Pilates Reformer exercises are a great way to tone your body, elongate and strengthen your muscles, and get into the best shape of your life. In addition to helping you get fit, Pilates Reformer exercises can help you alleviate back pain, balance your body (if you’ve been feeling out of alignment), and improve your sense of balance and poise.
In collaboration with fitness instructor Maddy Crouch (the owner of Physique Exercise Salon in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California), Inspirations & Celebrations recently launched a new 4-part fitness tutorial series called “The Fit Physique Guide to Pilates Reformer”. In Part 1, Maddy shared upper body exercises that help us tone our arms and shoulders, in Part 2 she taught us lower body exercises, and in Part 3, we’re learning how to tone our core with abdominal and oblique exercises.
The Fit Physique Guide to Pilates Reformer: Part 3 – Ab Exercises
If you ever want to do one exercise for your abs that you really feel is working, this is it! And not many abdominal exercises utilize resistance, this one does. Another great benefit to this exercise is that the neck is not lifted into a crunch position which often strains so many people.
Getting into a hands and knees position with your knees resting against the shoulder pads, slowly exhale and drag the knees towards your hands pulling the carriage out. Your arms will be working to hold you steady but being aware of not using the arms to move the carriage. This exercise can be done in either a flat back or round back.
The beloved, I mean often not loved hundred! Joseph Pilates would use this exercise as a warmup. When done properly, it really does work almost all major muscle groups. The trouble with this exercise is that most of the general population’s abdominals are not strong enough to get into proper form to sustain this entire 100 reps.
Just like on the floor, curl up into a crunch position and extend the legs out to a 45-degree angle. Start pulsing the arms up and down by your sides breathing in for 5 counts and out for 5 counts. Focusing on deepening the abdominal engagement on the exhale. Keep going, keep going. A little bit longer. Ok, 100! Whoa, take a breath, feel that? Let’s break it down. Upper abdominals are engaged to hold the head up in the crunch position. Lower abdominals are engaged to hold the legs extended out to the 45-degree angle. Lats and triceps are working as you pump the arms up and down. And inner thighs and glutes are working as you squeeze your legs together. Lastly, your facial muscles should be working because you should be smiling while you do it!
Joseph Pilates worked with dancers and acrobats in his New York studio and many of his exercises resemble that of a gymnast. Some of the exercises look pretty intimidating but don’t be shy, give this one a try. You can modify in a couple of different ways.
Get into a forearm plank with your arms on the short box and feet on the bar. You’ll want light resistance so that your abdominals are doing all of the work to drag the carriage closed as you lift the hips into the air into a pike position. You can modify to make this exercise a little bit friendlier by putting your feet down below on the platform instead of the bar. Or if you are ready to feel like one of Joseph’s prodigies you can come onto your hands and hold a straight arm plank.
Another doozy. You can do it! The teaser is a mat exercise transferred onto the reformer. It may seem like it is going to be more difficult than on the floor but in a way using the straps on your hands assist you in sitting up.
Start with a medium spring, laying on your back on the long box. Curl into a ball with your arms and legs. You want to use a little bit of momentum as you swoop your arms around in a circle and extend your legs out. The key is to counterbalance with the weight of your legs by reaching them long. Balancing between your sit bones and tailbone will help you pause in the V sit position.
Slip your feet through the straps and bring them up around your thighs. Lie down into a crunch position and then pull your knees towards your nose. You are doing a reverse crunch using your lower abdominals against resistance. This exercise is amazing for strengthening your abs! Switch it up by twisting to one side then the other to engage the obliques too.
For more exercise tips and tutorials from fitness experts and celebrity trainers, check out the Fitness section on Inspirations & Celebrations. Be well and stay inspired on your fitness journey!
Fitness Contributor: Maddy Crouch
Maddy Crouch has been a Certified Pilates, Barre & TRX instructor since 2012. She opened her first studio (Physique Exercise Salon) in downtown Carmel-by-the-Sea, California just after graduating from college. Being an entrepreneur fulfilled her dreams, but helping others feeds her soul. Maddy is a new mom and gained a different appreciation for all that Pilates can do for the body when getting back into shape after having her son. As a fitness contributor to Inspirations & Celebrations, Maddy shares exercise and fitness tips to help you tone up, trim down, and get a fit physique.