3 Pilates Exercises for Your Abs

Stretch for Flexibility

Photo Credit: José Vílchez

Getting and keeping a firm, toned abdomen can become increasingly difficult as we age. Some increase in belly fat may be due to aging, but a more sedentary lifestyle combined with high calorie diets can also pack on the pounds around your waist. When women reach middle age, hormonal changes mean that excess calories are stored as fat around your belly, on your hips and on your thighs. Weight gain and an increased waist line is not inevitable. Staying active, exercising and cutting calories can help get you trim and keep you fit. Pilates is a good way to work your abs while strengthening your arms and legs.

The toe dip Pilates move will work all of your abs, especially your obliques and lower abs. Lie on your back and bend your knees. Lift your legs, with your knees bent, until your thighs are straight and your calves are parallel to the floor. Place your hands on the floor on each side of your thighs with your palms down. Squeeze your belly and breathe in. Point your toes and lower one foot toward the floor. Keep your knees bent. Stop just an inch or two inches above the floor. Hold the position for 2 to 3 seconds and then exhale as you bring your leg back to the start position. Repeat 10 times on each side. You can do 10 repetitions with one leg and then 10 more with the other leg, or alternate legs until you do 10 repetitions on each side.

Leg circles work all of your ab muscles while strengthening your legs. Lie on the floor with your legs stretched out. Raise one leg toward the ceiling and point your toes. Make sure your hands are placed palms down on either side of your thighs. Make 10 small circles with your toes toward the left and then 10 small circles to the right. Bring your leg back to the floor and repeat on the other side.

Finish off your Pilates ab workout by doing a set of leg kicks. Lie on one side of your body with your legs straight out. Place one leg on top of the other and support your upper body on your elbow. Lift your ribs off the floor. Place your other hand (the one that is not supporting your weight) on the floor in front of your tummy to support your body and provide stability. Raise your top leg a few inches and point your toes. Swing your leg forward in front of your body as far as is comfortable for you. Hold the position for 2 seconds and then swing your leg back to the starting position. Do 10 repetitions on each side.


Weight Training Won’t Bulk You Up – Unless You Want It To

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Stop running from the weight bench and put down those girly pink dumbbells! Weight exercises are good for you and won’t turn you into the Hulk. Weight exercises won’t make your muscles bulky unless your goal is to bulk up and build bulging biceps. Weight exercises will help tone and firm your muscles, increase your ability to burn fat and improve your bone health. So, grab some weights and get strong. There is a difference between weight training to get stronger and weight training to build bulky muscles. To get stronger without building big muscles, lift light weights for many repetitions, roughly 12 to 15 repetitions. Build bulky muscles by lifting heavier weights for fewer repetitions. By changing the way you work out when doing weight exercises, you can target different types of muscle fibers. Heavy weight with few repetitions targets your type II muscle fibers for bulk, while lighter weights with more repetitions targets your type I muscles fibers for muscular endurance.

Weight exercises benefit your body, even if you aren’t trying to build muscle. Lifting weights, doing bodyweight exercises, such as push-ups, and resistance exercises help reduce the risk and symptoms of chronic illness and disease, including osteoporosis, arthritis and diabetes. Strong muscles, especially in your back and core, help improve your balance to prevent falls. Post-menopausal women are at risk for weakened bones due to loss of bone mass. Weight training can help reduce bone loss and can even improve bone mass. Muscle tissue is very efficient at using glucose for fuel to help keep your blood sugar levels under control and reduce your risk of diabetes.

You will have to spend hours in the gym, take supplements and eat high protein diet if you want to build bulky muscles. It’s difficult for women to build huge muscles like men because women lack sufficient testosterone to build muscle mass. Your lack of testosterone along with your DNA determine how you build muscles. Mesomorphs, or muscular body types, are more likely to build bulky muscles than endomorphs, or those with rounder, curvy bodies. Ectomorph body types are slimmer and leaner than either mesomorphs or endomorphs. No matter what your body type, you will benefit from weight training by becoming stronger.

