leg straight stretch

Lie on the floor and stretch your legs straight up toward the sky. Lower one leg to 45 degrees and bring the other leg to 90 degrees. Place your hands behind the thigh or calf of the 90-degree leg while lifting your head, neck, and upper back off the floor. Then switch legs, lowering the 90-degree leg and bringing the 45-degree leg closer to you, holding onto the back of that leg. Repeat 10 times.

Try these other core workouts:

Leave a Comment