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The Pilates “Fab 5” Stomach Series

The Pilates “Fab 5” is a popular sequence of mat exercises that are some of the best ab exercises of all times. They are challenging, especially when you flow from one into the next. You can modify them by not lowering your legs as much and/or keeping your head down if your neck feels strained.

1. Single Leg Stretch

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent in table top position. Let your abdominal muscles drop down toward the mat as you lengthen your spine, curl your chin into your chest and use your abs to curl your upper body off the mat to the base of your shoulder blades (in a “c-curve”). With shoulder blades lifted off the ground, keep your eyes on your belly button — this keeps your neck from becoming fatigued.

  • Inhale and extend your left leg long as you hug your right knee in towards your chest. Exhale and switch legs keeping both legs along the mid-line and your pelvis and hips stable.

  • Complete 5 – 10 reps on each side.

2. Double Leg Stretch

  • Squeeze your bent knees into your chest as you curl up using your abs, not your neck.

  • Inhale and stretch your legs and arms long, keeping your arms alongside your ears. Sweep the arms around and hug your knees on the exhale, making sure the torso remains stable with no movement.

  • Repeat 5 – 10 times.

3. Single Straight Leg Stretch (Scissors)

  • Curl up into your C-Curve and stretch your right extended leg towards your face as you lengthen your left leg, hovering above the mat. Hold the extended right leg either behind the thigh, shin or ankle, but not at the knee. Inhale and pulse the leg towards you two times, then exhale and switch legs. Think precision as you scissor the legs in opposition. Keep your eyes on your belly button to keep the neck from straining.

  • Complete 5 – 10 reps on each side.

4. Double Straight Leg Lower/Lift

  • Extend both legs towards the ceiling, squeezing the heels, sit bones and inner thighs together as you externally rotate the legs in the “Pilates V” stance. With hands behind the head and elbows wide, lengthen the back of your neck and curl up into your C-Curve with shoulder blades cresting the mat.

  • Inhale and lower both legs only as far as you can control the lower back staying on the mat. Exhale as you draw your legs up, keeping the work in the lower abs and not the hip flexors. Soften the knees if you feel your hip flexors firing.

  • Repeat 5 – 10 times.

5. Criss Cross

  • Bring your legs into table top position as your hands come behind the head. Lengthen the back of your neck as you curl up into your C-Curve, elbows wide. Inhale here, then exhale as you extend your left leg long along your mat and curl your ribcage to the right. The elbows stay wide as you bring your left armpit toward your right knee. Inhale, return to center, then exhale and switch sides, keeping hips and pelvis steady and anchored to the mat.

  • Complete 5 – 10 reps on each side.

Join Amy Younkman weekly: Power Pilates | Wednesdays 8:30am Vinyasa Yoga | Fridays 8:30am

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