In addition to exercise, your nutrition and body type will help determine whether you build muscle and how big your muscles will grow. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (eatright.org), you should eat 1.4 to 1.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day when lifting weights if you want to build muscle. This amounts to up to 20 percent of your daily caloric intake. Eating more protein won’t build bigger muscles. Even if you don’t want bulky muscles, your body still needs protein to repair and build new muscle after a workout.

Winsor Pilates Ball Workout

Photo by José Vílchez

Photo Credit: José Vílchez

Pilates is a popular form of exercise practiced by Hollywood stars, athletes and ordinary people. Pilates isn’t a fad. It is a type of exercise developed in the early 1900s by Joseph Pilates, an athlete who designed the exercise to help improve range of motion, strength and balance. The philosophy of Pilates promotes harmony of body and mind. This type of exercise takes concentration, dedication and supervision by a trained Pilates instructor. Pilates exercise movements can be modified to include exercise equipment, such as an exercise ball. Winsor Pilates was developed by Mari Winsor, a former professional dancer and fitness expert. Mari Winsor developed her slimming style of Pilates about 20 years ago. Her form of Pilates emphasizes the slimming and toning nature of Pilates exercises. Mari Winsor trained with a Pilates expert who was trained by Joseph Pilates himself. She opened a studio in Los Angeles where she has trained celebrities as well as regular people. Mari Winsor often employs equipment, such as balls, to enhance the toning and trimming effects of Pilates exercises.

If you want a strong core, Pilates can help you get it. Pilates mat exercises using an exercise ball can help you strengthen your abdominal and back muscles. Balancing on the ball while performing Winsor Pilates exercises engages all of your core muscles. The ball provides an unstable surface which forces your abdominal muscles to continuously make small adjustments to keep your body stable and balanced. Researchers reported in a study published in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapy that women who were previously sedentary developed stronger abdominal and back muscles as well as improved endurance and flexibility.

Regular Pilates workouts can help you develop better posture, too. You’ll experience greater flexibility and greater range of motion as you stretch your muscles and strengthen your joints. Strengthening your back muscles and core can also help prevent or relieve minor back pain caused by weak muscles. You can do Pilates 2 to 3 times each week as part of your strength training routine. Pilates isn’t effective for weight loss, so you still need about 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise each week to lose weight and maintain weight loss.

The exercise ball, also called a stability ball, can be incorporated in Pilates routines to help strengthen your core and back muscles. There are different skill levels of Winsor Pilates ball exercises to accommodate beginners to the Winsor ball expert. No matter how fit you are, you should begin with the easiest form of Winsor Pilates ball exercises until your body becomes accustomed to balancing on the unstable surface of the ball. The intermediate and advanced levels present a challenge by requiring greater coordination with multiple moves. Pilates exercises on an exercise ball include the shoulder bridge, the roll over with scissors, the twist and leg pull. Do knee folds by sitting on the ball with your feet hip-width apart on the floor. Lift one foot off the floor and hold it for 5 seconds. Repeat with the other leg.

The first thing you should think about is finding the right Pilates instructor and selecting the right size ball. Not all exercise balls are created equal. Select a ball that gives slightly when you sit on it. You should be able to sit comfortably on the ball with your knees bent at a 90 degree angle with your feet flat on the floor. Practice sitting on the ball to find your balance and adjust your core to stabilizing your body. Once you feel comfortable on the ball, try a few simple Pilates exercises, such as knee folds.

Functional Ab Exercise


You’ve probably heard the phrase “functional training” tossed around at the gym or used by your personal trainer. Chances are you aren’t really sure what it means. Functional training is simply doing exercises that are similar to real life movements. For example, when you climb stairs, you use your legs, thighs, hips, core, back, arms and abs. Some stair stepper machines don’t work your arms or work only your lower body. Functional training uses more natural movements that simulate real life activities. Your muscles work in planes of motion that are normal. Many injuries occur when you exercise beyond the normal planes of movement. Functional training helps eliminate this risk. Functional training also strengthens your muscles, which makes every day activities easier. Your abdominal muscles stabilize your spine and hips, as well as assist in maintaining balance and lifting. A weak core impacts your overall level of fitness and endurance. Strengthen your core to be stronger, enjoy better balance and avoid back pain.

