When I first started out as a Pilates instructor, my clients would tell me that although they felt their strength, function and tone were greatly improving, they noticed their waistlines were getting thicker.
How could this be? How could Pilates, the king of core conditioning, be bulking up my clients' belt size? What was I doing as a teacher to widen their waistbands? Desperate to solve this problem, I looked at the mechanics of the core and how I could create strength without increasing diameter.
Pilates works the core in four biomechanical dimensions:
- Flexion: a curling forward of the spine
- Extension: an arching backward of the spine
- Rotation: a twisting motion of the spine around its axis
- Lateral flexion: a side-bending of the spine
As I watched my clients perform these movements, I noticed that extreme side-bending (lateral flexion) produced a bulging out of the stomach wall. Because I wasn't maintaining length in my clients' core during their side-bending exercises, I was adding unwanted inches to their waist. So I reduced the amount of side-bending exercises I taught in each session and cued my clients to reach long, prohibiting the "crunching" motion that shortened their lateral fibers.
I was giddy to have solved the mystery of why my clients were gaining girth, but I dug deeper to find the tools to help my clients lose inches around their waist, to uncover the secret to creating a small, sleek and super strong midsection.
There is a common Pilates cue that goes, "Exhale and squeeze your abdominals as if you're wringing water out of a washcloth." I ruminated on this and realized that the most effective way to wring out a cloth is not to merely squeeze it, but to twist it. Twisting makes the center of the washcloth long, tight and narrow. So why not try the same thing on the core?
Spinal rotation promoted greater flexibility, developed definition in the oblique muscles and quickly shrunk my clients' waistlines!
5 Twisting Moves For A Slimmer Waistline
Photo by Katrina Wittkamp
1. Reclining Knee Twist
Lean back on your forearms, curl the tailbone under and bring the legs into a tabletop position. Inhale and tilt the legs to one side as far as possible while maintaining your upper body form.
Exhale and "wring out" the waist, slowly drawing the knees back to center.
Repeat on other side. Do two sets of 10 (5x each side), resting between each set.
2. Scissor Criss Cross
Lay on your back, interlace your hands behind the head and curl the chest off the floor. Scissor the legs and twist the torso toward the upper leg, drawing the abs in deeply as you exhale.
Take a quick inhale as you scissor the legs the other direction, and exhale again as you twist the other way.
Repeat this alternating motion 10x, then rest and repeat.
3. Forearm Plank Twist
From a forearm plank, legs together, exhale and squeeze the abs in as you slowly rotate to the right side of the right foot, keeping both feet stacked and both elbows firmly on the floor. Inhale and return to center, then exhale and rotate the other direction.
Repeat 10x (five alternating rotations). Rest and repeat.
4. Side Plank Twist
From side plank, upper hand behind the head, inhale and twist the chest up toward the ceiling, then exhale and rotate the chest toward the floor.
Keep the pelvis still and the feet stacked (separate the feet if unstable). Do 5-8 reps per side. Rest and repeat.
5. Double Lunge Twist
Begin standing, hands behind head, right leg forward, left leg back. Exhale and bend both knees simultaneously as you twist the torso as far as possible to the right (toward the front leg).
Inhale, straighten the legs and return the torso to center. Do eight reps on each side, then rest and repeat.