Flat Abs – How Pilates Helps

Everyone wants the ideal stomach, the flat smooth abdominals that models sport in magazine ads that drive the rest of us to thoughts of “no one is that perfect.” Secretly, we want that. We want to look like that. But how do we accomplish such a daunting task?

The answer is Pilates. The main focus of Pilates is the core. Your core consists of your lower back muscles, the four layers of your abdominals, and the pelvic floor. Isn’t that convenient? Just the area you wanted to work on.

There are a few techniques used in Pilates that can translate into any other exercise you might be incorporating into your fitness program at the moment. These are easy to try out. The first is proper spinal alignment.

Proper spinal alignment is key to any exercise. If you lay on the floor, you will notice this alignment right away. The base of your tailbone sinks squarely into the floor. Moving up the spine, the lower back sits just off the mat in a slight curve. Further up the spine, the shoulders sink squarely into the floor. Then the neck comes off the floor, and the head rests heavily upon the mat. These are the natural curves of the spine.

By keeping the natural curves of the spine while you exercise, you are protecting your back as you work while improving your balance. It also helps to prevent jarring of the joints.

The other concept that is commonly used in Pilates is the teacup method. Different practitioners call it by different names, but the technique is still the same. Lying on your back with your feet on the floor, sense the natural curves of your spine. Take your hands and meet the tips of the thumbs and forefingers together creating a triangle. Keep all of the other fingers side by side.

You are going to take your triangle onto your lower abdominals. The fingers should line up nicely with the angle of your legs. The area in your triangle is your center. You should always strive to keep that area level as you exercise. The image that is commonly used is imagining balancing a teacup in the center of your triangle. The muscles should not protrude or sink in. It should stay level. One way to train your body to do this automatically when you exercise is to practice a little bit each day with the Pilates Bridge.

The Pilates Bridge is very similar to the Yoga Bridge. There are, however, a few exceptions. You start in the same position that you tested your teacup method. On the exhale you lift your tailbone off the mat just as high as is comfortable with your knees and legs zipped together. On the inhale, you release back done one vertebrae at a time. Repeat this as many times as you like. Make sure that you NEVER turn your head in Bridge pose as this can cause injury to the neck.

After you gain some comfort with this pose, you can leave your hands on your abdomen to keep monitoring your teacup. This method will help you to train the muscles to stay where they are needed to protect the back as you exercise along teaching that naughty tummy where it needs to be.