In my unbiased, Pilates instructor opinion, the Series of Five is one of the most effective abdominal sequences out there. It is absolute misery to get through, but it works every part of your core and, as I tell my clients, it only takes a couple minutes. As the name indicates, there are five different exercises in the series. Over the next five Tuesdays, I will be guiding you through the series. At the end of the five weeks, you will have you own little killer ab workout that you can throw down on the mat, as an addition to your regular routine or when you only have a few minutes to sweat.
Exercise 1- Single Leg Stretch (10 reps)
1. Inhale as you pull your bellybutton to your spine. Curl your head and shoulders up and off the mat. At the same time, bend your right knee, pulling it in towards your chest. Place your left hand to your knee, right hand to your ankle. Stretch your left leg straight out and away from you, toes pointed, entire leg engaged. Think long and pretty, like a ballerina.
2. On the exhale, switch your hand and leg positions to the opposite side. In other words, left knee bent, right leg extended, left hand to ankle, right hand to knee. (If this is too much talking, pity my poor clients, then look at the photos and copy.)
3. Continue switching arms and legs until you have done a total of 10 on each side.
Things to keep in mind
-Don’t allow your lower back to arch off of the mat. This is an indicator that your legs are too low and you are working less in your core (and are more at risk for straining your back). Raise your legs to a height where your low back is no longer arching.
-Eyes forward. (If you’re looking up at the ceiling, your neck is going to kill you. Either keep your eyes forward and your upper body curled all the way up, or put your head down.)
-Keep your hips steady. No sassy, hula-dancing hips.
-Same goes for the rest of your body. Your arms and legs are switching, but nothing else should be moving.
-Tummy pulled in nice and flat. Imagine zipping on those skinny jeans. You know the pair. Where you have to pull your tummy both in and up. Now do that throughout the exercise. We want to work on building your abdominal muscles in, not out.
– Raise the height of your legs. They can be as high as 90 degrees (straight up to the ceiling), while still challenging your abs.
-If your neck starts to bother you, place your head down on the mat. As you grow stronger, you will transfer that work into you abdominals, as opposed to placing the strain in your neck.
-Reduce the number of repetitions and don’t be afraid to take breaks. Proper form is more important than risking the integrity of your body.
-Lower your legs. As long as you are not arching in your low back, your legs can go as low as just above the mat.
-Increase the number of reps.
-Interlace your hands behind your head (elbows wide, neck and shoulders relaxed). Without the assistance of your arms, your abs will have to work twice as hard to move your legs. Extra points if you do one set with arms and another set with your hands behind your head.
Photos by Michele LoBosco