Pilates is the workout to turn to for a flat tummy. A 2008 study found that Pilates mat exercises engage and strengthen the deeper ab muscles responsible for a sleek, flat stomach. But Pilates isn’t just about whittling your waistline: It can also give you exceptional whole-body toning and graceful posture, plus make your daily activities (like hoisting groceries) easier to do.
Ready to get a Pilates body of your own? We’ve partnered with New York City–based expert Kristin McGee (she's trained LeAnn Rimes), to bring you the ultimate 20-minute Pilates workout. Do it three times a week for a month to drop up to 6 allover inches.
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Circles in the sky
For core, inner thighs, outer hips, butt
Lie on your back with hands behind your head. Contract abs, lifting upper body slightly off the ground. Raise right leg 5 inches (or keep it on the ground if that’s too challenging) and left leg straight up toward the sky. Keeping your core engaged and hips stable, trace 4 softball-size circles clockwise with your entire left leg; reverse, circling 4 times counterclockwise. Lower both legs, switch sides, and repeat.
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For triceps, biceps, chest, core, quads, hamstrings, butt
From a seated, feet-forward position, place hands on ground slightly behind waist, fingertips facing forward. Straighten both legs, pressing heels and palms into the ground, and contract abs while lifting hips up, forming a straight line from head to toe. Keep gaze forward and shoulders pressed down; don’t lock your elbows. Lift your left leg straight up as high as you can (shown), then lower it without allowing your right hip to sag. Do 4 reps; repeat on opposite side.
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For triceps, biceps, core, butt, hamstrings, back
Kneel on all fours, toes tucked under, keeping your back neutral. Draw your belly in toward your spine as you contract your abs and lift both knees about 2 inches off the ground. Keeping abs engaged, bring right knee to nose (shown). Then kick right leg straight out behind you, squeezing your butt (shown); keep lower abs contracted and hips facing the ground to protect your back. Repeat 8 times; switch legs and repeat.
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For triceps, shoulders, lower back; stretches abs, chest
Lie on your stomach, stretch your arms overhead, point your toes, and lift your arms and legs about 6 inches off the ground. Hold for 1 count, imagining your legs being pulled out and back, away from your hips. Next, circle your arms out to the sides and behind you. Exhale and reach your arms toward your toes, palms facing in (shown). Hold for 1 count, then bring arms back to starting position and relax entire body to ground. Repeat 6–8 times.
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Side incline with a twist
For triceps, biceps, core, waist
Lie on your right side with forearm directly under shoulder, hand perpendicular to your body, and legs stacked. Engage your abs and the right side of your waist, lifting your hips so your body forms a straight line from head to feet. Extend your left arm toward the sky, staying engaged through your core (shown). Now scoop your left arm in front of your body and reach under the space between your chest and the ground, twisting only from the waist up. Come back up; repeat 4 times, then lower body to the ground. Repeat on the opposite side.
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Charlie's Angels abs
For triceps, lower abs, inner thighs, hips
From a seated, feet-forward position, lean your upper body back while contracting your abs. Straighten arms, interlacing all fingers except your index fingers. Lift knees, forming a tabletop with shins. Keep arms pointing forward and circle knees to the right, down, to the left, and up (shown); reverse direction. (If this is too challenging, place palms on floor behind you for support.) Complete 4 circles in each direction. Maintain a 120-degree bend in knees, straightening out as you circle through the 6 o’clock position. Continuously contract abs to protect lower back. Repeat 2–4 times.
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