by Kim MacKenzie, Owner of Fitness with Kim
Every year the holidays become more and more hectic. Between work, family, and holiday parties, we find more excuses than usual not to go to the gym. As our food consumption increases, our exercise decreases. By New Year’s Day, we have ten pounds worth of resolutions to conquer. What if, instead of this vicious cycle, we were able to prevent the yearly Thanksgiving to New Years tummy expansion? It’s totally possible. We just have to make tummy toning very convenient.
Here are six Pilates core strengthening exercises that you can do right in your home.
Yes, just actively focusing on your breath while sitting with good posture can tighten your tummy, if you breathe the Pilates way!
While sitting up straight with your shoulders over your hips, inhale through your nose, envisioning your breath expanding your ribcage laterally. Do not puff out your tummy with your inhalation. Exhale through your mouth as if you’re blowing through a straw. As you exhale, imagine your ribcage squeezing together and your belly button pulling toward your spine, as if you are in a corset. Exhale every last ounce of breath before inhaling again, to get your core muscles as tight as possible. Do this for 2 minutes and you will feel your core engage.
Work your abs, spinal articulation, and your whole body with this belly-blaster! Lying on your back on the floor, lift your legs into table top (with your knees bent at 90 degrees, and your knees directly over your hips at 90 degrees). Reach your arms up to the sky. Inhale to prepare. Exhale, tuck your pelvis, and curl your upper body toward your legs, until you are balancing on your tailbone. If it is difficult to balance, you can place your hands on the back our your thighs. From there, inhale to prepare, then exhale and extend your legs so that your body is in a 45 degree angle. For an advanced option, reach our arms out toward your feet. Hold and breathe deeply for 8 to 10 breaths, pulling your belly button into your spine. Then, inhale again to prepare. Exhale to roll your upper body back down onto the mat and bend your legs back into table top. Repeat 3x.
Any form of twisting will help detox your body, and improve digestion. With criss cross you get an ab-working bonus, as it works your obliques and six pack while wringing the extra gobble right out of you like a wet towel! Lying on your back on the floor, lift your legs into table top (with your knees bent at 90 degrees, and your knees directly over your hips at 90 degrees). Place your hands behind your head with your elbows spread wide. Exhale curl your head neck and shoulders off the mat, twisting your upper body to your right, as you extend your left leg. Inhale to rotate your body through center. Exhale to twist your upper body to the left, extending your right leg. Inhale back through center and exhale back to the right. With every twist, keep reaching your opposite elbow to opposite knee. Repeat twists 8-10x on each side.
Plank Exercise with Leg Switches
Plank continues to be the single-handed best ab and full body workout ever. Here’s how you can add some holiday spice to this traditional exercise. On your knees, facing the ground, place your hands underneath your shoulders, tuck your toes, and press your heels back, stretching your legs, so that you are balancing in a plank position. Keep your shoulders directly over your hands, your elbows slightly bent, your pelvis tucked, your core engaged, and your body aligned. Do not let your hips or back sag, as this can cause lower back pain. Hold and breathe for at least ten long breaths. For an advanced option, exhale to squeeze your butt and lift your right leg off the ground. Inhale to lower and exhale to switch legs. Repeat leg switches 10 times on each side, making sure that your pelvis stays tucked so that your abs keep working!
Joseph Pilates’ signature ab-buster. The Hundred will tone your six pack, while sculpting your lats and arms. For an added arm bonus, use two pound weights or two pound Stott Pilates balls (as shown in the picture) to help you curl up higher and give your arms and lats a better workout. Lying on your back on the floor, with your weights in your hands, stretch your arms up to the sky, and lift your legs into table top. Inhale to prepare. Exhale to curl your upper body (head, neck, and shoulders) off the mat, as you lower your arms to beside your hips. Reach your arms long and squeeze your shoulders down your back, so that you feel the muscle on the underside of your armpit, also known as your lats, engage. Begin to pump your arms quickly to your breath. Inhale for a count of five pumps, then exhale for a count of five pumps. Take long, deep breaths, because you will repeat your inhale and exhale pumps ten times. Ten inhales to 5 pumps plus ten exhales to 5 pumps equals…you guessed it…100 pumps! After the hundred, instead of a food-coma, your whole body will be feeling more invigorated!
This exercise stretches the muscles in your abdominals, while working your lower back extensors, shoulders and lats. The tummy stretch can also help relieve intestinal discomfort, after gorging on too much pumpkin pie. Just be mindful that you don’t do any tummy exercises directly after eating. Lying face down on the floor with your legs stretched behind you and your arms stretched by your ears, inhale to prepare. Exhale and engage your core. Inhale lift your arms and legs off the floor into extension. For thirty seconds kick your arms and legs like you’re a Barbie swimming, making sure to keep your shoulders on your back and away from your ears, breathing naturally. Inhale to relax back to the mat. Repeat 2-3 times.
If you keep your health in sight and in mind, you won’t have to have those cyclical weight loss resolutions. Instead, your body and mind will be ready to have a blissful New Year!