It is almost officially springtime! That means all of us will start to wear less clothing. To some of us, that is something we may look forward too. Others not so much and it may be because they are uncomfortable with their body.
I know that when I talk to people as an instructor, I often ask what they (clients) want me to target. With women, the most popular answers include abdominals, hips, butt, and triceps. Men typically say abdominals as well. If you think about it, these responses are all about appearance. But hey if that is your initial motivator, that is fine…read on.
So with that being said, I wanted to share with you an exercise that in my opinion really works the core especially the oblique muscles like nothing else I personally have ever experienced. It is a Pilates based exercise that is performed on the Reformer. Yes, I said Pilates!
Pilates Reformer Side Crunch:
If you can get your body on a Reformer, you’ll soon learn exactly what I mean when I say that it makes those oblique muscles fire up like nothing else. Once you have a Reformer handy, you’ll want to place a “box” on top of the carriage in what is known at a “short box” configuration. (Box is placed width wise on the carriage with one end up over the shoulder blocks.
1. Sit on top of the box facing the springs with your feet on the carriage. Next, pick a side to work on, let’s start with facing the left side of the room which means you’ll pivot your body right and lay down on your right hip. Sit up and draw in your bottom (right) leg as you sit on that hip. As you do this, you’ll want to lean down and place your right hand on the head rest. The top leg should be your left. Next, you’ll want to hook your left foot in a strap (around your ankle) that is located next to the spring bar and springs. Flex your foot big time or you will not be secure!
2. Release your right hand from the head rest. Sit upright. Place both hands on your head. Lengthen first then lower/side crunch into the Reformer frame. Trust your flexed foot that is in the strap! Lift up back to the starting position. Do 6 – 8 reps.
3. Switch sides.
4. NOTE ON QUANTITY: Pilates is different from other exercise formats in that there are “few” repetitions. Instead, with Pilates, we use all the muscles simultaneously but we are constantly switching up movements or exercises which sync together in a flowing manner. Think quality not quantity and as such this is how Pilates builds endurance.
Tell me if that is not intense or what! I really feel that if you could do these regularly, you definitely wouldn’t have “Love Handles.” (I don’t know why they call them that. Who actually loves them?) Definitely do note that many muscles are being used to assist with this exercise. It is not just the oblique muscles at work.
I take Pilates Reformer once a week. I’d love to take it more often but it is actually quite expensive. So instead, I’m saving up to buy my own reformer so I can practice what I’ve learned throughout the week as much as I’d like. I’ve read that Pilates is most beneficial if you can do it a few times a week. (Any of you who own your reformers, please share where you purchased yours from and how you like it).
Another way to target those Oblique Muscles/Love Handles:
Maybe you need to work your way up to the Reformer Side Crunch or maybe you don’t have access to a reformer. This is the closest exercise that I can come up with that sort of mimics the Reformer version. All you need is one of those Stability Balls/Swiss Balls and a wall.
1. Place your ball near a wall. Get on the ball and lay sideways. Anker your feet against the wall with the top leg in front (making a triangle). Once you are secure, place your hands on your head.
2. Lengthen first. Next, lower your head and torso over the ball for your side crunch. Slowly come up and return to your starting position. Do 6-8 reps.
3. Change sides.
4. NOTE: As you gain strength, you can move your feet away from the wall or you can extend your arms overhead to lengthen your lever making it more challenging. After you master lengthening your level, try holding a small playground ball or one of those Bender or Spri Balls.
Of course, these shouldn’t be the only exercises that you do for your core. You should do several others. You can check out my blog “Flat, Beautiful Abs and Nice Strong Core” that I wrote in January 2013, a mat Pilates class, or a Reformer class.
Wishing you wonderful results,