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A Pilates Sequence for Building a Strong Core

Experience this creative spin on a classic workout that'll increase flexibility and strength in the front and back body.

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Contributing Writer

Pilates is a method of functional exercise involving deep core work. A strong, balanced core is essential for proper form and beautiful posture. This is an integrated series which focuses on contraction and elongation of the abdominal muscles. When the center is strong and flexible, the body will feel a new sense of freedom and balance.

Warm Up

This series of postures will help warm the body and prepare it for even deeper work to come. Before you start working your core, make sure the entire body is awake and ready. Take the time to center yourself, breathe well, and shift your awareness inward.

Child’s Pose


Bring the big toes to touch, with the knees apart, the sitz bones reaching to the heels, and arms extended fully forward.



Make sure the shoulders are over the wrists. Keep the legs engaged and lower belly pulling in. The side-waists are long and firm.

Downward Dog


Straighten the arms and legs. Lengthen the side body toward the hips.

Move back to Child’s Pose. Repeat this sequence three times, flowing from pose to pose, taking three deep breaths through the nose in each position. 

Related: A Core-Strengthening Yoga Sequence


Standing Roll-Up

This sequence will start to activate the connection between the abdominals and the spine creating a balanced core. In order to get the most out of these exercises, pay close attention to the integration of the front and back body. Start and end in a Downward-Facing Dog, and repeat this series at least three times.

Standing Forward Bend


From Downward Dog, walk your hands back toward the legs, with the hands wider than the mat and the feet hip-width apart. Press your heels down to engage your legs, letting the head and spine release. 

Roll Up

8C2A7159Move slowly, one vertebrae at a time.

Stand Up

8C2A7161Reach the arms straight up to the ceiling in line with the ears.

Chair Pose 8C2A7163

Bend the legs and sit back, keeping weight in the heels.

Full Extension


Reach the arms up overhead, straightening the legs, keeping the glutes and core actively working and engaged.

Roll Forward

Roll down the same way you came up: one vertebrae at a time.


Walk out into a Plank Pose, hold for three deep breaths, and then pick up the hips shifting back into Downward Dog to repeat the sequence at least two more times.

If you would like to go one step further, add a Side Plank to both sides before coming back to Downward Dog.

Side Plank


Be sure the whole outer edge of the foot is  firmly pressed into the mat. Engage the legs.

Related: A Yoga Sequence to Balance the Body


Half Roll-Down  

This exercise will help you find a deeper connection to your abdominals. Draw your abs in to maintain your shape every step of the way.



With knees bent and feet flat, sit right on top of your sitz bones. Lift the sides of the body and extend your arms straight ahead .

Halfway Back


Round the spine, bringing the lower back to touch the mat.

Roll up and down four times, keeping the arms straight. Then lower the body further down toward the ground, so just the shoulder blades hover. From this position (see below), return to upright and repeat four times here.

Shoulder Blades Hover

8C2A7187 8C2A7190

The Roll-Up

This is a whole-body exercise. The roll-up works deep core muscles while improving mobility of the spine and stretching your hamstrings.

Lie Flat


With legs together and fully extended, and heels pressing into the mat, lift arms to ceiling, keeping the abdomen engaged.

Full-Body Reach


As the legs stretch forward, stretch the arms back. Extend the body in two directions.

Roll Up8C2A7194

Keep the head in line with the spine and roll up slowly.

8C2A7196 Reach the arms all the way forward and lengthen the back of the neck.

8C2A7198 Engage the abdominals rolling down one bone at a time with control. 8C2A7200

With control, lower all the way back down toward the ground. Repeat six times.

Rolling Like a Ball

This exercise demands abdominal control in order to create stability as you rock and roll.


Bring the heels together and the knees apart. Hold onto ankles, lift feet off mat and balance, looking toward the belly.   


Rock back to tips of shoulder blades, and repeat four times.

Rolling Like a Ball Teaser Variation 

This exercise requires core strength, stability and balance.

Start with arms and legs extended.


Bend your legs. Rock back to the tips of shoulder blades and then rock back up, extending arms and legs and engaging the core. Repeat four times.


Extension Series

It’s important to lengthen the abdominals after they’ve been contracted. Through these extension exercises the back muscles, which work directly with the core muscles, will be utilized and then released.


8C2A7295Press the tops of the feet into the floor, and line up the hands with the ribs.

8C2A7297Press palms into mat and extend your chest forward and up. Lower back down, and repeat three times.

8C2A7300Extend arms and legs back and lift away from mat. Stretch legs back and chest forward. Repeat three times.


Swan Dive

Start with chest reaching forward, tops of the feet pressing down into the earth. Inhale to press  the chest all the way up, as far as is comfortable. 8C2A7303On an exhale kick your legs all the way up, diving the chest forward and bending the elbow for support.

8C2A7305Repeat five times, rocking between the positions. 8C2A7318Finish in Child’s Pose. Allow the breath to relax and touch the entire body.



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