Top seven Pilates moves

Amanda Spackman
Friday, February 12, 2010
Image: Getty

Are you looking to tone up and get a long lean figure without bulking up your muscles? One of the best exercises you can do is Pilates and you don't have to break your budget by signing up to a gym to practise it.

In the comfort of your own home you can become a Pilates pro — anywhere, anytime you can tone lacklustre muscles. Pilates is great for strengthening your core muscles in your stomach, improving posture, shrinking your thighs, decreasing stress and improving flexibility. So here are our top seven favourite moves.

Leg circles
Lie on your back with your arms out to the side. Tighten you abdominal muscles and elevate one leg to the ceiling and keep the other leg grounded on the floor with your toes pointed. Do 20 to 30 small circles with the elevated leg and then swap legs. Do this for five to seven minutes every day for leaner legs and muscle definition.

The butt booster
First lie on your front with your arms folded in front of your head. Rest your forehead on your hands for comfort. Tighten your abdominal muscles and buttocks, slowly lift one leg slightly off the floor, point your toes and circle the leg 10 times clockwise and then repeat anti-clockwise. Repeat the exercise with the other leg. Do this five times on each leg.

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Outer-thigh enhancer
Lie on your side and extend your grounded arm straight above your head. Relax your other arm wherever is most comfortable for you. Slightly bend your grounded leg and elevate and straighten the other leg slightly above your hip.

Raise and lower the leg slightly above and then level with your hips 15 times and repeat on the other side. Remember to always keep your abdominal muscles strong and your buttocks tight.

Tummy toner and back strengthener
This move is also known as the swan movement. Lie facedown on your Pilates mat with your legs tightly flexed together. Place your palms on the floor and elbows at your side. Press your hands into the floor and slowly raise your head, shoulders and upper body.

Keep your chest strong and slightly arch your upper back and don't forget to always have your tummy muscles tightly turned on. Take a few slow breaths and return to the floor. Repeat 15 times.

Prone hold plank
Prone holds are a great as they work to promote core stability and give your abdominals a great work-out. From a push-up position, lower your body down and rest your forearms on the ground.

Balance on your toes and forearms, ensure your back is straight and your hips are in line with your shoulders. Hold this position for one minute and then have a 30-second break. Repeat five or six times daily.

The saw
Sit on the floor and hold your back straight (imagine you're again a wall) and hold you stomach muscles tight. Position your legs shoulder width apart and hold your arms straight out to the side with your palms pointing to the floor.

Now you're in position, inhale and twist from your waist and touch your right foot toes with your left hand and then repeat on the other side (right hand touches left toes). If you can't touch your toes don't worry because over time you'll see an increase in your flexibility and posture and you'll soon be able to reach.

Downward dog push-ups
Finally our favourite move of all: the heads down, bums up, push-up move. Start with two normal push-ups to activate your muscles. Then move your feet towards your hands so your buttocks are up in the air and pointing toward the ceiling.

Activate your abdominals and start to push down with your arms (lowering your heard to the ground) as you would in a normal push-up. This move is great for increasing upper-body strength and targeting those hard to tone trapezius muscles.

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