The Pilates Stomach Series is also known as the “fabulous five,” because of the wonderful way the five movements tone the tummy.
Step 1: Get into position Get into the basic pilates stance. Lie on a mat with your chin to your chest, arms back by your ears, and feet arranged heels together, toes two inches apart.
Step 2: Start with a stretch Do the single leg stretch. Lift your right knee and extend your left leg out to 45 degrees. With your right hand on your right ankle and your left hand below your right knee, pull your knee into your chest. Repeat five to ten times on each side.
TIP: If at any time your lower back comes off the mat, bring your legs higher as you extend.
Step 3: Do the double leg stretch Do the double leg stretch. Lie on the mat with your chin and knees to your chest, hands on your ankles. Take a deep breath as you release your ankles, bring your arms back by your ears, and extend your legs straight.
Step 4: Continue the stretch Exhale as you bring your arms around, bend your knees into your chest, and grab your ankles, ending up in the position you started in. Repeat five to ten times.
TIP: If your neck begins to hurt at any point during these exercises, simply lower it to the mat.
Step 5: Do the crisscross Do the 'crisscross.' Lie on the mat with your legs in tabletop position (knees bent with thighs perpendicular and shins parallel to the floor), your hands on the nape of your neck, and elbows wide.
Step 6: Continue the crisscross Extend your left leg and bring your left elbow to your right knee, keeping both shoulders off the mat. Look behind you and hold for two counts, then switch legs (still keeping your shoulders off the mat). Repeat once or twice on each side.
TIP: Make sure your elbow goes to your knee—not the other way around.
Step 7: Do the single straight leg stretch Do the single straight leg stretch. Lie on the mat with your right leg extended straight up and your left leg lifted at 45 degrees.
Step 8: Continue the stretch Grab as close to the right ankle as possible and bring your chin to your chest. Pull your right leg towards your head twice. Repeat 5 to 10 times on each leg.
Step 9: Do the double leg stretch Do the double leg stretch. Lie on the mat with your chin to your chest, your hands on the nape of your neck, and elbows wide.
Step 10: Continue the stretch Lift both legs to 90 degrees, then slowly lower them together until you feel your back begin to lift off the mat. Quickly lift your legs back up and repeat 5 to 10 times.
FACT: Joseph H. Pilates, who started the pilates movement, claimed, "You will feel better in ten sessions, look better in twenty sessions, and have a completely new body in thirty sessions."