Everyone wants a stronger, leaner and toner stomach for the Summer. So, what is the best way to get there? And what are the best exercises?
First things first, let's understand the anatomy of the stomach and what the abdominal muscles are and their function. There are four abdominal muscles:
- Transversus Abdominis – this muscle is the deepest ab muscle layer and its main role is to stabilize the torso, or trunk, and it acts like a corset holding everything in.
- External Obliques – these are on each side of the rectus abdomens and allow the trunk to twist.
- Internal Obliques – these muscles are below the external obliques and are located along the side of our bodies. They operate in the opposite way to the external obliques.
- Rectus Abdominis – this muscle is located between the ribs and the pubic bone at the front of the pelvis, commonly called ‘the six pack’.
The following 3 Pilates exercises will work all of your stomach muscles and give you those awesome summer abs we are all looking for:
- Plank - This is one of our favorites! Main focus is the transverse abdominis. Your hands or elbows should be directly beneath your shoulders, and your body should form a straight line from your head to your feet. Hold the position for as long as you can while holding your muscles in and tight. Don't forget to breathe! Repeat three times.
- Bridge - main focus is the transverse abdominis. Lie flat on your back, nothing under your neck, knees bent, feet flat on the floor, and arms to your side then lift your hips up towards the sky. To work that deep transverse abdominis pull your belly button towards your spine. Bonus: the glutes get a workout too! Do 3 sets with 10 reps each time.
- Criss Cross/Bicycle - main focus is the external and internal obliques. Lie on your back with your hands behind your head. Your elbows should be pointing out to the sides. Bend one knee to your chest and the other leg hover right over the ground and reaches out as long as you can. Curl up and across towards the bent leg then switch sides, alternating legs and sides throughout the exercise. Start with 3 sets of 10.
- Side Plank - main focus is the external and internal obliques. Lie on your side with your hand or elbow directly under your shoulder, feet can be stacked or side by side, lift your body off the ground holding every muscle tight. Hold for 30 seconds then repeat for 3 sets. Increase time the stronger you get. Option to increase difficulty, lift top leg.
- Single Leg Stretch- main focus is the rectus abdominis. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your shins parallel to the floor, this is tabletop position. Pull your abs in, taking your bellybutton down toward your spine, as you curl your head and shoulders up to the tips of the shoulder blades. As you curl up, your left leg extends at a 45-degree angle.The right leg remains in tabletop position with both hands on your shin. Then switch, holding for a few seconds on each side. Maintain your upper-body curve throughout the exercise. Be sure to keep your shoulders relaxed and your abdominals deeply scooped. Start with 3 sets of 10.With all exercise programs, make sure you are healthy enough for exercise and scale or modify exercises as necessary.