The best pilates exercises to get the strongest core of your life

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Pilates works your entire core with every move, but here are four of the best. 

If you’ve done a pilates class before, you’ll know it’s a total core burner. However the unique thing about pilates that it’s not simply a killer core workout because you’re going through a tired rotation of crunches and sit ups. Instead, it’s because every second of pilates focuses on engaging your midsection, regardless of the move. 

“I actually don’t think a lot of people know what their core really is,” says Ksenija Selivanova, pilates teacher at fitness studio BLOK. “It’s a tandem of lower back, abdominals, the pelvic floor and your diaphragm. In pilates everything comes from the centre – what we call the powerhouse. Even an exercise for the legs will involve drawing the navel in, lifting up through your pelvic floor and tucking your tailbone under so you’re still bracing through your abdominals.” 

Not only is it good to have a strong core for a strong core’s sake, it’s also important to help prevent injury and build a strong foundation for all other forms of training. “It’s great for strengthening, for finding alignment, improving stability, and challenging your balance too,” adds Ksenija.

4 best pilates moves for your core

Bird dog

“One of my favourite exercises and one that most people of any experience level could do is a bird dog. It’s great for creating stability in your shoulders and pelvis to strengthen your core, and you’re activating the glutes at the same time,” says Ksenija. 

  1. Come into an all fours position, with your hands underneath your shoulders and knees underneath your hips. 
  2. Engage the core by drawing your belly button towards your spine and keeping your back flat.
  3. Lift the opposite arm and leg off the floor and extend them out to the corner of the room. 
  4. When you reach full extension, squeeze the glutes and core.
  5. Return back to the starting position and repeat on the opposite side.

Single leg stretch

  1. Lie on your back and lift your head and shoulders off of the mat.
  2. Lift your feet off of the mat so you are holding a dish position and bring one knee into the chest, hugging it with your arms.
  3. Keeping your lower back imprinted on the mat, swap legs by bringing your straight leg in to your chest and extending your other leg out. 

Toe taps

“This is another great one as you can develop from the beginners position all the way up into doing pilates hundreds,” says Ksenija. 

  1. Lie on your back with your legs in a tabletop position, so your knees are bent at 90 degrees. 
  2. Keeping your spine imprinted on the mat by drawing your belly button in to your spine, slowly begin to bend one knee so the toe comes to the floor. 
  3. Gently tap then lift back up to the starting position and repeat with the other foot. 

To make it harder, lift your head and shoulders off the ground as you perform the exercise. 

Plank rocks

  1. Come into a low plank position with your forearms on the floor and your toes tucked under. 
  2. Squeeze your glutes, draw your belly button in and keep your back flat. 
  3. Rock forwards to place your weight into your forearms, making sure your pelvis stays in alignment and you don’t arch through your spine. 
  4. Slowly rock your weight backwards into your toes, again maintaining good form. 

Swimming

“This works into the lower back muscles and the obliques for a full core workout,” says Ksenija. 

  1. Lie on your stomach with your arms extended overhead and your legs out straight, pulling your shoulders back and down. 
  2. Lift one arm and your opposite leg off the floor, squeezing at the top and slowly lowering.
  3. Don’t arch too much through your spine, making sure to keep all of your muscles engaged. 
  4. Repeat with the opposite arm and legs. 

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Images: Getty

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