Shape up for swimsuit season with this total-body toning routine
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Pilates is a fantastic way to create strong, tight muscles all around your waist—meaning you'll look a little taller and feel more confident than ever in your swimsuit this summer. Try these 10 moves at home (or even on the beach if you're feeling brave). All you need is a towel and mat.
For best results, trainer Jessica Smith, Pilates instructor and creator of Beach Body Pilates suggests doing the workout four days a week, swapping in your favorite cardio activity on off days (and maintaining a healthy diet).
Crossover Roll Up
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How to do it: Holding the ends of your towel with both hands, lie faceup with legs extended on the floor slightly wider than hip-width apart, feet flexed. Bring your arms overhead, extending the towel over but not touching the ground.
Take a deep breath in and as you exhale, press your shoulders down towards your hips and begin rolling your head, neck, and shoulders up off the mat, reaching the towel across to the right side of your body. Continue rolling up through your spine until you are seated and then press the towel across your right leg and stretch your body forward.
Slowly reverse your movement, keeping your abs drawn in tight as you roll down to your starting position, articulating through your spine the whole way. That’s one rep. Do 10 reps total, alternating sides each time.
Form tip: Try not to use momentum as you roll up. Focus on bracing your abdominals in tight, and pressing your legs into the ground as you roll up and down. If you aren’t able to make it all the way up to sitting, simply roll up as far as you can until you build enough strength to do the full roll up.
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Reps: 10 on each side
How to do it: Lie faceup with arms extended overhead and hold the ends of the towel. Point your toes and extend your right leg parallel to the floor (but not touching) as you bend your left knee and press the inside of your left foot on your right inner thigh.
Inhale, and as you exhale, lift both legs (maintaining their position) as you lift your head and shoulders off the mat and twist your right shoulder across to your left knee. Lower your head and legs back to start position. That’s one rep. Repeat 10 times in a row to the left, and then 10 times to the right.
Form tip: As you lift your head and turn your shoulder into your knee, make sure your arms stay extended by your ears (don’t let the towel end up in front of you). If it’s too challenging to lower your legs so much, keep them closer to the ceiling as you lower, making sure your lower back doesn’t arch off the ground.
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How to do it: Holding your towel, bend both knees into your chest and lift your head and shoulders off the mat. Keep your knees pressed together and toes pointed as you inhale and extend arms and legs out into a large ‘V’.
Exhale and draw your knees back into your chest and reach the towel over your legs to your toes. That’s one rep. Do 10 reps in total. Keep your head and shoulders lifted off the mat during the entire exercise. Brace your abs in tight and keep your pelvis parallel to the floor to avoid arching through your lower back.
Form tip: The wider your ‘V’ extension, the more challenging it is. Make it easier by keeping your 'V' small. If your neck starts to bother you, rest it on the mat and continue to extend and bend your legs.
Bridge Attitude Lift
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Reps: 10 on each leg
How to do it: Lie faceup with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor and arms extended overhead, holding the ends of your towel in each hand (your arms should be hovering just above the ground). Pull your abs in tight and lift your hips off the floor into a bridge pose.
Next, extend your right leg out parallel to (but not touching) the ground. Then, bend your right knee and turn your right heel up to the ceiling as you pull your leg in as close to your body as you can without dropping your hips.
Extend your leg back out to your starting position. That’s one rep. Do 10 repetitions with the right leg, and then 10 with the left.
Form tip: As you draw your knee in towards your body, try exhaling and pulling your belly button in tighter to your spine to strengthen the contraction in your abs even more. If it’s too hard to keep your arms overhead, release the towel and press your arms down by your sides for more support.
Extended Side Crunch
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Reps: 10 on each side
How to do it: Lie on your left side with legs extended, toes pointed, and arms extended overhead with the towel. You should be balancing on your side with your shoulders, hips, and ankles stacked so that your body makes a straight line from head to toe.
Inhale and stretch your body as long as you can. As you exhale, shift your weight back slightly into your left ‘cheek,’ lifting your legs off the floor and slightly in front of you while crunching through the right side of your torso. Inhale again and lower back into your starting stretch position. That’s one rep. Do 10 repetitions on your left side, 10 on the right.
