The secret to finally getting the strong, defined abs you’ve always wanted has nothing to do with waist training, ab rolling or logging a gazillion crunches a day. Instead, it has everything to do with The 100, the single-leg teaser and engaging your “powerhouse.”
No clue what we’re talking about? Meet DailyBurn’s new Pilates program, taught by Andrea Speir, a Los Angeles-based Pilates instructor, who’s been practicing for 16 years — and has the body to show for it. Pilates is all about activating the body’s “powerhouse,” or your core muscles, according to Speir. From strengthening your lower back to improving your running form and relieving tension in your shoulders, Pilates has a variety of benefits that have nothing to do with getting a six-pack (though you might end up with one!).
“We’re building a base and learning to move with proper form and alignment,” Speir says. “We’re also teaching you how to engage your abs in the deepest and most effective way, focusing on exercises that deepen that connection while working the full body.”
Pilates: Strength in Numbers
Speir first discovered Pilates when she was just 12 years old. An avid dancer, she tore her meniscus while secretly moonlighting as a long jumper for her middle school track team. Rather than undergoing surgery, Speir started doing physical therapy and Pilates. “I loved it. I felt really great and it got me stronger pretty fast,” Speir says. Inspired by the way Pilates changed her body, she eventually got her certification to teach. “That turned into never looking back,” Speir says. “My abdominals have never been so strong.”
But Speir says it’s a misconception that Pilates was developed for ex-ballerinas. “It was actually created by Joseph Pilates to help rehab soldiers in World War One, ” she notes. Which brings her to the second myth she’d like to correct — that this is a workout built for women. “It’s great for everyone, men, women, people of any age; it’s nonexclusive.”
The Core Benefits of DailyBurn Pilates
The 16-day DailyBurn Pilates program was designed by Speir for both beginners and people who have been doing Pilates for years. The best part: Each workout is only around 25 minutes. Speir says she recommends people try to fit in three to six sessions per week in order to build and maintain strength throughout the program.
“We work every part of your core, including the deepest layer, the transverse abdominals, which are not necessarily always used,” Speir says. “They wrap around your torso like a corset and support the entire body.”
To target those tough-to-reach muscles, DailyBurn Pilates focuses on teaching students how to properly engage their abdominals. In the videos, which include tutorials in classic moves, core flow series, and stretching sessions, Speir gives detailed instructions on how to get the most out of each move. The key: “To properly engage your abs, think about drawing your navel into your spine and scooping it up along your spine like you’re hallowing everything out,” she instructs.
Strengthening these underlying core muscles helps support the lumbar spine and lower back, Speir says, which can help prevent lower back injuries. Plus, toning those areas will help give you great visual results, too. “The aesthetic you’ll get is those vertical lines down the side [of your core], they make your abs really look amazing and also cinch and tighten your waist.”
DailyBurn Pilates: 3 Moves to Try Now
You don’t need much fancy equipment for Pilates, but one prop Speir recommends is a Pilates magic circle, which can be used during both core exercises and stretching. “It’s my favorite prop because it increases the resistance and intensity of every exercise, it really ups your results 10-fold,” she notes. But don’t worry, if you aren’t ready to make an investment, you can still get a great workout sans gear. “It’s a no-excuses situation. You can put a towel and a carpet on the grass and jump into these videos,” Speir says.
Can’t wait to get started? Check out these three moves for a sneak peek of the type of deep abdominal work you’ll get from the DailyBurn Pilates program. “It creates the strong core that will help you immeasurably in other styles of fitness,” Speir says.
Pilates devotees world-wide are familiar with the notorious “100,” which often appears towards the beginning of a class. “The point of this exercise is it gets your blood pumping and instantly warm you up,” Speir says. “Mastering this exercise is going to really implement the base foundation of a lot of your exercises and kick your workout off right.”
How to: Draw both legs into your chest, hold on to your legs, curl your head and chest up to a tight ball (a). Send your legs out to a tabletop position with your knee directly above your hip, shins parallel to floor. Hold on behind your thighs and actively curl up, deepening and hollowing out your abs (b). Hover your arms right above your abdominal wall and start to pump your arms 6 to 8 inches up and down, taking deep breaths, inhaling for 5 counts, exhaling for 5 counts (c). Repeat 10 times, without taking a break. Feel free to lower your head down and rest if the exercise feels too difficult.
Speir says this move is one of her all-time favorites, because it’s nearly impossible to cheat while you’re doing it. “This exercise is all about keeping your abdominals in, your chest open and proud — and it’s hard!” Speir says. “It’s kicking those into abs into shape.”
How to: Lying on your back, walk your feet in closer together, with your legs at a longer angle (not right in near your hands) (a). Extend one leg out, tightly hugging your inner thighs and knees together (b). Reach your fingers for your toes. Piece by piece, start to slowly round your body up reaching for those toes (c). Roll down only to your shoulder tips, come right back up and reach (d). Repeat four times. Place that foot down, send the other one out, and repeat 4 times.
This move may look easy, but it’s actually working out both your core and lower body. Trust us, you’ll feel the burn. “The point of the [single-leg circle] is to teach you to keep your hips squared and aligned while you’re moving away from your body,” Speir says. “It’s all about posture and alignment while strengthening your abs and tightening and toning your legs, too.”
How to: Lay down on the mat, shoulders down, ribs down, and extend your right leg straight up to the sky, with the left leg bent, foot flat on the floor (a). Circle your right leg across your body to your left shoulder, than back around to your right shoulder, stop at your nose. Focus on keeping abdominals scooped in (b). Repeat five times, then reverse, and switch legs.
Ready to try DailyBurn Pilates? Head to DailyBurn.com to start working out with Andrea Speir, free for 30 days.
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