One of the things that you can do with your Pilates practice is to create a flat belly. It’s not the only reason why you should do Pilates; but with exercises like the double leg stretch you can’t help but strengthen your core muscles and flatten your tummy.
This exercise is a challenge, I will not lie to you about that. It takes some concentration, abdominal muscle endurance and an excellent grasp of your perfect Pilates posture. Once you get into it you will recognise that this flat belly generating exercise builds on previous exercises where you lie on your back and move your limbs around as the basis of the workout.
Start creating the flat belly
Go into your imprinted spine, flex your upper back off the mat; think about how you are using your abs to help to curl your shoulder blade area off the mat (picking up your head as you go). When you take your left and right shins to the ceiling, make sure that you are still in your neutral spine, with your lower back against the mat. I know that I should not have to say it, but don’t forget your basics (pulling the belly button to the back of the waist, keeping the core and powerhouse muscles engaged) Inhale here and prepare to work.
The next part of this exercise is hard, so be mindful of what you are doing. Send your arms overhead, towards the corner of the ceiling, at the same time send your legs towards the front of the room. Try not to lower the legs too much, but remember that lowering the legs a bit will challenge your abs and work towards flattening that belly. Circle the arms to come back to the start position, at the same time bring the legs back, bending the knees to the start position.
Make sure that you don’t take your arms too far back, this could result in you rolling your head and upper back towards the mat. If that happens we have lost the flat belly element of the exercise, because the abs are not longer curling the upper back of the mat. Remember to keep your chin down, look at your belly button perhaps as a way to remember to keep those abs working to keep your upper back in place.
To ensure that flat belly exercise work, remember to keep contracting the abdominal muscles throughout the exercise, imagine you are balancing a heavy pile of books on your belly and don’t let the books fall off by letting your belly billow like a balloon inflating.
Once you have got the basic movement and are sure that you are making use of your Pilates foundations, you can think about things like pointing the toes and creating a beautiful straight line from finger tips to toe nails.
Feeling stronger after a while? Test the strength of the core muscles by taking the arms a little further back and the legs a little lower.
For full belly flattening performance, what should this exercise look like?
Arms move past head as if you are taking off a hat. Hands come past the legs as if you were pulling up socks. For more on what the exercise should look like, watch the exercise video.
For full belly flattening performance, what should this exercise feel like?
You should be generating a lot of heat and feeling super fit as you lengthen arms and legs away from your core.
When I am doing this I remember that I have to not get carried away, swinging the arms and legs around. Instead, we keep our Pilates vibe, working with grace and control throughout the exercise.
Be fit. Be well. Be happy.