One of the best exercises to strengthen your core muscles as well as your back muscles for a stable spine is the plank. Your abdominal muscles help to stabilize your spine. The plank exercises is function in that you aren’t crunching or twisting in an unnatural manner. Your aren’t actually moving at all. The plank exercise trains your abdominal muscles, so that you develop stability and support for your spine. Keep your spine in a neutral, or straight, position when doing planks and squeeze your abdominal muscles to help keep your spine straight. Make a straight line with your body from the top of your head to your heels and hold the position for 20 to 30 seconds. It’s okay if you can hold a plank for only a few seconds in the beginning. Add 5 seconds to your hold each time you do planks and soon you will be holding the position for 30 seconds or longer without sagging your back.


Workout For Couch Potatoes

Photo Credit: Bart Everson CC-BY-2.0

If you’ve been inactive for a long time, it may be difficult to get started on a fitness program. Everyone needs to get at least 30 minutes of exercise every day. It doesn’t matter whether you exercise for 30 minutes uninterrupted or in 5 minute or 10 minute intervals. Beginners can begin a fitness routine without even leaving their television room. When watching your favorite television program, exercise during commercial breaks to firm, tone and lose weight.

On the first commercial break, drop and do 10 push-ups! Push-ups work your arms, chest, back and abdominal muscles. If regular push-ups are too difficult, get on your hands and knees to do push-ups instead of stretching your legs out. When your arms and abs are stronger, try doing 20 push-ups.

Chair squats are easy to do but give your butt, thighs and abs a good workout. On the second commercial break, stand up in front of your chair with your hands on your hips. Keep your back straight and bend your body at the hips. Lower your butt toward your chair, but don’t touch the chair seat. Push your body back up straight using your legs. Do 10 chair squats and increase the number of repetitions as you grow stronger.

Replace the magazines and snacks on your television room table with a glass of water, dumbbells and resistance bands. Do 10 biceps curls using light-weight dumbbells, 2 pounds to 5 pounds in the beginning. You can also do 10 repetitions of triceps extensions, arm raises and shoulder presses during the commercial breaks. Use resistance bands by standing on the band and pulling upward to exercise your biceps. 

Combine your couch potato workout with a healthy, low-fat diet and drink plenty of water. Can you think of other ways to get fit during commercials? 

Still Trying To Lose Belly Fat? Try An Exercise Ball

Photo Credit:  LocalFitness.com.au
It can be difficult to lose stubborn belly fat. There are no reliable and safe quick fixes. Diet pills won’t burn away belly fat and fad diets are dangerous. To get rid of belly fat, you have to eat a healthy, low-fat diet and exercise. Sometimes even the most dedicated person can reach a plateau in the battle against belly fat and just can’t seem to lose those last couple of inches. Try an exercise ball. An exercise ball, also called a fitness ball, may help you tight up your abdominal muscles and lose those last couple of inches of belly fat. Continue to exercise regularly, eat a nutritious low-fat diet and drink plenty of water. 
Exercise ball crunches can help you burn belly fat because you are not only doing crunches, you have to balance on the ball which works your obliques, hips, thighs and lower leg muscles. To do crunches on an exercise ball, sit on the ball with  your feet planted firmly on the floor. Place your feet about hip-width apart on the floor and sit up straight. Cross your arms over your chest. Inhale and squeeze your abdominal muscles. Slowly lean backwards until you feel the pull in your abdominal muscles. Hold the position for a couple of seconds and then exhale as you slowly return to the upright position. Do 10 repetitions if you are a beginner and slowly increase the number of repetitions by adding 5 repetitions every other day. 
The exercise ball lift is an easy-to-do exercise that will really work your abdominal muscles and burn belly fat. Lie on your back and place the exercise ball between your ankles. Place your hands on either side of your body, palms down for stability. Squeeze the ball with your ankles and inhale. Tighten up your abs and slowly lift the ball using your legs. Lift the ball as high as you can and hold it for 3 to 5 seconds. Exhale and lower the ball back to the floor. Do 10 to 15 repetitions. Add 5 repetitions each week until you can perform 25 to 30 repetitions. Add some extra fat burning power to your ball lift by adding an ab crunch to the lift. Cross your hands over your chest and lift your upper body toward your knees as your lift the ball with your ankles. Hold the crunch and lift for 5 seconds and the roll your upper body back to the floor slowly as you lower your legs. 

