If you’re sick of slogging through endless rounds of crunches at the gym, we don’t blame you. Ab workouts can be boring — but that’s where Pilates comes into play. Based on more than 600 exercises and variations, Pilates keeps ab work interesting while helping you sculpt a powerful core. And the benefits are more than just aesthetic. “I love every kind of physical fitness, but I will say Pilates is the only thing that gave me this kind of abdominal strength,” says Daily Burn Pilates instructor Andrea Speir.
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Try It Now: The Daily Burn Pilates Ab Workout
This six-move core series makes for an intense workout, Speir says. Use a Pilates Magic Circle to add resistance to some of the exercises. Don’t own one? No problem. All you need is your mat. Perform these moves with no breaks in between — we dare you!
How to: Sit in the center of your mat, knees bent, feet hip-distance apart (a). Bend your elbows and make a fist with each hand. Stack your fists on top of one another in front of your chest (b). Begin circling your fists around each other (c). Inhale and curl your tailbone under, scooping the abdominals in, and roll down towards the mat. Stop before touching the mat (d). Exhale as you round back up, winding arms in the opposite direction. Repeat four more times.
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How to: Lie flat, holding your knees to your chest (a). Curl your head and neck off the floor, and stack your hands like a pillow behind your head (b). Heels together, toes apart, slide your legs out along the mat, hovering your feet just about the mat (c). Lift legs up to a high diagonal, about 45 degrees from the ground (d). Bend your knees in towards your ears, and then slide your legs out along the mat again, hovering feet a few inches off the ground. Repeat 16 times. Think about engaging the abdominals from the two inches below your navel, Speir says. That will help the lower abs really engage and control the movement.
How to: Lie directly in the center of the mat, and bring your knees into your chest (a). Curl your head and chest up. Gazing at your abdominals, stack hands palm over palm like a pillow and place them directly behind the head (b). With heels together and toes pointed, turn your knees out, keeping them shoulder-distance apart (c). Send legs out to a high diagonal, at least 45 degrees from the ground, and hold (d). Bend knees back towards your ears. Repeat 10 times.
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How to: Sitting on the mat, position the Pilates Magic Circle between your legs, just above the anklebone (a). Lie down on your back, knees drawn towards your chest. Stack your hands palm over palm, and place them behind your neck (b). Curl up, squeezing the Pilates Magic Circle between your legs (c). Lower your toes towards the mat (d). Without arching your back, scoop your abdominals in to lift your legs back up to your chest. Repeat 10 times.
How to: Lie on the mat, knees bent, feet together and planted on the floor. Stack your hands palm over palm, and place them behind your head (a). Drop your knees down to one side (b). Gazing at your navel, curl your body up slightly (the middle of your back should be on the ground at all times), keeping elbows wide, lifting from your core. Repeat 10 times, then switch sides.
How to: Sit on your right hip, folding your right leg under your body and extending your left leg out to the side in a straight line (a). With your right hand placed on the ground next to your hip, bend the left knee slightly, pushing yourself up to balance on your right knee (b). Flex the foot of your left leg, pull your abs in and lift your right leg, placing it behind your left leg. (c). Place your left hand on your hip, then pulse your hip up two-inches and down two-inches, keeping you right arm straight. Repeat eight times. Switch sides.
For more Pilates workouts you can do anytime, anyplace, head to DailyBurn.com/Pilates.
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Originally posted June 2015. Updated December 2015.