10 pilates exercises to strengthen the core
The core is the structure of the body that gives us stability and protects many important parts of it. It also stabilizes the lower back and protects the abdominal viscera. For all this, it is very important to maintain all the muscles that form the core in a state of optimal form. Traditionally, the pilates method (and now our cross pilates method) has focused on this.
With cross pilates exercises we can focus on working out the core, but before we start saying which pilates and cross pilates exercises can strengthen the core, it is important to know which muscles make it up:
All of them are part of the core and this is the base from which we work in cross pilates.
Going back to the exercises: what are the 10 best pilates or cross pilates exercises to work out this set of muscles, the core?
The first one we propose and one of the all-time favourites is the abdominal plank. It is one of the basic exercises of traditional pilates and we also incorporate it into cross pilates. It consists of maintaining an isometric (maintained position without movement) or dynamic plank position (depending on the exercise) with both hands or forearm holding up your body and feet or knees on the surface. It is very important to keep breathing steadily and avoid any apneas.
In this exercise we should think about the correct placement of the lower back and that it should be maintained throughout the exercise. It is better to stop, rest, and resume than doing a plank in a bad position.
Very similar to the normal plank but this version is done on one side, using only one of the arms or hands as support and the same side foot or knee. With this exercise we work harder on the oblique.
You can make this exercise more challenging by making it more dynamic. You want to add small movements that will make it more demanding for your muscle, which is what we do in cross pilates.
Like in the basic plank, it is important to maintain a good alignment of the spine to protect our posture (as is done with the pilates method). That’s why it’s important to stop, rest or reposition and resume.
It is an exercise of dissociation of waists that involves the activation of both the abdominal and lower back muscles.
Starting on all fours, it consists of lengthening and raising one arm and the opposite leg at the same time and maintaining balance. You hold the position for a few seconds and then crunch back to try to touch your elbow with the knee and then lengthen again. Repeat this 10 times and then change sides. This exercise is one of our favorites and it’s a great cross pilates exercise as it really tones the abdominal box.
It is important not to raise the leg above the hip since this will cause a loss of lower backcontrol and could cause injuries. This exercise takes great care of the lower back from a pilates perspective.
From the position of all fours, either on your hands or forearms, we raise one of the legs with the knee bent at 90º and we place the foot in dorsiflexion. We want to keep the leg elevated in this position and make small quick or slow elevations – always keeping the abdominals connected to ensure a good alignment of the spine. Once again, it is very important to protect our back as indicated by the pilates method.
In this exercise we can adapt the breathing rhythm to the rhythm of each elevation.
Whether sitting or kneeling, keep your abs tightly connected to ensure that the rotation is from the spine and not from the lower back. It is a pilates exercise that involves a deep activation of the obliques and that, if it’s not performed well, it may seem very easy.
In the case of being on your knees you also have to think about activating the glutes to protect your lower back.
You could say that it is the best-known abdominal exercise. And therefore it has many variations.
If we think about the basics of pilates, what we are looking for is the activation of the transverse of the abdomen and rectus abdominis.
It is very important to know how to isolate and keep inactive the psoas and the rectus femoris to avoid that they facilitate the exercise.
In the crunch, as in all cross pilates and pilates exercises, breathing is important, and you should avoid any apnea.
This is another of the best known abdominal exercises of the pilates method. But it is very easy to do it wrong. One of our tips is to do it as slowly as possible in order to achieve a greater activation of the muscle fibers.
We do them lying down with the arms placed next to our body. We raise the legs to a 90º position. Once in this position, we raise our legs towards the roof/sky while raising the lower back (this part can be done quickly, with impulse) and we descend as slowly as possible. To make it a bit more challenging, in cross pilates we suggest lowering the legs until they are about to touch the floor, as long as the lower back is stable.
This can be a very demanding exercise if done well and slowly.
It is one of the most popular pilates exercises. It consists of a crunch with the legs stretched out and with the idea of going up the trunk little by little, vertebra by vertebra while expiring the air. Once we are seated, we will look at the tip of our feet to add a stretch of the back of the legs and the lower back and we will return to the stretched position as slow as possible, trying to get each vertebra to touch the ground just before the previous one does.
It is a pilates exercise similar to the abdominal plank but we add a twist that comes from the hip. This torsion will create a great activation of the oblique.
Here, as with the plank, it is important to maintain a steady breathing pattern. Just like with the plank, in cross pilates we like to make every exercise more challenging by adding some dynamism to it.
This is another pilates exercise in which both the lower back and the abdominal muscles are engaged. We start by stretching face down with hands and elbows located next to our core.
It is important to keep the glutes and abdominals connected all the time. From there, using the strength of the triceps, we will raise the core until the elbows are completely stretched and we will descend again to the starting position.
With this exercise we work on our lower back stability in addition to our abdominals and glutes.
It is important to maintain a respiratory pattern – always keep breathing.
These are a few of the many exercises to work out your core. And all of them are based on the pilates method and adapted to the cross pilates method and they can have variants that make them more or less challenging.
In all exercises, whether they are pilates-based or not, it is very important to think about the breathing pattern and especially to avoid apneas (keeping the air inside). The diaphragm is part of the core and it’s the main muscle in charge of the respiratory pattern. On top of this, it helps you have a healthy lower back.