Fortunately for my physical well-being, I discovered reformer Pilates last year, and it changed my damn life. I started going to a Pilates place called Studio Elevate in Los Angeles, which has dim lighting, chill vibes, knowledgeable instructors, and none of the cultish, intimidating atmosphere that often scares me away from L.A. workout classes. Pilates was the perfect workout for me. All you have to do is basically lie still on a medieval torture device–looking machine; wag your arms, legs, and torso around a little bit; and Bob's your uncle: The next morning, you wake up feeling like you got hit by a Greyhound bus (in a good way). After six months of going to Pilates just two to three times a week, I officially had abs—something my formerly sedentary existence would not have afforded me. No, it didn't give me a full-on six-pack or anything, but the abs are there for sure.
There were three abdominal exercises I did almost every class—and started to do at home on a yoga mat as well—which I am certain made the biggest difference in creating the muscle definition that is now visible around my midsection. (Spoiler: They don't include that torturous "hundreds" move most people picture when you mention "Pilates" and "abs" in the same sentence). These are easy Pilates moves for beginners that anyone can do at home. Allow me to demonstrate…
Side Plank Twist
1. Start in a side plank position with one foot crossed directly in from of the other and your side body at an angle in a straight line (you shouldn't be sinking into your bottom shoulder, and your butt shouldn't be dropped).
2. Fully extend your top arm into the air, and allow your gaze to follow it.
3. Curve your top arm forward and around under your torso, sticking your hand through the gap between your other arm and toes. The rest of your body—including your gaze—should twist around with it. As you do this, lift your hips up as high as they can go.
4. Reverse the twist so that you lower your hips back into a plank and open up your chest, arm, and hand back into the sky.
5. Repeat this motion for 60 seconds. Do the whole thing again on the other side.
1. For this one, you will need a five-pound weight. Start by sitting with your knees bent and your legs in "tabletop" position—meaning with your feet in the air, and your shins parallel with the floor. Hold the weight in both hands at chest level.
2. Lean back a little bit so that your torso is at a 45-degree angle from the floor (you should already feel this in your abs).
3. Keeping your feet pointed, rotate your torso to the right, keeping the weight at chest level, twisting from your low abs and back, as your legs drop slightly to the left. Go back to center. Rotate your torso to the left as your legs go slightly right. Return to center.
1. Start lying down on your back with your legs in tabletop and your hands supporting your head. Your elbows should be out in line with your ears (as opposed to in front of your face).
2. Crunch up halfway to the top, lifting your shoulder blades and chest off the ground. As you do, extend one leg out so it hovers above the ground, keeping the other in tabletop. While you do this, rotate your torso, neck, and head in the opposite direction of the extended leg, keeping them lifted. Try to rotate from the chest as opposed to the elbow.
3. Switch the leg and direction of your crunch, and repeat this from side to side. Use your core to keep yourself lifted as opposed to the momentum of rocking from side to side. Continue this move for 30 seconds.