Form tip: This move looks easy, but it can be very challenging to control. Start slowly and focus on using your abdominals to help lift your legs. If it’s too tough to lift your legs, just focus on the crunch through the top side of your body.
Long Spine Rolldown
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How to do it: Lie faceup with legs extended at 90 degrees, toes pointed, and arms reaching overhead, holding the ends of your towel just above the ground (your body should resemble a backwards letter ‘L’). Take a deep breath and as you exhale, lift your legs up and over your head (aiming your kneecaps above your nose) and lift your hips off the floor, balancing yourself on your shoulders and upper back.
Hold for one count, and then slowly start to roll down through your spine, articulating through each vertebrae until you're back to your starting position. That’s one rep. Try to do 10 reps in a row.
Form tip:Resist gravity and stay in control as you roll your hips back down to the floor. If its too hard to do with your arms overhead, release the towel and place your hands on the floor or on your hips to help guide your lower body down to the floor without dropping.
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How to do it: Sit with legs extended on the ground, feet flexed and hip-width apart, and hold the towel tight at both ends with arms reaching overhead and slightly in front of you. Bend your knees slightly and stack your shoulders directly above your hips, maintaining a straight line from your tailbone to the crown of your head, pulling in at your waist (imagine you are wearing a tight corset).
Raise your arms overhead and inhale. As you exhale, twist your upper body to the right and reach your towel to the outside of your right foot (as if you were trying to saw off your pinky toe with the edge of your left hand). Return back to the center start position and repeat to the left. That's one rep. Do 10 reps total, alternating sides each time.
Form tip: As you twist, be sure to keep your pelvis steady and connected to your mat—don’t let your hips lift off the floor or shift from side to side. You may need to bend your knees even more to stabilize your pelvis and return to a neutral, straight spine in the center.
Forward Scoop to Reverse Plank
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How to do it: Sit holding your towel with legs extended and together, toes pointed, squeezing through your inner thighs. Take a deep breath, and as you exhale, scoop your abs into your back as you reach forward, bringing your chest over your thighs and press your towel out towards your toes.
Quickly roll back up to your sitting position, release your towel, and place your hands behind you on the ground, fingertips pointed towards your body. Lift your hips off the ground into a full reverse plank. Hold for one count and then softly lower your hips, pick up your towel, and repeat. Do 10 reps in total.
Form tip: Be sure to use your breath and your abdominals during the forward scoop and during the press up to plank. If it’s too hard to lift your hips up with your legs extended in plank, bend both knees and plant your feet on the ground hip-width apart and lift into a reverse tabletop position instead.
Swan Extension Row
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How to do it: Holding the towel, lie facedown with legs extended on the floor hip-width apart, toes pointed. Bend your elbows in by your sides so that the towel is pulled just in front of your collarbone and look down so that your chin is in towards your chest.
Extend your spine and lift your chest and arms off the floor (keeping your toes on the floor). Pull your shoulder blades back and together as you lift up.
Next, extend your arms (your arms should be outside of your ears) and lift your thighs off the floor. Hold for one count, then bend your elbows back in and lower your chest and thighs back to starting position. That’s one rep. Do 10 reps in a row.
Form tip: Be sure to keep your eyes focused on the ground and your chin into your chest (imagine you are holding an orange between your chin and your chest) to keep your neck in neutral alignment and avoid strain.
Double Plank Triangle Pose
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How to do it: Place your towel on the floor in front of you and press up into a full plank, palms resting on top of your towel. Brace your abs in tight and bend your left knee in to your body, pressing the inside of your left foot on your right inner thigh.
Slowly rotate your hips (and right foot) to face the left and lift your left arm straight to the ceiling. Turn to the left until your body is in a full side plank with your left knee open to the ceiling and the bottom of your foot pressed on your right inner thigh, balancing on the outside edge of your right foot.
From here, slowly rotate your body back into your start position and then switch legs and repeat to the other side. Do 10 reps in total, alternating sides each time.
Form tip: If this is too challenging, keep both legs straight and use both feet to ground you during your side and full plank positions.
Photos were shot at Canyon Ranch Miami Beach