The beauty of Pilates is that it really does shrink-wrap your core. Pilates concentrates on the deepest layer of abdominals—the transversus—which acts like an inner girdle. I often remind my students to scoop their abs in and up, or to imagine wearing a corset or zipping up a tight pair of jeans. As you do each one of these exercises keep the sensation of hollowing out your lower abdominals and knitting your front ribs together.
Pilates also helps you connect your mind and body and you’ll start to listen to your true hunger cues. You’ll naturally crave healthier foods and only eat until you’re satisfied, not stuffed. Bring on the bikini!
Do these moves three to five times a week for a flat belly in no time.
Double-Leg Straight-Leg Stretch
Lie on your back with your legs extended straight up to the ceiling and your heels together toes slightly turned out in a Pilates V stance. Place your hands behind your head elbows wide and lift your head and neck up. Keep your head lifted and slowly lower and lift your legs straight down and up (only as low as you can go without letting the back arch off the mat). Inhale to lower and exhale to lift. Repeat 8 to 10 times. Then relax your head back to the mat.
Next, lower your legs all the way to the floor, separate them hip width apart, flex through your feet and extend through your heels. Keep your hands behind your head, elbows wide. On an inhalation, use your abdominals to round your torso up off the mat until you come all the way up to sit. Once upright, exhale and scoop in your abs even further and curl up and over an imaginary beach ball. Inhale to sit back up tall, then lower down to the mat hollowing out your abdominals and feeling every vertebrae of your spine melt in to the floor as you exhale the air out. Repeat 4 to 6 times.
Come on to your left elbow and extend your legs in line with your shoulders, stacking your right leg above your left. Press firmly into your left forearm and use your obliques and abdominals to lift your torso up off the mat. Extend your right arm to the ceiling and look up to it. Exhale, twist your torso and bring your right arm under your left, side looking back toward the hand. Inhale to starting position and repeat 6 to 8 more times. Then switch sides.
Kristin McGee is a leading yoga and Pilates instructor and healthy lifestyle expert based in New York City. She is an ACE certified personal trainer who regularly trains celebrity clients in New York and Los Angeles. She serves as Health’s contributing fitness editor and is frequently seen on national TV. Her latest in a large collection of fitness DVDs is YogaSlim. Follow her on Twitter @KristinMcGee and like her page on Facebook.