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7 Pilates Ab Workouts that Work Your Core

April 03, 2022 6 min read

Building a stronger core provides numerous benefits, including better posture, less joint pain, fewer headaches, and even a larger breathing capacity.

If you’re looking to generate a strong core, there is no better workout regimen than Pilates ab exercises, completed at least two to three times a week.

Unbeknownst to many bodybuilders, many common core exercises, including planks, toe taps, and the teaser hold, are inspired by Pilates ab workouts.

However, utilizing Pilates ab exercises works deeper core muscles that most conventional lifting programs ignore and often provides a full-body workout. In addition, using a Pilates reformer machine will provide even faster results and can be used to increase strength conditioning.

While almost all Pilates workouts already target your core in some capacity, dozens of specific Pilates ab workouts can help you achieve a six-pack and neutral spinal alignment.

That’s why we've created this list of our seven favorite Pilates ab exercises and how you can take these up a notch with the help of a Pilates reformer machine.

How Pilates Reformer Exercises Target Your Core

Unlike traditional mat Pilates, a Pilates reformer adds resistance to workouts to achieve a deeper muscle burn. For example, Pilates machine springs can be set to different tensions to affect how much resistance your carriage will provide through the workout.

This resistance is unique to a Pilates reformer. Unlike weight machines that require initial resistance to push the machine in motion, resistance tends to fade away as you push the machine forward.

So, for example, if you were doing a cable row, you would experience the highest resistance trying to pull the cable from the starting position but would experience less resistance keeping the cable in constant motion.

However, with a Pilates reformer machine, resistance increases the further you push the carriage inward or outward. If you were performing kneeling abdominals, you would feel a greater burn as you push your knees to your chest because spring resistance would also increase.

This added resistance targets abdominal muscles more deeply and the core more completely.

In addition, high-end Pilates equipment for home, ranging from a chair to a Pilates tower, enables you to work a wide range of core muscle groups by adding new dynamics to workouts.

With that in mind, let’s discuss seven amazing Pilates ab exercises you could take from the mat to the reformer machine for massive results.

7 Amazing Pilates Ab Exercises on a Reformer Machine

1. The Hundred

Perhaps one of the most challenging exercises to get started with, the Hundred is also one of the most rewarding. This was the first warmup exercise in Joseph Pilates's personal fitness routine.

  • Start with your spine supine, and your knees bent at a 90-degree angle. 
  • Reach straight up to grab hold up the straps and then fully extend your arms forward and hold them at your side. In this position, you’ll want to assume a crunch position with your chest bent slightly forward and extend your legs straight at a 45-degree angle. 
  • Hold this position with your arms slightly elevated, and then pump them up and down for 100 reps. Breathe in through your nose and out using counts of five. 
  • Maintain a proper position throughout and repeat.

Ideally, this workout should target your lower and upper abdominal muscles, in addition to triceps, quadriceps, and hamstrings.

Don’t be discouraged if you can’t reach 100 reps; it may take lots of practice to reach this experience level.

2. Reverse Crunches

The reverse crunch is an amazing lower core exercise, and you can even target your obliques by going from side to side!

  • Assume a crunch position, with your chest slightly tilted up, and your legs bent at a 90-degree angle. The shoulder rests should be touching the back of your thigh.
  • Place the straps around the middle of your thighs and brace your core to pull your knees toward your chest. Feel the resistance from your lower abdominal core as you overcome resistance from the springs.

Adjust your springs for higher or lower resistance to achieve a deeper burn.

3. Roll Up

There are plenty of variations of this exercise. Still, one advantage the Pilates reformer offers is utilizing the rollup and roll down to target core and lower back muscles in one fluid motion.

  • Position your feet on the foot bar, lying flat with your arms stretched straight over your head and your spine in a supine position. 
  • Lean forward with your arms stretched ahead and your chin tucked into your chest, using your core to lift your body until your arms are outstretched and touching your feet.

With a Cadillac Reformer, you can use the tower and straps to keep your arms straight and perform a roll down at the top of your motion.

4. Kneeling Abdominals

This exercise is pretty simple and great for beginners.

  • Assume a cow pose like you would in yoga and place the front of your knees against the shoulder rests. 
  • Remaining in that position, exhale and pull your knees toward your chest, bracing your core and feeling that burn in your lower core. Make sure you only use your arms to steady the carriage and not to push it forward.

5. Leg Circles

Leg circles are a favorite exercise of every Pilates class and can be taken up a notch with a reformer.

  • Lie down with your spine flat, palms facing downward, and your feet secured to the overhead straps.
  • Raise your legs to a complete 90-degree angle with your spine. 
  • Spread your legs fully open, feeling a slight burn in your hip abductor.
  • Extend your legs forward and then push them back together once fully extended forward. The carriage should move backward as you extend your legs forward, and you should complete a full circular motion with your legs.

This exercise provides core strength and targets abductors, quadriceps, and hamstrings.

6. Teaser

The teaser has tons of variations, but this Pilates ab exercise provides great thoracic engagement and helps with lower back issues.

  • Lie flat on your back with your legs extended forward at a 45-degree angle and your arms extended fully downward at a perfect 90-degree angle to your spine. You will grab hold of the straps in the palm of your hands. 
  • Inhale and pull your arm forward with the straps in hand, almost like you are doing a bicep curl until your arms are extended forward with your palms open just above your knees. 
  • Allow your back and chest to lift forward into a 45-degree angle with your pelvis and hold this position, keeping your legs still the entire time.
  • Exhale and allow your arms to fall to your side slowly and your back to slowly fall flat.

This exercise is similar to the plank and provides a deep and satisfying abdominal burn.

7. Planks

There are seemingly infinite plank variations you can do with a carriage that add a whole new dynamic to traditional Pilates ab workouts.

Here, we’ll do a side plank on a Pilates reformer.

  • Facing one side of the carriage, steady your body using your lower forearm, which will run perpendicular to your chest. 
  • Place your lower foot on the rear shoulder strap and your higher foot on the front strap, which is the way you are facing.
  • Extend your body fully, placing your free arm straight up in the air, and create a bridge with your core, which will form a slight angle at your hip.
  • Hold this position for an allotted time, such as thirty seconds to one minute, and then pull the carriage in.


Pilates ab workouts strengthen your core and help straighten out your posture to relieve pain.

Best of all, there are plenty of Pilates ab workouts specifically targeted to your core to achieve these benefits and a six-pack.

In addition, by upgrading to a Pilates reformer machine, Pilates Reformer with a Tower, or any other piece of high-end equipment, you can target deeper muscle groups and achieve better flexibility and breathing control in the process. Pilates reformer machines also help people maintain proper form to get the most out of their workouts.

For the top-rated Pilates reformer home machines on the market, browse our wide selection and contact a representative today.


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