Pilates abs workout to build core strength with a four-week plan

This Pilates abs workout trains your mid-body muscle for a stronger core in just nine moves

Woman doing a Pilates abs workout
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you're after a Pilates abs workout to strengthen your core, this nine-move routine is just what you need. Pilates is a low-impact way to exercise, but that doesn't make it less effective for training your abdominal muscles. Using this four-week program, you'll gradually strengthen your core, which has many benefits, including improved circulation and balance. 

Even if you're already using the best workouts for abs, it's worth using this month-long plan alongside your other training for times when you're after an alternative way to exercise. You'll be working your rectus abdominis—the six-pack muscles at the front of the abdomen—and many other supportive areas of your core. 

This Pilates ab workout comes from instructor Gaby Noble (opens in new tab), who says that "Pilates stretches and strengthens simultaneously, helping create that long, sculpted look, as well as improving coordination, balance, and circulation." At first, you'll perform only a few of the moves and gradually increase up to the complete nine exercises by the fourth week.

Pilates abs workout: top tips for beginners

  • Get the right equipment: All you need for this routine is one of the best yoga mats for support. If you enjoy Pilates, it might be worth also picking up a set of the best resistance bands too. 
  • Pay attention to your breath: Adjusting the way you breathe can help relax tense muscles and relieve mental tension. Inhale to engage your tummy muscles and exhale during the ‘effort’ part of the movement.
  • Focus on your form: Allow your spine to round by scooping in your abs. It strengthens your deep abdominals and stretches your back muscles.

Pilates abs workout: moves

Practice the following moves before putting them into your routine with our workout plan below. "It’s not about rep numbers; it’s about how you do them," advises Gaby. Each move should be precise and controlled. 

Half roll-up

Half roll-up

(Image credit: Future)

Take a seat on your sit bones with your knees bent and feet on floor, hip-width apart. Stretch your arms out in front of you with your hands touching.

Inhale, lift your spine, then exhale and round the spine as you roll back halfway to the floor. Inhale and hold momentarily, then exhale to bring you back to the start. 

Saw

Saw

(Image credit: Future)

Take the roll-up position, but this time extend your arms out to side. Inhale as you draw your abs in and up, lifting tall through the spine.

As you exhale slowly, twist your waist right and reach your opposite hand towards your right foot. Your hips and both butt cheeks should stay grounded. Inhale as you return to the center. Repeat on the other side.

The 100

The 100

(Image credit: Future)

Lie on your back with your knees into your chest and arms alongside your body, palms down. Inhale as you lift your head and eyes towards your belly button. Exhale, sinking the belly button into the spine.

Extend legs to 45 degrees (or as high as comfortable), then pump your arms up and down as you inhale for five counts, then exhale for five. Aim to build up to repeat the sequence 10 times, equalling 100 pumps (hence the name).

Bend knees back into your chest, then lower legs and head. If you have neck or back problems, keep your head flat on the floor at first. 

Lower lift

Lower lift

(Image credit: Future)

Place your hands by your sides or in diamond position underneath your tailbone if you have back sensitivity. Lift your legs to 90 degrees.

If this is too tight, you can open your legs slightly with heels together in a diamond position. Lower your legs down for one and up for one without arching your back.

Leg circles

Leg circles

(Image credit: Future)

Lie on your back and sink your belly button to the floor. Draw one leg up to your chest and then extend it up to ceiling, keeping your other leg at 45 degrees with the foot on the floor.

Inhale and then circle your extended leg clockwise. Exhale then lower leg down towards centre line in circling motion. Reverse the movement on the same leg, then repeat on the opposite side.

Single leg stretch

Single leg stretch

(Image credit: Future)

Lie on your back. Draw your right knee into the chest with both hands placed on your leg and head lifted (if comfortable). Keeping your tailbone anchored to floor, extend the left leg to 45 degrees (90 if you have back sensitivity). Inhale, change legs, exhale, and repeat on other side. 

Criss-cross

Criss-cross

(Image credit: Future)

Lie on your back with your knees bent into your chest. Place your hands behind your head with elbows extended out to sides. Lift your head and shoulders, and extend your right leg out in front, maintaining a flat back. 

