Feel the Burn, Tone the Tummy: Pilates Ab Workout

Pilates has become one of the most popular workout programs in the last few years and has proven to be an effective way to tone and work out your whole body.

Working your abs can be a challenge and using a workout program like Pilates is a great way to focus on this area.

Pilates is a great way to work and tone your body and this functional exercise gives you plenty of options for ab workouts as well. When you focus on your core, you’re able to improve every area of your life!

Pilates, Abs, and You

If Pilates is your chosen workout program, there are plenty of different moves that will end up targeting your core. Focusing on your core is one of the best ways to help and boost your overall health and wellness.

Pilates works and targets your core with every exercise.

Since Pilates focuses on using bodyweight movements to tone and work your entire body, you’ll be engaging your core, no matter what area you’re working! Even those small engagements of the muscle start toning and working it in a new and unique way.

When you want to focus exclusively on your core, Pilates is a great option to target the area.

You can create a workout routine and program that centers around your core in addition to the everyday Pilates programs that engage your core with each move.

The first result you’ll see when you’re doing Pilates regularly is a toned tummy and better posture. After focusing on Pilates for a while and your core in a more intense way, you’ll start to see definition in your abs.

Benefits of Pilates for your Core

Focusing on your core is one of the best things you can do for your health and an easy way to help with your posture, form with other moves, and balance and coordination in the long run.

Pilates focuses on your core with every move so you’ll engage your core and tone the whole area as you work the program.

By choosing Pilates moves that focus directly on your core, you’ll start by toning your tummy then creating definition on your abs. Defined abs aren’t always the best choice but Pilates will not just give you definition but will end up giving you some serious functional strength.

The Best Pilates Ab Workout

Instead of just working your abs and core willy-nilly, there are some dedicated moves you can do that will help you build that functional and toned strength.

You can mix and match each of these different workouts to create a program that works for you.

Over time, you’ll build up your core strength and tone your tummy!

Leg Circle

You’ll start this move by laying down on the ground on your back with your face toward the sky or ceiling.

You can opt for a yoga mat or other mat-like material to cushion you when you lay down! You’ll start with your arms by your sides with the palms facing down.

Bend your left knee up and put your left foot on the floor, flat. Extend your right leg until it’s completely perpendicular to the floor.

Start making circles with your right leg in the air moving out to the side, down toward the ground, and then returning to the starting position.

Keep these circles big and keep your core engaged before you reverse the circle. You’ll finish all the reps for one leg before transitioning over to the other one and repeating the same process.


This is a beginner-level exercise that will target your entire core area and leave your abs burning!

The focus of this move is on the abs with special targeting of your obliques which can often get overlooked when working your core area. This will eventually work toward defining your waist and giving you a good basis for any ab workout.

Start by laying on your back with a neutral spine then bend your knees bringing your shins up to be parallel to the floor.

Put your hands behind your head which will work to support your head and neck as you go through the move.

Keep your elbows wide then exhale to bring your abs into a deep scoop. Curl your chin and shoulders up off the mat to the base of your shoulder blades.

You’ll inhale as you put your body in a full curve pulling your abs down toward your spine and your legs into a tabletop position.

As you exhale reach one leg out in front and rotate your torso toward your bent right knee. Repeat this for each side through the completion of your reps and sets.

Scissor Kick

You’ll start on the ground facing up then extend your right leg until it’s perpendicular to the floor.

Bring your hands behind your leg pulling it toward your face before curling your head up as you lift your other leg off the floor a few inches.

You’ll then switch legs and repeat the process. Switch legs throughout the sets to complete your workout.


Start this move on your back facing up toward the ceiling with your arms extended down at your sides.

You’ll then bend your knees over your hips and lift your feet up and off the mat. You’ll let both bended knees fall to the right while keeping your lower back on the floor.

You’ll keep your abs engaged and your legs under control to return to the starting position then repeat on the other side. Continue until you’ve finished all your reps and sets!

Slow Motion Mountain Climber

Begin this move in a high plank position with your hands directly under your shoulders.

You’ll then bring one knee up to your chest at a time keeping your core, butt, and quads engaged so your hips won’t rock with each movement.

While regular mountain climbers have you rushing the clock, these remain under control and focus on your core.

Plank Rock

This one will also start in a high plank position with your hand position being directly under your shoulders. You’ll proceed to rock your entire body forward just a few inches then back toward your heels to complete the move.

When you’re going through this motion, keep your core, butt, and quads engaged to work the entire area. This is about keeping your body under control with the movement so focus on the form and your core during this time.

Hip Dip

Time to mix it up with your starting position! You’ll begin this move in a side plank with your right hand below your right shoulder.

Your left foot should be stacked on top of your right. You’ll then engage your core, butt, and quads to dip your hip down toward the ground then lift it back up to the starting position.

You’ll repeat this move 10 times before switching to the other side!

This is also about control so if you feel like you’re using momentum to get the job done, take a deep breath and focus on those muscle groups doing the work for you.

Plank Leg Lift

Begin this move in a high plank position so your hands will be right under your shoulders. You’ll then proceed to lift one leg off the floor as high as possible focusing to keep it under shoulder height.

Switch legs each time and repeat until you’re finished with the set. Keep your core, butt, and quads engaged so you won’t end up rocking your hips each time you lift your leg.


Start this one laying on your back with your face toward the ceiling. You’ll start by bending your knees up over your hips and then lifting your feet off the mat. Extend your legs out as you reach up with your arms toward your feet.

You’ll lift your head and torso off the mat and attempt to make a V shape as you go through the motion. You’ll hold this at the top for 5 breaths before rolling down onto your back and bending your knees.

Double Leg Stretch

Lay face up on the ground and bring both of your knees into your chest.

You’ll then curl your head up and put both hands on your knees. Then extend your legs out in front as you simultaneously reach your arms overhead.

Attempt to keep your legs as straight as possible while keeping your lower back on the floor throughout the move. You’ll then circle your arm out and around your knees so you can pull them back in toward your chest.

Single-Leg Stretch

Start face up on the ground then bring both your knees up toward your chest. You’ll place your hands on your shins and then curl your head up and off the floor.

Then proceed to extend one leg out at a time in front of you alternating each side as you go through it.

Throughout the move, keep your lower back on the ground and your core engaged. You’ll feel the muscles working as you go through the move but focus on keeping this area engaged each time you extend.


Pilates has become one of the hottest workouts you can do to get a whole-body workout each time you get into a class.

You can focus on your core with some simple moves that also offer a lot of variety for your next workout!

Incorporate these into your regular Pilates sessions or spend a whole workout program dedicated to toning your abs and obliques to start building your core.

Building your core is one of the best things you can do for your overall health and it will help with your balance and coordination, posture, and with your workouts at the gym.

Pilates works your core in a regular session but you can spend time focusing directly on your abs with some of these moves!

If you’re not ready to spend a whole session focusing on your core, you can work on a few of these moves to your regular day and get a jump start on your core strength.

Break out the yoga mat and get ready to shred your core!

Dr. Ahmed Zayed holds a bachelor’s degree in medicine from Alexandria university and is a practicing plastic surgeon. He’s our expert on all things nutrition, medicine, rehabilitation, and flexibility. Dr.Ahmed has been a medical content writer for more than 11 years and his work reached top publications such as the HuffingtonPost

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