Strength Training 101- Abs and Pilates

04/22/2011 - Amy Eisenson

Below are different Pilates movements that focus on strengthening the Abdominal muscles, especially the deepest one, the Transverse Abdominis

Beginner level

Alternating March

Step 1

Starting Position: Lie flat on your back on the floor / mat in a bent-knee position with feet placed firmly placed on the floor, arms outstretched to your sides at shoulder level and palms facing upwards.  Engage your abdominal muscles to stabilize your spine (maintain the small natural curve in your low back), depress and retract your scapulae (pull shoulders back and down) and attempt to hold these positions throughout the exercise.

Step 2

Gently exhale and slowly lift one leg off the floor, moving your knee towards your trunk, while maintaining a 90-degree bend at the knee.  DO NOT extend the knee during this movement).  Continue moving until the thigh reaches or comes close to a position where it aligns vertically to the floor.  DO NOT go beyond this position.  Hold this position for 5 – 10 seconds then slowly return your leg to the floor, completing 2 – 4 repetitions and repeating with the opposite leg.

Step 3

The goal of this exercise is to control the position of your low back during leg movements.  Movement of the thigh past vertical will flatten your back, thus changing the position of your low back.  If necessary, place one hand or a rolled up towel into the small of your back to monitor for any changes in the position of your low back during the movement.

Step 4

EXERCISE VARIATION: This exercise can become more dynamic by performing slow, controlled movements to complete 1 set of 5 - 10 repetitions with each leg, holding the elevated position for 1 - 2 seconds.

The intensity can be progressed by incorporating simultaneous overhead unilateral (single-arm) or bilateral (both arms) movements, 

 

 

Intermediate Level

V- Sit

Step 1

Starting Position: Assume a seated bent-knee position, feet placed flat on the floor / mat and arms outstretched behind you with your palms flat on the floor / mat and fingers pointed outwards or away from your body.  Adjust your position to distribute your weight evenly between your feet, butt and arms.  Keep your back supported in a neutral or flat position (i.e., avoid arching or slumping) and your head aligned with your thoracic (upper) spine.

Step 2

Slowly lean back, bending your elbows until your trunk is supported on your elbows.  Engage your abdominal muscles to stabilize your spine and attempt to hold this position throughout the exercise (avoid “arching” or “slumping” your low back).  Gently exhale and slowly lift one foot off the floor, extending the knee until the leg straightens with your toes pointing away from your body.  Hold this up-position briefly for 5 – 10 seconds then slowly return to your starting position and repeat the movement with the opposite leg.  Complete a set of quality reps until your experience fatigue or until your technique (form) becomes compromised.


 

 

 

 

 

Progression #2: Slowly lean back, bending your elbows until your trunk is supported on your elbows.  Engage your abdominal muscles to stabilize your spine and attempt to hold this position throughout the exercise (avoid “arching” or “slumping” your low back).  Gently exhale and slowly lift both feet off the floor, extending the knees until both legs straighten with your toes pointing away from your body.  Hold this up-position briefly for 10 – 15 seconds then slowly return to your starting position and repeat.  Complete a set of quality reps until your experience fatigue or until your technique (form) becomes compromised.


 

Progression #3: Adjust your position by sitting-up until your trunk is at a 45-degree angle with the floor and move your hands out to your sides to support your body.  Engage your abdominal muscles to stabilize your spine and attempt to hold this position throughout the exercise (avoid “arching” or “slumping” your low back).  Repeat the same sequence outlined previously, but avoid leaning back during the leg lifts.


 

 

Advanced Level

Inchworms

Step 1

Starting Position:  From a standing position with your feet together or slightly apart, engage your abdominal muscles to stabilize your spine.   

Step 2

Gently exhale and bend forward from your hips ("hip hinging"), keeping your knees extended (but not locked), and extend your arms in front of your body while slowly lowering your torso towards the floor until you can place your fingers or palms of your hands on the floor in front of your body.  Maintaining a flat spine and a soft bend in your knees during this movement is acceptable.

Step 3

Slowly begin to walk your hands forward (6-12” or 12 ½ - 25 cm steps) without moving your feet (your heels will begin to rise off the floor).  Continue walking yourself forward until you reach a full-push-up position where your spine, hips and head are level with the floor (plank position).

Step 4

Perform one full push-up, lowering your chest and hips simultaneously to the floor while maintaining a rigid torso and head aligned with your spine.  Do not allow your low back to sag or your hips to hike upwards during this downward phase.  Continue to lower yourself until your chest or chin touch the floor. Allow your elbows to flare outwards during the lowering phase.   

Step 5

Press upwards through your arms while maintaining a rigid torso and head aligned with your spine.  Do not allow your low back to sag or your hips to hike upwards. Continue pressing until the arms fully extend at the elbows.  Slowly begin walking your feet forward towards your hands, taking 6-12” steps without moving your hands.  Maintain a flat spine throughout and continue walking until your feet are close to your hands.  

Step 6

Repeat this movement and continue for 10 – 15 yards (9-13 m).

Step 7

Exercise Variation:  You can progress this exercise by adding multiple push-ups in the lowered position.

 

  

 

            

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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