Simultaneously twist your upper body, reaching your right shoulder to the left knee. Return to centre and rotate to the other side in one fluid motion.

Rolling like a ball

Rolling like a ball

(Image credit: Future)

Sit with your knees bent into your chest, knees slightly apart and heels together. Lift your feet slightly off the ground while lightly holding on to ankles or underneath your knees for more support.

Inhale, drawing your belly button to your spine to create a C-curve, then exhale. Inhale again, rolling back as you do so and massaging the spine. Exhale and roll back up. Try to keep your feet hovering above floor and repeat. 

Pilates abs workout: week 1

Once you're comfortable with the moves, it's time to put them into action with this graded four-week plan to build a stronger core. Perform three workouts each week. 

Day 1

  • 10x The 100

  • 5x half roll-up
  • 5x leg circle (and 5x reverse direction)
  • 5x rolling like a ball

Day 2

  • 10x The 100

  • 5x half roll-up
  • 5x leg circle (and 5x reverse direction)
  • 5x rolling like a ball
  • 5x single leg stretch

Day 3

  • 10x The 100

  • 5x half roll-up
  • 5x leg circle (and 5x reverse direction)
  • 5x rolling like a ball
  • 5x single leg stretch

Pilates abs workout: week 2

Day 1

  • 10x The 100
  • 5x half roll-up
  • 5x leg circle (and 5x reverse direction)
  • 5x rolling like a ball x 5
  • 5x single leg stretch

  • 10x lower lift

Day 2

  • 10x The 100
  • 5x half roll-up
  • 5x leg circle (and 5x reverse direction)
  • 5x rolling like a ball x 5
  • 5x single leg stretch

  • 10x lower lift

Day 3

  • 10x The 100
  • 5x half roll-up
  • 5x leg circle (and 5x reverse direction)
  • 5x rolling like a ball x 5
  • 5x single leg stretch

  • 10x lower lift
  • 3x saw on each side

Pilates abs workout: week 3

Day 1

  • 10x The 100
  • 5x half roll-up
  • 5x leg circle (and 5x reverse direction)
  • 5x rolling like a ball x 5
  • 5x single leg stretch

  • 10x lower lift
  • 3x saw on each side
  • 4x criss-cross

Day 2

  • 10x The 100
  • 5x half roll-up
  • 5x leg circle (and 5x reverse direction)
  • 5x rolling like a ball x 5
  • 5x single leg stretch

  • 10x lower lift
  • 3x saw on each side
  • 4x criss-cross

Day 3

  • 10x The 100
  • 5x half roll-up
  • 5x leg circle (and 5x reverse direction)
  • 5x rolling like a ball x 5
  • 5x single leg stretch

  • 10x lower lift
  • 3x saw on each side
  • 4x criss-cross

Pilates abs workout: week 4

Day 1

Take all the exercises from Day 3 in Week 3 and aim to flow from each exercise to the next without taking a break. This will warm your muscles up quicker and get your heart pumping. Remember to keep control. 

Day 2

Repeat the plan for Day 1 of Week 4. 

Day 3

If you feel comfortable, on your final day, try adding the Open Leg Rocker to your sequence. To get started, balance on your sit bones, hold your ankles, and extend both legs into a V position. 

Draw your chin into the chest and roll back onto your shoulders. Exhale and roll back up, keeping legs and arms straight if possible, although it’s okay to bend them a little if you need help getting back to sitting.

James Frew
Staff Writer

James is a London-based journalist and Staff Writer at Fit&Well. He has over five years experience in fitness tech, including time spent as the Buyer’s Guide Editor and Staff Writer at technology publication MakeUseOf. In 2014 he was diagnosed with a chronic health condition, which spurred his interest in health, fitness, and lifestyle management.


In the years since, he has become a devoted meditator, experimented with workout styles and exercises, and used various gadgets to monitor his health. In recent times, James has been absorbed by the intersection between mental health, fitness, sustainability, and environmentalism. When not concerning himself with health and technology, James can be found excitedly checking out each week’s New Music Friday releases.