The ab-series (or Ab-serious as Ania calls it), is a staple of any Pilates mat workout. This seriously challenging series of 5 exercises packs quite a wallop. This series when performed regularly will build a strong core.

It consists of the single leg stretch, the double leg stretch, the single straight leg stretch (scissors), the double straight leg stretch (lower lift), and Criss-Cross. Historical note: Joe Pilates only had the first 2 of this series in his original mat work in the book Return to Life Through Contrology.

  1. For the purist, we have the regular series with no props or modifications. Work on precision and form and don’t rush through it.
  2. This exact same series can be done on the top of the Wunda Chair, Long or Short Box, Spine Corrector, Small Barrel, and even the Ladder Barrel for the fearless among us.
  3. While the above is challenging enough on its own, some slight variations can be added on each apparatus as you now have the ability to drop your head back for some exercises to work extension and make the return more difficult. Similarly, legs can dip below the surface to give a great stretch on the hip flexors, but it is harder to bring them back up.
  4. Arm Springs Facing Away. Grab the arm springs and go. The arms stay still and down into the mat while the legs move. This is more challenging and not ideal for people with neck issues.
  5. Arm Springs Facing In. This is a better option for those with neck issues.
  6. Roll Back Bar – Similar to the arm springs.
  7. Magic Circle – So many variations but the circle is commonly alternating from being held by the hands to being held at the ankles depending on the exercise you are doing.
  8. Weighted Bar (used for the roll up). Similarly to the magic circle, you may have the bar above the legs or below them, sometimes alternating by crunching in to move the bar seamlessly.
  9. Push Through Bar sprung from below is a great option to improve the upper body curl as you have a target and it tends to help people with neck issues.
  10. Standing – while this may not work the abs as intensely, it challenges balance which is a great core exercise.
  11. Hanging – not for the faint of heart. This is a more cardio and gymnastic inspired variation. Leg springs can be added to help support the weight and it is a great way to work on a pull up!

This is just off the top of my head. There are countless more ways and I am always amazed to see new variations on this theme. How do you like to do the ab series? Please share with us, but as long as you do it in every workout, we are happy.