By Kristin McGee, NLC
I’ve been teaching Pilates since the 90s, and I truly love it. The system of exercises—either using equipment or on the mat—is designed to improve your strength, flexibility, posture, and mind-body connection, all while working your core muscles. And not only will developing core strength help you move more gracefully, you’ll feel much more confident in your body.
To get you started, I’m sharing my favorite moves that are insanely effective for tapping into your powerhouse. Try doing these three moves three to four times a week, anytime, anywhere. I’m using a TheraBand to increase the resistance, but you can also do them without one.
Soon, you’ll feel stronger, more toned, and will carry yourself with better posture. The best thing about Pilates is how much awareness it gives us about our body. You’ll move with more ease and feel great, overall.
3 Effective Pilates Moves for Core Strength
The Roll Up
This is one of the best core moves according to researchers at Auburn University in Alabama, who say, “The Pilates roll-up is 30 percent more effective than the standard crunch, because it challenges your abs through a fuller range of motion and recruits more muscle fibers.”
Start lying on your back (with a band wrapped around your feet if you’re using one). Engage your core and start to lift your torso up off the floor as you roll up one vertebrae at a time. Dive forward over your legs and scoop your belly button to your spine. Slowly roll back down. Repeat 6-8 times. If you’re using the theraband, press your arms back behind you as you dive your head forward.
So often we forget our back is also part of our core, but Pilates works our body 360 degrees, and this move is a great example of that. I love this move for trimming the oblique muscles, upper back, and lower body.
Start lying face down with your arms overhead (holding the theraband in each hand). Lift the entire body up as you pull the band apart or just lift up if using no band. Repeat 6-8 times. Use the breath and inhale as you lift, exhale as you lower. Make sure to keep the abdominals engaged, which can be challenging when you’re lying on your belly.
In Pilates, we often work in a turn-out position, or a Pilates V stance, with the heels together and the toes turned out. When we engage our legs this way, we activate the inner thighs, which are directly related to the pelvic floor muscles. Pilates is great for toning the hips, inner thighs, and buttocks—while still challenging that core. I also love this move because it mimics the leg springs on the Cadillac and reformer Pilates machines.
Lie down on your back with knees bent. Bring the heels together and turn your toes out. Wrap the theraband around your feet and pull the ends to the floor with your elbows along your sides and shoulders relaxed. Exhale and extend your legs out as you squeeze your inner thighs and glutes. Inhale back to starting position. Repeat 16 times.
Kristin McGee is a nationally recognized celebrity yoga and Pilates teacher, speaker, mompreneur, and author of Chair Yoga: Sit, Stretch, and Strengthen Your Way to a Happier, Healthier You. She is also a graduate of The Nutrition School. Her unparalleled knowledge of fitness and health has established Kristin as a sought-after yoga and Pilates trainer with a continuous roster of high profile celebrities including LeAnn Rimes Cibrian, Emilia Clarke, Tina Fey, Bethenny Frankel, Savannah Guthrie, Steve Martin, and Christine Taylor Stiller. Her appeal has always been that she makes fitness fun, cool, and accessible to students of all ages and stages.
She has appeared on Access Hollywood, CNN, Fox, Good Morning America, The Early Show, and the Today Show and has been featured in Fitness, Glamour, Health, InStyle, People, Prevention, Shape, Vogue, and Women’s Health. A contributing editor at Health Magazine, a spokesperson for Power Pilates Gym on HSN, and a brand ambassador for multiple companies, Kristin is a proud mom to three boys: a toddler, Timothy and newborn twins, Robert and William. Visit Kristin’s website at kristinmcgee.com and follower her at @kristinmcgee.