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Pilates Moves To Tone Your Trouble Zones

The most effective exercises to slim and sculpt the stomach, butt and thighs.
What are your trickiest trouble spots? Be it the stomach, butt or thighs (for the record, 84 percent of women list these as their biggest problem areas), we've recruited Kelly Du Buisson, personal trainer and creator of The City Workout, to reveal the most effective Pilates moves to spot tone these top female trouble zones.

Abs

Want to tone up your tummy? Forget about stomach crunches and straight-forward sit-ups. Try these Pilates exercises to get rid of the dreaded "muffin top" and love handles.

1

Criss Cross

On your back, hold your legs in a table-top position with your hands behind your head. Lift the head and shoulders, twist the elbow to the opposite knee while lowering the other leg to the floor. Keep the pelvis still so that both sides of your lower back stay in contact with the floor.

Why it works: "The cross sectional rotation of the body draws the skin back to the muscle and helps to create a girdle of strength around the spine, which pulls in the waist," explains Du Boisson.

2

Double leg stretch

Keep the core strong: Imagine both sides of the lower back staying even on the floor. Hold the knees in a table-top position and extend, taking both arms over the head. As you bend the knees and bring the arms around the body, lift the head and shoulders into a crunch.

Why it works: "This move is great as it lengthens the abdominals and creates strength, giving the impression of a long, streamlined torso."

3

The one hundred

Peel the head and shoulders off the floor to look towards the knees, hold the legs in a table-top position and pulse the arms at your side. To make it harder, extend the legs away from the body.

Why it works: "This is a staple Pilates exercise and one of the best for developing the girdle of strength around the core that holds the body tall and flattens the stomach. By scooping in the abdominals, you create a hollow, allowing the stomach to flatten rather than bunching and over developing."

Butt

Hoping for a pert, toned bottom? You'll be well on your way with these exercises, says Du Boisson.

1

Basic glute stretch

Lay on your front and relax your head onto your hands and stabilise the shoulders. Bend your knees and take the knees wide of the body, letting the heels drop in to touch. As you exhale, press the heels together, squeeze the bottom muscles and lift the knees. As you inhale, lower back towards the floor.

Why it works: "This stretch encourages proper usage of the glute muscles, which also provide support to the lower back."

2

Shoulder bridge

Roll over onto your back and bring the feet under the knnes. As you inhale, lift the hips, rolling through the spine into a bridge. Lower back to the floor as you exhale.

Why it works: "Another great bottom toner, this exercise also segmental control of the spine and draws in the abdominals and hamstrings."

Inner and Outer Thighs

Have you tried inner thigh squeezes with little to no results? That's because you're going about it the wrong way: "These muscles work best with stabilising exercises -- anything where the body needs support such as wide leg squats or side leg lifts," says Du Boisson. She recommends these moves for sculpting your inner and outer thigh muscles.

1

Plie squat

Stand tall with your legs wide apart and hold your weight with both hands. Keep the chest lifted and the tailbone tucked under the body, then sit down towards the floor with the shoulders and the hips in a straight line. Push up off your heels as you drive to a standing position. The aim is to sit as low as you can, keeping the chest lifted.

Why it works: "This move is fantastic for working both the inner and outer things in one go."

2

Side lying leg series

Lay on your side for this one. Lengthen the upper body, drawing the navel to the spine with the hips stacked one on top of the other. Lift and lower the top leg, keeping the hips stable and pull the navel up and away from the waist each time. Turn the heel up towards the ceiling.

Repeat this for 15 reps but on the last rep, hold the lifted leg and circle five time in one direction and five times in the opposite direction. Lower the leg halfway to the floor and hold. Finally, lift and lower the bottom leg to meet the top leg, scooping in the abs and squeezing in the inner thigh as you go.

Why it works: "This series engages the outer, inner and back of the thighs, as well as using the glutes and the core for stabilisation. Imagining that the leg is getting longer each time you life is fantastic for drawing the skin back to the muscle and slimming down the inner thighs, which creates the ‘gap’ between the legs. By turning the heel up to the ceiling, it creates a cross sectional rotation that is great for longer, leaner limbs."

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