November 2005, page 36
Pilates abs — no machines required
Five mat moves that will tone your legs, chest, thighs and core
by Jessica Cassity
Pilates machines like the Reformer will give you amazing body-sculpting benefits, but private lessons can cost a bundle. We asked Jillian Hessel, author of Pilates Basics (Gaiam/Rodale Press, 2003), to create moves that get the same results as the most effective machines — no heavy equipment required. Try these exercises together as a workout, or sprinkle them into your regular routine to challenge a different body part each week.
Sculpt Your Chest
Arm Springs on the Cadillac. Doing arm circles while holding on to the Cadillac's hanging springs allows you to work your chest and shoulders in a greater range of motion.
On the Mat:
Moving dumbbells in a similar circular motion places the weight far from your body, stepping up the challenge to your chest. Adding the unstable surface of a foam roller increases the difficulty and also works your abs. Lie lengthwise on the roller, so your head and tailbone are resting on it. Balance yourself, keeping lower back pressed into roller as you pick up a 2-pound weight in each hand. Lift with straight arms over chest, then circle them overhead, keeping your spine pressed into the roller. Circle arms out to the sides, then down over the thighs. Raise arms above chest and repeat. Do 5 circles, then reverse direction.
Tone Your Legs
Footwork on the Reformer. Using your legs to glide your body up and down the machine's sliding carriage works both your quads and your hamstrings.
On the Mat:
Mimic the resistance of a Reformer with an exercise band. Lie on your back with your knees bent toward your armpits. Hold one end of the band in each hand, squeeze elbows into waist, and place the middle of the band under the balls of your feet, pulling the band taut. Slightly rotate your legs out from the hips so your heels are together, toes apart. Inhale as you extend your legs out 45 degrees to floor, stretching the band without moving your arms. Exhale as you bend your knees back in toward your armpits, keeping your pelvis firmly on the floor and your abs pulling in. Repeat 10 times. Do 2 sets.
Challenge Your Core
Balance control on the Reformer. Doing a reverse plank with your hand palms down on the moveable surface while lifting one leg creates enough instability to challenge your core muscles.
On the Mat:
A foam roller recreates the same instability. Sit on the floor with your legs together and out in front of you. Place the soles of your feet on top of the foam roller (perpendicular to your body) and position your hands about a foot behind your hips, fingers pointing toward your toes. Engage your core and lift your hips up so that your body is in one straight line from head to toes, balls of feet on top of the roller. Lift your left leg up a few inches and hold for 2 counts. Replace your left foot on the foam roller and lift your right leg. Continue to alternate sides for a total of 8 reps.