Exercises for a Flatter Abdomen

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Almost everyone wants a flatter belly and defined abdominal muscles. Crunches, planks and many other abdominal exercises can help you achieve flat, strong abdominal muscles. Here are three easy-to-do quick exercises to add to your workout that will help you reach your goal. 
The upper body twist works your obliques as well as your abdominal muscles to help shape and define your waist. Stand up straight with your feet about hip-width apart. Drop your shoulders a couple of inches and look straight ahead to straighten your spine. Interlace your fingers with your palms together. Simultaneously lift your right knee and press it toward the right while twisting your upper body to the left by pushing your arms to the left. Do 10 repetitions on each side for a total of 20 twists. 
Do kick-outs to help strengthen and tone your abdominal muscles as well as your legs and back. Stand up straight with your feet together and stretch your arms out straight from the shoulder on each side. Keep your arms parallel to the floor. Lift your right leg straight up and bring your arms forward toward your foot at the same time. Move your arms in a sweeping motion from the shoulder. Return to the start position and repeat the exercise with your left leg. Do 10 repetitions with each leg for a total of 20 kick-outs.
Stretch-ups will stretch your spine, back and abdominal muscles and help to flatten and strengthen the belly. Stand up straight with your feet together and turn your toes outward slightly. Bring your arms up to chest level with your elbows bent and pointed straight out to each side. Interlace your fingers with the palms pointed toward the floor. Squeeze your abdominal muscles and simultaneously push your arms straight down toward the floor while stretching up as tall as you can standing on your toes. Hold the stretch for 2 to 4 seconds and then lower your heels back to the floor and return your hands to your chest with the elbows bent and forearms parallel to the floor. Do 20 repetitions. 

Core-Building Medicine Ball Workout


A medicine ball is a heavy, weighted ball that is used to strengthen the arms, legs and core muscles. Medicine balls vary in weight from a couple of pounds to as much as 25 pounds. Medicine balls differ from hand weights that are raised and lowered. Incorporating a medicine ball into your workout routine will involve twisting, bending, turning and tossing the ball. Exercises using a medicine ball can involve the full body and a wide range of muscles. As your core strength, arms and leg strength increases, move up to a heavier ball. 
An easy medicine ball exercise is the figure eight. Stand up straight with your legs slightly apart no wider than your shoulder width. Keep your feet flat on the floor and point your toes forward. Hold a medicine ball with both hands and extend the ball out in front of your abdomen. Move the ball in a figure eight, down, up and around to the right 5 times. Repeat the figure eight motion 5 times toward the left. Increase the number of repetitions or move up to a heavier ball when you can complete 10 repetitions without your arms feeling tired. 
Twists will strengthen your entire upper body, including your back and core muscles. Stand up straight with your feet apart. Hold a medicine ball with both hands with your elbows slightly bent toward your body. Swing the ball up to the right and twist your torso to the right with the momentum of the ball. Swing the ball back to the left turning your torso with the ball. Keep your feet planted on the floor and try to keep your heels from lifting up. Keep your abs tight during this exercise. Repeat this exercise 5 times in each direction. 

You can work your oblique muscles using a medicine ball. Lie down on your back and raise your knees toward your chest. Place a medicine ball between your knees and squeeze your knees to hold the ball. Place your hands palms down on each side of your body for stability. Keep your upper back on the floor during this exercise. Rotate your knees to the left as far as you can and then return to the center position. Rotate your knees to the right and return to center. Do 5 repetitions on each side. 

