5 Pilates moves that give Leah Simmons her washboard abs

Leah Simmons

Ahhhh the elusive “six-pack”… if I had a dollar for every time I was asked how to get one I would be a very rich woman. Let me start by being totally blunt (and you’re probably not going to like this), it’s not easy and it’s very boring. It might disappoint you to know that the path to a sexy, sculpted stomach really starts in the kitchen. In reality everyone has a six-pack but most of them are hidden beneath a lovely layer of fat that we can thank that “bottle-of-wine/block-of-chocolate/wheel-of-brie/all-of- the-above” for. If you really want to get those washboard abs then you’ve got to get serious about what you are consuming and understand that CONSISTENCY IS THE KEY. It means putting down the wine glass and picking up the water bottle. Saying NO to refined sugars and YES to nutrient-dense superfoods. Cutting back on the saturated fat and upping the lean protein. And of course training your entire core so you are strong from the inside out!! Pilates is great for building core strength and toning muscles so here are my 5 favourite Pilates exercises to help you get that sexy, sculpted stomach.

Top 5 Pilates moves for washboard abs

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1. THE HUNDREDS

This traditional yet powerful exercise works your core like nothing else!

  1. Start lying on your back, legs stretched out in front of you and arms laying behind you. Point your toes and squeeze your inner thighs together drawing your kneecaps up your thighs. Keep your spine in a neutral position, back of your neck long.
  2. Breathe in and moving both of your legs together as one, draw a line with your toes along the floor bringing your heels close to your bottom keeping legs squeezing together.
  3. Breathe out and lift your arms overhead, reaching them towards your feet as your lift your head and neck. In the same movement, extend your legs out to a 45 degree angle. If you feel any pressure in the lower back or pain in the hamstrings bend your knees slightly.
  4. Start doing little pumps with your arms, keeping them straight and reaching towards your toes. Breathe in for 5 counts/pumps and then breathe out lowering your legs until they hover just above the floor out for 5 counts/pumps. Breathe in, pump your arms and lift your legs for 5 counts and lower for 5 counts until you get to 100.

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2. PREP ABS & TWIST – LEGS UP

This exercise works your whole abdominal wall including the sides of your abs as well as your spinal flexion and pelvic stability.

  1. Start lying on your back, fingers interlaced behind your head, thumbs running down the side of your neck and your elbows slightly forward so you can see them in your peripheral vision. Extend your legs up into the air at 90 degrees. Press your head back into your hands and draw your naval towards your spine pressing your lower back into the floor. Take a breath in.
  2. As you breathe out curl your head, neck and chest forward sliding your ribcage towards your hips and keeping your eye gaze towards your knees.
  3. Breathe in and return to start. Repeat 10 times.
  4. For the twist… Repeat position 1 and as you breathe out, curl your head, neck and chest forward and take your right shoulder as far over towards your left knee as you can without your hips or pelvis moving keeping your elbows open. As you breathe in, return to centre. Breathe out and repeat to the other side. Repeat 10 times each side.

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3. DOUBLE LEG LOWERS

The Double Leg Lowers focuses on disassociating your hips from your torso while working your ab- dominals. You want to try and move your legs while your torso stays absolutely still and strong.

  1. Start lying on your back, fingers interlaced behind your head, thumbs running down the side of your neck and your elbows slightly forward so you can see them in your peripheral vision and your head curled forward towards your chest. Extend your legs straight up to 90 degrees at your hips. Press your head back into your hands and draw your naval towards your spine pressing your lower back into the floor. Take a breath in.
  2. As you breathe out anchor your tailbone down into the floor, squeeze your buttocks and lower your legs slowly as close to the floor as you can without moving your lower back or pelvis.
  3. Breathe in and lift your legs to the start position. Repeat 15 times.

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4. SCOOTER – SINGLE LEG COMBO

The “Scooter” (whilst not a traditional Pilates exercise), has been adapted using the simple “Front Support” or “Plank Pose” and adding some extra abdominal work whilst contracting your whole core. The breath sequence for this exercise is every time you stretch your leg away from you, breathe in and every time you bring it into your body, breathe out.

  1. Start in a plank position, shoulders broad, back of your neck long.
  2. Lift your left leg off the ground, point your toes and reach your leg away from you. Squeeze your left knee into your chest keeping your right heel pushing back. Stretch your left leg back behind you lifting your leg slightly to work your glutes. Without lowering your leg, squeeze the same knee in towards your right elbow then send it back. And again, squeeze the same knee in towards your left elbow and send it back. Then bring it forwards again through centre into your chest and send it backwards placing your foot down on the floor.
  3. Repeat sequence on the other side.
  4. Repeat whole sequence 5 times on each side.

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5. SIDE PLANK INTO TWIST

In order to maintain those sexy curves you need to work your side abs too! Working your obliques is just as important as working the front of your torso and this combo will keep that waist looking tight!

  1. Start in a plank position, shoulders broad, back of your neck long.
  2. Place your left hand in the centre of your mat, turn both of your feet to the left and shift your bodyweight over to the left side until your right arm comes off the floor and reaches straight up into the air. You want your body to be one long line from your head all the way down to your feet, as if it were in between 2 panes of glass. Hold for 5 counts.
  3. Breathe in and lift your hips towards the ceiling so you make an upside-down V shape with your body. Then thread your right arm under and through, elongating your spine and looking directly behind you. Try and really lift your tailbone to the ceiling each time you twist working your underneath side waist.
  4. Breathe out and return to your side plank position. Repeat 5 times then switch to the other side.

For more workouts by Leah Simmons, check out the next phase of her fitness journey, body by leah simmons (a series of pilates programs launching mid-2016), or visit her instagram and blog for endless fit-spiration.