This Pilates-flow sequence is a mat-based session focusing on
smooth, flowing movements using core control for stability, combined with a
relaxed breathing pattern. Slower is generally better so that you can concentrate
on each part of every move rather than rushing ahead without control.
When we did this in class we practiced each move on its own
before adding it into our flow sequence – you might like to break it down like
that at home or if you are familiar with the moves, you may prefer to go
straight into the sequence. All the moves are done in a supine (lying face-up)
position. You may like to have a folded towel or a cushion to support the back
of the head.
Begin by spending a few minutes grounding and settling into
your breath, letting go of your day and connecting with how your body feels in
I’ve added different sequence options below – sequence 1 has the more basic moves, sequence 2 has a mixture of basic with some options and sequence 3 has all the optional extras.
Here are your 5 basic moves:
alternate knee lifts (starting in relaxation position) > option to progress to alternate knee lifts coming into table top position by lifting and then lowering one foot at a time
abdominal curls (starting in relaxation position) > option to add oblique twist
knee rolling (starting in relaxation position with feet and knees close together) > option to bring top foot off the floor OR start in table top position with both feet off the floor
alternate leg slide (starting in relaxation position) > option to add leg abduction (thigh moves out to side with no rotation)
shoulder bridge (start with feet hip width or wider and close to your bottom) > option to change to single leg shoulder bridge
How to create your sequence:
sequence 1: knee lift (single leg) – hold – abdominal curl – oblique twist towards the leg – uncurl – lower leg – repeat on other side – knee rolling with feet on the floor – alternate leg slide – shoulder bridge – start again
sequence 2: alternate knee lift into table top – hold – abdominal curl – oblique twist x each way– uncurl – lower legs one at a time – knee rolling with feet on the floor – alternate leg slide with abduction – shoulder bridge – start again
sequence 3: alternate knee lift into table top – hold – abdominal curl – oblique twist x each way– uncurl – knee rolling with legs in table top position – alternate leg extension with abduction – lower legs one at a time – single leg shoulder bridge x each side – start again
I haven’t specified number of repetitions so that you can add
as many or as few as you want. You can of course also do as many or as few of
the different moves as you want – if there’s one that you don’t like, miss it
out because life is short!!
You can see me doing each of the three sequences here:
You can print this Pilates-flow sequence as a pdf here
(PS let me know if you’re not sure what any of the moves are & as always, check with your health care professional if you are unsure whether these exercises are suitable for your body right now)
Possibly the most common question I get asked is along the
lines of: ‘how can I get a flat tummy?’ or ‘what exercises will make my tummy
smaller?’ so with that in mind I’ve recently been using some core-focused
workouts with PT clients and in my HI-LI fitness circuit class, and I thought
it might be something you would like to try out at home.
I’ve filmed the exercises, to go with the notes below, or you can find a pdf version (which includes the video links) here.
Before I go into the exercises, it is important to mention
that there are many things that can affect the appearance and function of our
tummy/abdominal wall, including:
The tilt of your pelvis has probably the biggest influence on
the look and feel of your belly.
In a neutral pelvis position, there will be a supporting
length & tension in the muscles and other soft tissues in the front and the
back of the body. When the pelvis habitually tips forward into an anterior tilt
(shown above), the soft tissues in body will lose this ideal synergy resulting
an increased lordosis in the lumbar spine, with shortened
and tight muscles in the lumbar area, the front of the hips and the front of
added pressure from the internal organs which are also
tilted forward causing a protruding belly & lengthened and weakened muscles
in the abdomen and backs of the thighs
There are many factors which can contribute to an anterior tilt, and it is often not enough to simply create a conscious tilt in the opposite direction. Massage, stretching and the use of trigger point balls may be needed to address the imbalance, along with improved postural awareness and appropriate, well-executed abdominal exercises.
It is well-documented that stress hormones can cause your
body to store belly fat and it therefore stands to reason that managing your
long-term stress levels can make a positive difference. Activities such as
leisure walking, sleeping, going off-line, spending time with people we love
and restorative exercise (eg Pilates, yoga, stretching, meditation) can all
play a pivotal role in our total well-being & they are definitely something
to consider if you think that stress might be contributing to your unwanted
tummy. For more on this subject read here.
It goes without saying that what you are eating will play a
part! If you are feeding your body with poor or inappropriate nutrition, or you
have uncontrolled dietary issues that causing bloating & distension of the
tummy wall, no amount of exercise is going to be the solution. Be honest with
yourself about your eating habits and seek professional help from your GP or a
nutritionist if you have concerns in this area.
Of course there may be other issues to consider so please seek
appropriate advice if you think it is what you need. Once you have ruled out
and addressed any issues, here are some exercise suggestions that may be
helpful in strengthening your core muscles.
As usual, start with a few
minutes of simple mobilisations and warm-up movements before you begin the
exercises; if you are adding these exercises on at the end of a general
workout, you will already be warm to start with.
NB not all the exercises I have included are going to be right for every body.
Pick up the exercises at the level that is right for you at the moment – harder is only better if your body can support the extra load; easier is often the best place to start. I will show various options and use different equipment – please decide what is best for you (ie best for you = the one you can do without compromising the integrity of your tummy wall).
Rest when you no longer feel
that the exercise is working the right area of your body (eg. if your legs feel
like they are doing all the work or your neck muscles are feeling tense). And
don’t do anything that doesn’t feel right for you.
Upright kneeling front raise – kneel on
something comfortable, tuck the toes under and lengthen the spine; avoid moving
backwards as you lift your arms; think of keeping a connection between the ribs
and the pelvis throughout the movement; breathe
Kneeling or incline push-up – use an
incline position against a wall or kitchen worktop or come to the floor in a
box or ¾ position; maintain a long spine and neutral pelvis throughout; breathe
out as you come back to the start
Shoulder bridge hold with arm extension – keep a
connection between the ribs and the pelvis (ie. avoid lifting the ribs to the
ceiling as the arms go overhead); take the shoulder bridge away if you need to;
Side plank – choose the best variation for
your body; maintain a long spine and neutral pelvis throughout; avoid holding
V-sit hold or pulse – you want to feel your
sit-bones sinking into the mat whilst keeping a long spine and neutral pelvis
throughout; avoid holding your breath; legs, neck & shoulders need to stay
relaxed & free of tension
Supine running legs OR leg scissors – lie
face-up with legs bent and feet flat on the floor; find a neutral spine; bring
the legs into a table-top, lifting one leg at a time and maintaining neutral
spine (you can imprint the spine if you need more stability); control the size
and speed of your movements so that you can maintain stability through the
torso; change to a single leg variation if necessary
Supine leg circles – lie face-up with legs
bent and feet flat on the floor; find a neutral spine; extend the legs to the
ceiling, lifting one leg at a time and maintaining neutral spine (you can
imprint the spine if you need more stability); control the size and speed of
your movements so that you can maintain stability through the torso; change to
a single leg variation if necessary
Watch me doing all of the moves here (with apologies for the slightly mad hair this morning!):
I added some afterthoughts on push-ups here:
As always, find exercises which are suitable for your body
& please ask if you have any questions at all
(this workout is aimed at regular tmf clients but it is
generally suitable for everyone; however, if you are new to exercise, recently
post-natal, or have any health concerns
please seek medical advice or professional guidance before embarking on a new