Strengthen Your Core For Better Posture

Photo Credit: Skoivuma CC-BY-3.0 2009

Poor posture can lead to tight muscles and a stiff, aching back. Maintaining good posture, especially when working at a desk 8 or more hours each day, can help prevent back aches. Strengthening your abdominal muscles and the muscles in your lower back can help you maintain good posture. A stronger core will also improve your balance and stamina. Add some core strengthening exercises to your regular routine to improve your posture. 
Leg extensions coordinate your core muscles to work together. Lie on your back and bend your knees. Keep your feet flat on the floor and place your hands behind your head. Roll your back until your lower back is on the floor. Tighten up  your abdominal muscles, breathe out and lift your head a few inches off the floor. Pull your left knee toward your chest and simultaneously extend your right leg straight out at a 45 degree angle from the floor. Hold this position for 5 seconds and then lift your leg toward the ceiling. Return to the start position and inhale. Repeat starting with the other leg. Do 10 repetitions if you can.
Roll-up exercises will strengthen all of your abdominal muscles and your obliques. Begin with your back on the floor and your legs stretched out straight. Stretch your arms toward the ceiling and press your lower back to the floor. Tighten your abdominal muscles, exhale and roll your body off the floor to a sitting position. Begin by rolling your head upward, then your shoulders, upper back and finally lower back. Try to roll up in a smooth, continuous motion. Inhale when you reach a sitting position. Exhale, tighten your abdominal muscles and reverse the roll until you return to the starting position. 

The crossover exercise also works all the core muscles. Again, begin on your back with your hands behind your head. Pull your knees to your chest and press your lower back to the floor. Tighten your abdominal muscles, breathe out. Pull one knee as close to your chest as possible and extend the other leg out straight. Roll your body toward the knee that is bent to your chest. Inhale and switch legs extending the bent knee, pulling your other knee toward your chest and rotating your torso in the opposite direction. Do 10 repetitions of this exercise. 

Flatter Abs by Christmas

Do you want to looks slimmer, feel better and fit into that special outfit for the holiday? You can achieve a flatter stomach, a stronger core and a leaner shape by eating health foods and performing a few easy-to-do abdominal exercises every other day. Start now and you should start to see results in about 3 to 4 weeks. See your doctor for a complete check-up before starting any exercise program. You can achieve a slimmer waist and stronger abs by eating nutritious foods and regular exercise. A personal trainer can help you set realistic goals, develop a plan to achieve your goals and help keep you motivated. 

Photo Credit: Localfitness.com.au
Begin your flatter abs program by adjusting your eating habits. Most people eat three large meals each day and a couple of snacks between meals. Some people tend to over-eat when meals are hours apart. To avoid hunger and still get all the nutrition you need, eat smaller, more frequent meals. Frequent smaller meals will keep your metabolism working and your blood sugar stable. Start with breakfast that includes natural grains and fruits. Enjoy a mid-morning snack of granola, nuts or sliced fruit. Avoid fast food for lunch if possible. Bring a salad with low-fat dressing, peanut butter sandwiches on whole wheat bread and yogurt. An afternoon snack of  fruit and nuts will give your body a boost of energy and nutrition that will help prevent fatigue and hunger. Lean meats, whole grain pastas, rice, fresh vegetables and dried beans are a great choice for dinner to supply your body’s protein, vitamin and energy needs. A vegetable or fruit smoothie a couple of hours after dinner can help you avoid the urge to eat something before bed.

Exercise your abdominal muscles in the morning or evening at home or on your lunch break at work. Take advantage of your company’s fitness center if it has one or join a gym near your work. Start your ab program with a few belly roll exercises in the morning. Sit on the floor and bend your knees. Keep your feet flat on the floor and stretch your arms in front of you palms toward the floor. Breathe out and roll your body back onto the floor. Keep your feet flat on the floor. Breathe in and roll back up. Repeat this exercise 20 times and increase to up to 50 times as you grow stronger.

Belly curls will slim your abs and strengthen your core. Lie on the floor with your knees bent toward your chest. Raise your feet off the floor and gently lift your bottom. Roll back so that your upper back and shoulders are touching the floor. Hold the position for about 2 seconds and then return to the start position. Perform this exercise 10 times. Gradually increase the number of repetitions until you can do 20 belly curls.

You can slim your waist by doing crunches. Lie down on the floor and bend your knees. Put your hands behind your head and inter-lace your fingers. Point your elbows toward the ceiling. Lift your left shoulder off the floor and try to touch your right knee with your left elbow. Relax and repeat the exercise on the other side. Start with 10 repetitions and build to 20 repetitions.

A personal trainer can help you learn to make healthy food choices and develop an exercise plan to achieve a slimmer, stronger and flatter abs!