No More Crunches - Yoga & Pilates for Abs

A different way to strengthen your abs

Women doing Pilates
Getty Images/rolfo

When we think of working our abs, we often think of things like crunches and sit-ups. BORING. If you've just about had it with traditional ab exercises, why not take your abs to a whole new level? Yoga and Pilates are two great ways to strengthen your abs without doing even one crunch.

Yoga and Your Abs

Yoga is great for the abs and don't forget, it's also notorious for reducing stress and increasing flexibility.

Yoga can be relaxing, invigorating or downright hard, depending on which version you choose. One thing is clear, yoga works your abs. Here's how:

  • Posture - Yoga emphasizes proper posture which requires using your belly to support you during both seated and standing positions
  • Breathing - You'll use a type of belly-breathing to engage the ab muscles
  • Pelvic stabilization -Many poses require that you use your abs and back to keep your pelvic area in one place
  • Stamina - With some types of yoga, you hold poses for quite a long time, which means that your abs (and stabilizer muscles) get a great isometric workout!
  • Flexibility - The most notable side effect of yoga is, of course, more flexibility which can help prevent injuries and keep you feeling oh so good.

Yoga has so many benefits, it's a great idea to add yoga to your routine if you're not already doing it.  Just three times a week and you'll feel the benefits.

Pilates and Your Abs

Pilates and yoga are similar in that they are both mind/body activities with a focus on breathing and posture. However, Pilates is concerned with strengthening the body by engaging the muscles of the torso and lower body, so it's very dynamic.

Pilates is very focused on the core, making it the perfect exercise for working your abs, back and all the muscles of your torso.

Here's how:

  • Posture - Like yoga, proper posture is emphasized during standing and lying exercises.
  • Breathing -Again, breathing is an important part of Pilates in that you engage the abs to pull air in and out.
  • Pelvic stabilization - This is one of the more crucial parts of Pilates. The idea is to stabilize your pelvis, engage your abs and back while moving your arms and legs around in various ways (such as leg and arm circles). These are the more difficult Pilates movements and great for strengthening the core as well as the stabilizer muscles.
  • Abs and Back - Pilates has very specific exercises targeting the abs (and not a crunch in the bunch). The ab moves like the Hundred, the Roll Up and the Criss Cross engage every muscle in your torso to stabilize your body.
  • Endurance - Holding your body stable while doing various arm and leg motions will build muscular endurance and give you a new appreciation for your abs and back. 

Yoga and Pilates can be a refreshing addition to your usual routine and a great way to build core strength, flexibility, endurance and strength, making them important to add to any routine.

  They don't take the place of traditional cardio and strength training exercises, but they enhance and complement them, so you want to have all of those elements in place in your workout routine.  A balanced routine is one that hits all areas of fitness, not just burning calories.

Remember to focus on a well-rounded program to strengthen and condition your entire body and mind.

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