You’ll never do sit-ups again after trying these three Pilates core moves

A personal trainer reveals how to build core strength with just three moves

Woman doing Pilates hundred exercise on a yoga mat in a stylish, modern living room
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you’re not a fan of crunches, you are not alone.

I’m a personal trainer and I don’t think I’ve ever had a client who likes sit-ups, so I’ve created a beginner-friendly, three-move Pilates workout to target and strengthen the core.

The beauty of this workout is you can do it anywhere, and the only bit of kit you need is a cushion or pillow.

How to do the three move workout

Do each move for 60 seconds and complete two to three rounds of the following:

Wall hold

  • Sit up on your mat and extend your legs up, putting the soles of your feet against a wall. Lean back slightly and keep a pillow or cushion close by.
  • Brace your core as you grab the cushion or pillow, and hold it straight out in front of you with arms fully extended.
  • Hold this position for 60 seconds or as long as possible while maintaining good form.

The Hundred

  • This is a signature Pilates move. To do it, lie on a mat with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Extend your arms and lift your shoulders and head up.
  • Pump your arms up and down for a count of 100. Control your breath by inhaling for a count of five and exhaling for five seconds. Keep arms straight and strong, chest open and don’t let the wrists flop.

Toe taps

  • Lie on your mat and push your spine into the floor, to make sure that your back isn't arched. Fully extend your arms overhead and bring your legs up to tabletop position.
  • Slowly and with control tap the floor with a pointed toe. Swap legs and repeat.

If you want to make it more challenging, swap the cushion for a dumbbell or kettlebell in the wall hold, take your feet off the floor for the Hundred, or add a weight in each hand during the toe taps.

Why you should train your core

Pilates is known for its emphasis on the core, and these three moves can really help build strength there.

People often wrongly assume that the core is just the abs at the front of the stomach, but it’s actually a collection of mid-body muscles that work together to support and stabilize the spine—the center of all movement in the body. That’s why building core strength is so important; it helps us do basic movements like getting out of bed, sitting and standing up and climbing stairs.

If you have a weak core, you may have back problems, poor posture and find some exercises difficult. But the good news is by doing core-strengthening exercises like these, you can build up your mid-body strength.

Need something soft and supportive for your home workouts? Have a look through our guide to the best yoga mats

Maddy Biddulph

Maddy Biddulph is a freelance journalist specializing in fitness, health and wellbeing content. With 26 years in consumer media, she has worked as a writer and editor for some of the bestselling newspapers, magazines and websites in the US and UK. 

She is also a qualified L3 personal trainer and weight loss advisor, and helps women over 40 navigate menopause by improving their physical and mental strength. At Maddy Biddulph Personal Training, she runs one-to-one and small group training for menopausal women who want to get fit to ease symptoms and feel like themselves again.