Are you looking for an ab series that is quick and effective? Time to try the Pilates Series of Five. This popular Pilates sequence is sure to get you feeling your abdominals and working the core! Best part? It only takes 2 minutes to complete from start to finish.
The basic series includes these five exercises:
- 1) Single Leg Stretch
- 2) Double Leg Stretch
- 3) Single Straight Leg Stretch
- 4) Double Straight Leg Stretch
- 5) Criss-Cross
This series helps build the support structure that keeps us standing upright with our best posture and presenting our best selves forward. The core, also often referred to as “the powerhouse”, is always a great place to access inner strength to aid our extremities (arms and legs) which helps us preserve energy for things like a long walk, hike, or a day out running errands.
Parts of the Core
The core is comprised of four key components, the most famous or often spoken of, the rectus abdominis, is our most superficial layer. It’s often referred to as “the 6-pack muscle”, and its main job is forward flexion of the spine. But this is not the only part of our core. The external obliques and internal obliques are the next deepest layers that aid in rotation and flexion. But the final and most powerful layer that assists with our strength and posture is the deepest layer, the transverse abdominis. This muscle is our key core stabilizing muscle that wraps around us like an inner tube and helps hug the core inward, helps with upright posture, and most importantly stablizes the thoracic cavity and pelvis. Without using this muscle well it’s difficult for the body to perform efficient movement patterns. And without efficiency we have unnecessary energy expenditure. And I don’t know about you, but time and energy are precious to me…so if there are ways for me to be more efficient, I am all for it. The beauty of the “Series of Five” is that together these five exercises target all of the various components that make up our full core.
The Series of Five
Ultimately we want to work up to being able to perform each exercise for ten repetitions before moving to the next. And from start to finish, trying to make it through each set without stopping or lowering the head. But with all things in life, it’s best to work your way up to that level of strength and endurance. Start with trying to do each exercise just four times, and work up from there until you find yourself performing ten of each with ease.
The videos below will show two repetitions of each exercise.
1) Single Leg Stretch
Keep the pelvis stable and lift the head and shoulders off the mat. Left hand to your right shin, right hand to your right ankle. Inhale as you hug the right shin in with wide elbows. The opposite leg shoots out long at a high diagonal. Inhale again to change legs. Then exhale twice as you exchange from right to left again. Right and left counts as one rep.
Then draw both legs into the chest to transition into…
2) Double Leg Stretch
Begin with both shins hugged into the chest. Inhale as you extend and reach the arms high overhead (without lowering the shoulders) and send the legs out long to the high diagonal. Exhale as you brace the core in deeper and circle the arms to gather the shins back into center.
Extend the right leg long towards the ceiling and grab behind the thigh or calf. Lower the left leg towards the mat…
3) Single Straight Leg Stretch
Tug the right leg towards you as the left leg moves down. Take two quick breaths in through the nose as you “tug” the leg. Pulse twice in this position. Hold the crunch in your upper body as you switch legs and exhale through the mouth. Keep the knees straight and work for a smooth transition from side to side. Right and left counts as one rep.
Draw both legs together and press them into one another. Support your hands behind your head and extend the legs up towards the ceiling…
4) Double Straight Leg Stretch
Inhale to lower both legs down to hover above the mat as you point through you ankles. Try for as low as you can without arching the low back. Exhale flex your feet to reach energy long through your heels and hug the abdominal muscles in towards the spine as you lift the legs back up to the ceiling. Maintain the shoulder blades hovering off the mat throughout.
To transition, draw the right knee in and extend the left leg out to the low diagonal…
Upper body is lifted with hands behind your head, then rotate to bring the left shoulder towards the right knee with an inhale. Inhale again to bring the right shoulder blade towards the left knee, maintaining the lift of the torso through center as you change sides and legs. Then exhale for two actions (right and left). Right and left is one rep.
To finish, draw both legs into your chest and lower the head, neck, and shoulders to the mat. Turn your head to the right and let both knees fall left, then switch head to the left knees fall right.
Tips for Good Technique
- Keep the torso and hips stable throughout the whole series
- Pelvis maintains neutral throughout meaning that your front hip bones and pubic bone remain parallel to the ground
- Legs should only lower towards the mat as much as you can without arching the low back
- Don’t rush it! Enjoy slow, fluid movements to get the most impact
- Pull the abdominal muscles in towards the spine instead of letting them press out
- Each exhale allows you to pull the stomach muscles in deeper
- Keep shoulders wide throughout the exercises, and all arm pulling actions are assisted from your lats
- When hands are behind your head, they are supporting the weight of your skull, not pulling on the neck. Let your head rest heavy in the basket of your hands, and your spine flexing forward is what produces your forward flexion and abdominal curve
- Start with just a few repetitions of each exercise and work up to the full series
- Take breaks between each exercise as needed until you build up strength and endurance
I hope you enjoy this sequence and find it as a helpful tool for your movement practice. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or if you’re interested in doing one-on-one training to practice, I train students virtually and sessions can be booked on my booking site.