Coupled with the power of Pilates, this band workout will give your midsection a unique pick-me-up.
Resistance bands, although frequently used for legs and arms, rarely get used in ab training. But these take-anywhere tools offer continual tension throughout the concentric and eccentric parts of a repetition, resulting in better strength gains. Now pair these bands with Pilates exercises and you’re talking serious results. Many exercises done on a Reformer can be performed with bands to add resistance, and because Pilates emphasizes proper position from beginning to end, your abs will be continually engaged while preventing the use of momentum.
- Choose a band with a resistance appropriate to your strength and fitness level. Anchor the band securely around a stable object to ensure it does not slip. Adjust the tension — and therefore the difficulty — of the move by shifting closer to or farther away from the anchor.
- Borrow the mindful breathing techniques used in Pilates to properly oxygenate your muscles while connecting to your body more completely: Inhale as you prepare to do the move, then exhale fully as you execute it. Imagine emptying your body of air as you draw in and contract your abs, doing each move deliberately without rushing.
- Pilates is based in dance, so be graceful and extend your limbs completely with each rep to develop that long, lean look. Reach your toes away from you as far as you can, sit up as tall as you can, and emulate proper posture with your shoulders drawn back and your neck long.
Leg Lift to Frog Drop
Setup: Lie faceup with your head toward the anchor and secure your feet in the band handles, extending your arms out to the sides.
Move: Keeping your legs together, raise them 90 degrees, lift your hips off the ground a few inches and press your feet toward the sky. Slowly lower your hips and bend your knees, opening them wide. Then extend your legs out so they’re straight and about 45 degrees to the ground to complete one repetition.
Tip: Don’t rush this move. Do each part with intention and remember to breathe.
Setup: Lie faceup with your head toward the anchor and secure your feet in the band handles. Place your hands lightly behind your head for support and bend your knees, lifting them over your hips.
Move: Alternately extend one leg away from you while drawing your opposite knee in and reaching your opposite elbow toward that knee. Continue, alternating sides.
Tip: Keep your chin lifted off your chest to protect your cervical vertebrae. Imagine an apple under your chin to maintain that space and length in your neck.
Reverse Crunch and Extend
Setup: Lie faceup with your head toward the anchor and secure your feet in the band handles, legs extended along the ground and arms out to the sides.
Move: Draw your knees into your chest, then slowly extend them out completely so they are about 6 to 8 inches above the ground.
Tip: Make sure your core stays tight and that your lower back does not overarch when you’re lowering your legs.
Setup: Facing the anchor, get into a side plank on your elbow with your head, hips and heels in line. Hold both ends of the band in your top hand with your arm extended at shoulder height.
Move: Drive your elbow directly backward, pulling the handles in toward your rib cage. Pause and squeeze at peak contraction, then slowly return to the start.
Tip: If you’re losing your balance, drop your bottom knee to the ground for better stability.
Setup: Lie faceup with your head toward the anchor and hold the ends of the bands along your sides, arms straight.
Move: Curl up one vertebra at a time until you’re sitting erect with your back straight, and press your arms forward from your chest until they, too, are straight and parallel to the ground. Slowly lower back down to the ground and extend your arms along your sides once more.
Tip: To make this easier, do it with your legs spread in a V to create a larger base of support.
Static Arm Hold and Leg Extension
Setup: Lie faceup with your head toward the anchor, legs lifted straight up over your hips. Hold the band handles with your arms extended.
Move: Keeping your arms straight, press them forward and curl up off the floor as you lower your legs slowly until they are about 45 degrees from the ground. Hold here for three full breaths, then return to the start.
Tip: Engage your lats to keep your arms in position.