Invented by gymnast Joseph H. Pilates more than 80 years ago, the Pilates method involves a series of exercises that place intense concentration on your abdominal muscles. "Pilates teaches people how to use their abdominals correctly -- how to contract the abdominal wall rather than let it distend," says Alycea Ungaro, author of The Pilates Promise and owner of Real Pilates in New York City. "That is the single reason that Pilates flattens abs so quickly." Plus, Pilates also helps strengthen and lengthen your entire body, helping you to stand taller.
Do these Pilates exercises three to four times a week, keeping in mind the breath-work as you perform the routine: Inhale to prepare for a movement, and exhale as you execute it. You'll start to feel and see a difference within 4 weeks.
Rolling like a ball
Tests your balance and tones your abs
- 1. Sit on mat and bring your knees into your chest, clutching one ankle in each hand. Pull your feet close to your buttocks, lifting feet slightly off floor, and place your head squarely between your knees.
- 2. Inhale and roll backwards on the mat, to the base of your shoulder blades, keeping your shape uniform. Exhale as you roll back up to starting position to balance. Do 6 repetitions.
Lying leg rotation
Strengthens abs, lower back, hips and legs
- 1. Lie on your back with legs together and raised perpendicular to floor, heels together and toes slightly apart.
- 2. Keeping hands on your hips, tighten buttocks and rotate the hips outwards to push your toes slightly further out to each side. Rotate legs back to parallel. Do 5 repetitions.