I'm a personal trainer who's certified in Pilates, but I first discovered the popular workout while searching for relief for my low-back issues. Pilates focuses the deep abdominal muscles, including the ones that support the spine. Not only is this effective for helping with back pain issues like mine, but it’s great for building core strength and toning your midsection.
This 5-minute routine contains some of the exact exercises that I do every morning to keep my abs tight and toned and my core strong. Because these exercises focus on the smaller abdominal muscles, you can perform this routine every day. (When you exercise larger muscles, like the quads in squats, it’s advised to take a day off from those exercises to allow the larger muscles to recover.)
When performing Pilates and core work, be sure to focus on your breath: breathe in through the nose and blow out through the mouth. You’ll exhale on the exertion of each exercise. This is a great way to incorporate mindfulness into your workout by connecting your breath with each movement. Whether you’re trying to tighten and tone your waistline or you’re battling back pain yourself, this 5-minute abs and core routine is for you.
5-minute abdominal workout
Learn to activate your core at the deepest layer with this exercise. Lying on your back on a mat, bend your knees and place your feet flat on the ground. Make sure your feet are open as wide as your hips. Reach your arms down towards your feet and let them rest on the mat. Take a deep breath in and fill your stomach up. Feel your low back arch slightly off of the ground. Then exhale as you tilt your pelvis forward and press your low back into the ground. Pull your naval in towards your spine as if you’re zipping into a tight pair of pants. Release and repeat 10 times.
Pilates Ab Crunch
This exercise will feel more like a traditional crunch, but you’ll feel it deeper in the transverse abdominis (the muscle right above your pubic bone) instead of just superficially in the rectus abdominis. Come into the pelvic tilt position from the exercise above. From this tilted position, with your low back pressed into the ground, place your hands behind your head. Exhale as you curl up with your head, neck and chest. Pretend that you’re holding an egg in between your chin and your chest and you don’t want to crack it. Then gently pulse up 10 times, and rest.
Train your core to engage from the very bottom of the abs to the very top with this exercise. To begin, lie on your back with your head resting on the floor. Keep your arms straight at your sides with your palms on the floor and bend your knees so that your ankles are directly under your knees. Slowly raise your hips towards the ceiling by curling up your lower back, middle back and then upper back. Once you’re up in the air, take a deep breath in. Then, exhale as you slowly roll down one vertebra at a time. Repeat 10 times.
Ab Curl Hollow Hold
Work the entire core, including the muscles along the spine, during this exercise. Lying flat on your back, start with your arms and legs reaching straight up towards the ceiling. Then exhale as you pull your naval in towards your spine, and slowly lower the arms behind you and the legs in front of you. Lower the arms and legs as low as you can without allowing your low back to arch! Hold this for 10 seconds, then come back to the starting position. Repeat 10 times.
Standing Side Crunch
Work the side of your core and waist while standing with this exercise. Stand up with your feet hip-distance apart and hold one dumbbell in each hand. Reach your right arm towards the ceiling, and let you left hang by your side. Tilt your pelvis so that your low back is not arching and your naval is pulling in towards your spine. Then crunch the right elbow down and bring the right knee up towards the elbow. This is working the right side waist. Repeat this 10 times on the right, and then switch to the left side.
Standing Diagonal Cross
Work the internal and external obliques with this exercise. Holding one dumbbell with both hands, reach your arms up together towards the left upper corner of the room, and step your right foot out to the right. Then, pull the dumbbell down towards your right knee as you bring the right knee diagonally across the body to meet the weight in the center. Touch the hands to the right knee, and then place the right foot back down and the arms back up to the left. Repeat this 10 times, and then switch sides.
More ab routines
- How to lose weight and get the chiseled six pack abs of your dreams
- A 31-day abdominal workout plan for summer — no crunches required
- 2-in-1 exercises that will tone your arms and abs
- 10 core exercises that are better for your back (and body) than crunches
- A one-month workout routine to strengthen your core and relieve back pain