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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Holiday Homework Part One: Abs

Many of my clients have asked for some "Holiday Homework" during the Holiday season since they won't be coming in for Pilates sessions for a couple of weeks. Over the next few days, I will be sharing what I give to my clients to stay in shape over the Holidays and keep the extra lbs and muscle loss at bay.

In today's post, I will share with you the perfect abdominal set. Known as the "Ab Five" in the Pilates world, each exercise is intended to be done one after the other with no breaks in between, and targets all four layers of abdominal muscles! Do these every day and you will build a strong core and notice results quickly.


Single Leg Stretch
  1. Sit in the center of your mat with your knees bent. Take hold of your right leg with your left hand on the knee and your right hand on the ankle. (This will keep your leg in proper alignment with your hip).
  2. Roll your back down to the mat, bringing your bent leg with you.
  3. Extend your opposite leg out in front of you and hold it above the mat at an angle that allows your back to remain flat on the mat.
  4. With your elbows wide and your chin lifted to your chest, inhale and watch as your navel sinks deep into your spine.
  5. Imagine you are anchored into the floor below. 
  6. Exhale and switch legs, bringing the left hand to the ankle and the right hand to the left knee. Stretch your extended leg long out of your hip and in line with the center of your body.
  7. Repeat 6 times on each side for a total of 12.
  8. Note on breathing: "inhale (switch), inhale (switch), exhale (switch), exhale (switch). 

Double Leg Stretch
  1. Lie on your back and pull both knees into your chest, elbows extended and head lifted. Hands are on your shins and elbows are wide.  
  2. Inhale deeply and stretch your body long, reaching your arms back by your ears and with your legs out long in front of you and raised off the mat at about a forty-five degree angle. Imagine you are stretching out of bed in the morning. Note: make sure you lower back stays completely pressed to the mat.
  3. Do not allow your head to move off your chest - keep a deep upper abdominal curl.
  4. As your exhale, draw your knees back into your chest by circling your arms around to meet them.
  5. Sink your belly further from your knees to increase the emphasis on the exhalation, as if you were compressing air out of your lungs.
  6. Repeat the sequence 6-10 times, remaining still in your torso as your inhale to stretch and exhale to pull. 
  7. End by pulling your knees into your chest for a deep exhalation.

Single Straight Leg Stretch
  1. Lie on your back and pull both knees into your chest, elbows extended and head lifted into your deep upper abdominal curl. 
  2. Extend your right leg straight up to the ceiling and grab your ankle with both hands as you stretch your left leg long in front of you, keeping it hovering slightly above the mat. 
  3. Imagine anchoring your torso firmly into the mat and keep your head lifted onto your chest. 
  4. Inhale and pull your raised leg in toward your head pulsing it twice at the top of your range. 
  5. Switch the legs by scissoring them and exhale for two pulses with the other leg at the top of your range, using your arms to stabilize the leg.
  6. After 4 repetitions, switch the breath so that you are exhaling for two beats on the opposite leg, and inhaling on the other leg.
  7. Complete a total of 8 repetitions. 

Double Straight Leg Stretch
  1. Lie on your back with your hands interlaced behind your head.
  2. Extend your legs straight in a slightly turned out stance, feet straight up to the ceiling. Squeeze your inner thighs together until no light comes through them. 
  3. Anchor your center firmly into the mat and lift your head onto your chest into your deep upper abdominal curl. Remember to lift from the back of the shoulders and abdominals, not your neck. Imagine your arms are a hammock for your head.
  4. Squeeze your buttocks, for stability in your lower back, and lower your straight legs down toward the mat a few inches as your inhale. Keep your lower back pressed firmly into the mat.
  5. Squeeze your buttocks tighter and exhale as you raise your straight legs toward the ceiling again. You should feel your chest pressing slightly toward the legs as they return to their upright position.
  6. Imagine your legs are attached to springs above your head and you must stretch the springs on the way down and resist their pull on the pay back up.
  7. Repeat 8 times and end by bringing both knees into the chest.

  1. Lie on your back with your hands behind your lifted head and your knees into your chest.
  2. Extend the right leg out long and above the mat in front of you and exhale as you twist your upper body until your right elbow touches (as close as possible) your left knee. Remember to twist from your ribcage, not your arms. 
  3. Return to the center, bringing the knee back into your chest as your inhale. Exhale as your twist to the other side, extending your left leg long in front of you, while maintaining your imprint with your lower back firmly pressed into the mat. 
  4. Imagine your center anchored to the mat so that you don't rock from hip to hip. 
  5. Complete 8 sets and pull your knees tightly into your chest.

*** Please note that you should always consult with a doctor before beginning and exercise program and that all information conveyed is for entertainment purposes only and does not intend to diagnose or treat any medical condition.***

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