4 Exercises That Activate Your Lower Abs With A Pilates Ball
The lower abdominals often get a bad rep for being ridiculously hard-to-reach muscles. However, there are a number of different exercises that home in on this muscle group, especially in Pilates, which really focuses on building a completely strong core (lower abs included!).
For a workout that emphasizes those lower abs, we reached out to Pilates instructor and creator of B The Method Lia Bartha. Bartha's method is Pilates-based, and she shared a number of lower abs moves from her signature style. The best part: You can do every one of her exercise recommendations from home. (P.S.: mindbodygreen's co-founder and co-CEO Colleen Wachob swears by Bartha's low-impact routines that are equal parts toning and strength-building.)
Do all four of the moves below back-to-back for a focused lower abs workout at home. Alternatively, keep them in the back of your mind to sprinkle into other routines. For equipment, you'll need a Pilates ball, but if you don't have one handy, Bartha says you can also use a firm pillow (or a pillow folded in half). Whatever you use, get ready to strengthen your lower abs.
Supported lower-back marching.
The Pilates ball underneath your lower back in this move adds extra support and helps keep the spine in neutral as you target those lower abs.
How to: Begin seated on the ground with knees bent at 90 degrees, feet flat on the floor, and a slight hinge in your hips. Place the Pilates ball under your lower back. Raise your arms in air and hold. Without tucking or arching your spine, lightly pressed up on the ball using your abdominals for support. Keeping your heels energetically pulling back toward your glutes, and legs bent at 90 degrees, lift one foot off the ground until your shin is parallel to the floor. Try to "turn off" the hip flexors and quads as you lift your leg, allowing the abdominals to control the movement. Return to start. That's one rep. Complete 3 sets of 5 reps per leg.
Tabletop marching with neck support.
This option is a fantastic lower abs exercise for anyone recovering from diastasis recti or scoliosis spinal surgery. Plus, it's perfect if you're learning to become familiar with the neutral pelvis.
How to: Lie down on the ground and place the ball under the nape of your neck like a pillow. Bend your elbows and place hands around either side of the ball. Bring your legs to a tabletop position. Then, keeping both knees bent at 90 degrees, dip one leg toward the floor. Then return to start. Keep your spine and pelvis neutral, and allow the abdominals to control the movement. Don't lower your leg so far that your back arches. That's one rep. Complete 3 sets of 5 reps per leg.
Open chest marching.
Using the ball between your shoulder blades is another good lower abs exercise if you have weaker core muscles and you're just starting to become familiar with the neutral pelvis. It's also helpful for anyone who has had scoliosis spinal surgery.
How to: Lie down on the ground with knees bent at 90 degrees, feet flat on the floor. Place the ball between your shoulder blades, keep your chest lifted, and place your arms behind your head. Keep your neck relaxed and spine neutral. With your legs still bent at 90 degrees, lift one foot off the ground until your shin is parallel with the floor. Lower it down with control to start. That's one rep. Complete 3 sets of 5 reps per leg.
Stability neutral pelvis marching.
If you have a bony tailbone in need of a little extra support, this one's for you. It's also great if you have tight shoulders or already know how to find a neutral pelvis.
How to: Lie on the ground and place the ball directly under your tailbone (not your lower back). Keep your spine straight, making sure the abdominals don't slouch down to the floor, and lift legs up to a tabletop position. Make sure your shoulders and head are relaxed, and rest arms on either side of your torso. Keeping both knees bent at 90 degrees, lower one leg toward the floor until your foot hovers a few inches off the ground. Return to start. That's one rep. Complete 3 sets of 5 reps per leg.
Lia Bartha is a certified classically trained Pilates Instructor of over 10 years, based in New York City. Born in Hawaii with scoliosis, she was introduced to Pilates while working a corporate that took a major toll on her back. It didn't take long for her entire perspective on fitness to change forever, thanks to private Pilates instruction. And two kids later, she also started to understand the need for functional strength and a strong pelvic floor.
Bartha realized exercising needed to be more than just how it made you look on the outside. It needed to be meditative and releasing, while also lengthening and toning the body. She created and developed B The Method to help people look a little deeper inside themselves, mentally and physically, and tap into a deeper layer of the body to strengthen and lengthen, starting from the inside.