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Authentic Mat Pilates Exercises for a Great Ab Workout: Variation Series

If you haven’t gotten enough of Pilates in the first two articles, here’s another one with a few twists. Give it a try!

The third installment to the “Authentic Mat Pilates Exercises for a Great Ab Workout,” these exercises are variations of the authentic exercises. Use an exercise ball or Pilates Magic Circle for these variations to further engage your deep abdominal muscles. If you don't have a Pilates mat, try stacking a couple yoga mats or placing a thick towel on top of your yoga mat for extra cushion. For a greater challenge, you could use a medicine ball, but be careful not to drop it on yourself!

Single Leg Stretch with Ball

maya_fusako_mat_pilates_exercise_ball_exercise_single_leg_stretch_picThis variation makes the exercise deeper, as it requires you to use only your abdominals to pull the knees in. The harder you pull your knee in, the more challenging it will be.

1. Holding onto the ball, bend your right knee and pull your right leg as far as possible towards your chest while inhaling slowly.

Reach your chin onto your chest, and stretch the ball over your knee.

Extend your left leg out at an angle to the floor, while still maintaining a flat back by pulling your bellybutton into your spine.

Elbows should be facing out and very little movement in your upper body.

2. Slowly exhale while changing legs. Bend your left knee and pull your left leg into your chest and extend the right leg out.

Repeat 5–10 repetitions on each leg.

Double Leg Stretch

maya_fusako_mat_pilates_exercise_ball_exercise_double_leg_stretch_a_picStart off in a tight ball. When you reach and extend your body out, you want to make sure to maintain control and a flat back. Reach out through those fingers and toes! You want to feel your lungs fill up like balloons while stretching out. Feel free to try this exercise with the ball in between your ankles or hands!

1. Lie flat on your back, pulling your knees into your chest with your abdominals.

2. Inhaling slowly and reaching your chin into maya_fusako_mat_pilates_exercise_ball_exercise_double_leg_stretch_b_picyour chest, reach your arms overhead while extending both legs. Keep the elbows at or above your ears.

Make sure to keep your navel to the spine to ensure a flat back. The legs extend only as low as you're able to maintain a flat back. If you find yourself arching, raise the legs higher.

3. While slowly exhaling, pull both legs into your chest again.

Repeat 5–10 times.

Single Straight Leg Stretch

maya_fusako_mat_pilates_exercise_ball_exercise_single_straight_leg_stretch_a_picThis is one of my favorite variations!

1. Lie flat on your back, pulling your navel into your spine. Lift your shoulders off the mat, bringing your chin to your chest.

2. While holding the ball, lift your left leg towards the sky while extending the right leg and reaching your hands overhead.

maya_fusako_mat_pilates_exercise_ball_exercise_single_straight_leg_stretch_b_pic3. Lift your shoulders off the mat reaching the ball up towards your left toes. As you lower your chest back down, lower your left leg while simultaneously lifting your right leg to the sky. It feels a bit like a teeter-totter and requires some coordination!

Repeat on the same side 4–8 times before switching to the other leg.

Double Straight Leg Stretch

maya_fusako_mat_pilates_exercise_ball_exercise_double_straight_leg_stretch_a_picThis exercise can be even more challenging with the ball because it gives you something to squeeze your ankles with. It’s great for those who have a hard time engaging their inner thighs and pelvic floor.

Keep your shoulders off the mat the entire time, making sure they don’t drop to the mat when you lower your legs, and squeeze that ball!

1. Lie flat on your back and straighten both maya_fusako_mat_pilates_exercise_ball_exercise_double_straight_leg_stretch_b_piclegs toward the sky. Lift your shoulders off the mat, reaching your chin into your chest. Place both of your hands behind your head with your elbows opened out.

2. Knitting your ribs together, pull your abdominal muscles inwards and up as you slowly inhale while lowering your legs. Make sure you only lower your legs as far as you're able to maintain a flat back into your mat, and keep your shoulders off the mat.

3. While exhaling, bring your legs back to the starting position.

Repeat 5–10 times.

Criss Cross

maya_fusako_mat_pilates_exercise_criss_cross_ball_exercise_a_picThis exercise is a bit trickier with the ball. The most important part of this exercise is the twisting motion and reaching back with your lower elbow. Both elbows should be open. Make sure your shoulders stay off the mat throughout the exercise in order to work deeper into your abdominal muscles. This is a slow exercise, so be sure to hold each twist for three seconds!

1. Lie on your back with your legs parallel to each other and reach them towards the sky. maya_fusako_mat_pilates_exercise_criss_cross_ball_exercise_b_picPlace your hands behind your head with your elbows opened out. Lift your shoulders off the mat and bring your chin into your chest.

3. Keeping your legs straight and up towards the sky, begin exhaling while reaching your left elbow towards your right knee and pulling your right elbow back. Your right elbow and shoulder should be off the mat. Keep both hips connected to the floor, focusing more on the twist from your upper body. Your legs will twist as well in order to create a twisting motion. Imagine your body as a wet towel and you’re wringing out the water. Squeeze the ball, otherwise it will fall!

4. Inhale as you return to center. Keep your shoulders off the mat.

5. Exhale, switching to the opposite side and focusing on the stretch behind you.

Repeat 5–10 times on each side.

Want to see the other Pilates workouts? Here they are:

Authentic Mat Pilates Exercises for a Great Ab Workout

Authentic Mat Pilates Exercises for a Great Ab Workout: MODIFIED SERIES

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