This exercise works the trunk flexors, first using the deep stabilizing pelvic floor and abdominal muscles and then the obliques to pull the rib cage up off the mat. It is the nuts-and-bolts of any sit-up or abdominal exercise in which we are flexing the trunk. If we want to strengthen the muscles correctly, we must make sure we engage those deep abdominals first.
Start Position: Lie on your back with knees flexed and your feet in line with your hips. Keep your arms down at your sides.
- Inhale: Nod your head slightly to position your head safely.
- Exhale: First, gently contract your deep abdominals by sinking your belly button down to the floor. Then move your rib cage and head off the mat by using your abdominal oblique muscles. Feel your rib cage slide down toward your hip bones.
- Inhale: Hold this position.
- Exhale: Return to your starting position.
Alternative positions: Place your hands behind your head. This increases the weight that your abdominals are lifting, making the exercise more challenging. This alternative position is also good to support the head if your neck gets tired.
Common Form Mistakes:
- Poor stabilization at your deep abdominals: You will see the more superficial abdominal muscles “pooch” or “pop” in the air. We need the stabilization muscles to be strong to support our low back and pelvis.
- Pulling head and/or elbows forward: This can strain the neck, and it takes away the workout for those deep neck flexor muscles—also important stabilizers.
- Butt tucking: Over-squeezing your gluteals tends to tuck your pelvis underneath you and excessively flatten your back.
- Rounding shoulders: This causes tension in the neck and shoulders.
“Exercises: Ab Prep.” STOTT Pilates Comprehensive Matwork Manual. 2006 ed. Toronto: Merrithew, 2001. 30. Print.