Get ready to build a strong core with this Pilates workout from Tilly Pilates, featuring the best exercises to work your ab muscles…

Pilates is an incredible form of exercise for strengthening the whole body, including the core. And the beauty of it is all you need is your body and a mat! 

Pilates is accessible to everyone, all abilities and levels. It is low impact making it the perfect exercise to do postpartum after your midwife sign off, and fantastic for rehab after injuries or surgeries. Being low impact doesn’t mean that it’s less effective, using just bodyweight, breath and mind-body connection is a powerful way to strengthen the body. 

Having a strong core has so many benefits, including improved posture, balance and circulation, not to mention it is a mood booster! I like to incorporate pilates into my daily workouts, it works beautifully alongside any cardio you do, helping strengthen as well as lengthen your muscles.

Pilates ab workout: warm-up

Before getting started with this Pilates ab workout, featuring the best exercises for a strong core, it’s important to warm up well first. Try the following some ab prep exercise to gently work your core:

  1. Lie with your knees flexed, soles of the feet flat on the mat, arms long beside you.
  2. Inhale and drop your eye line down, lengthening up the back of your neck a little, as you exhale flex up off the mat, focusing on rib to hip connection to avoid abs doming, inhale and hold and exhale return your head and shoulders to the mat with control.

Best Pilates ab exercises for a strong core

Try out these Pilates ab exercises for a strong and toned core – my absolute favourites!

best pilates ab exercises workout strong core


  1. Start supine (lying on your back) with upper body flexed off the mat and legs extended towards the ceiling.
  2. Inhale to prepare, as you exhale drop one leg towards the mat and place hands behind the back of the other knee bringing the other leg closer to the chest for a lovely hamstring stretch. Inhale as you start to switch the legs over and exhale to complete the switch.
  3. Once you’re in a rhythm pulse the bottom leg twice before the switch. Focus on sliding ribs to hips to connect the abs.
  4. Be mindful of keeping the pelvis stable avoiding any rotation. Visualise a reaching further of the legs every time you switch. Complete 8-10 repetitions. 

best pilates ab exercises workout strong core

Scissors in the air

Give this Scissors modification a go! Take things up a notch for the abdominals whilst also getting some great mobility through the spine.

  1. Starting supine on the mat with knees at table top and spine imprinted.
  2. Extend legs out on a diagonal, inhale to prepare, exhale to hinge legs towards the ceiling and activate abdominals as you peel spine of the mat and legs overhead. Place you hands on your hips for support and perform scissors are above.
  3. Once you’re ready, keeping abs activated, return to the mat with control. 

best pilates ab exercises workout strong core

Side Plank to Star

  1. Start seated on one hip with one hand firmly on the mat, knees slightly flexed. Stabilise shoulder by drawing the arm into the shoulder joint.
  2. Inhale to prepare, exhale to push up with the hand and feet into a side plank reaching the other arm overhead. Abdominals switched on, maintaining height and not dipping the side down towards the mat, this is an amazing strengthening exercise for abs and obliques.
  3. If you feel stable and able, lift the top leg for a challenge! Complete 3 – 5 repetitions. 

Open Leg Rocker 

One of the most fun exercises to try! Open Leg Rocker is incredible for strengthening abs whilst also getting a great massage for the spine and lengthening hamstrings.

  1. Start balanced in a seated position with weight at the back of the sit bones, slight flexion in the lumbar spine with legs extended and in a V shape. Please note you can modify this to have your knees flexed if hamstrings are tight.
  2. As you inhale start to flex the spine and roll backwards to upper thoracic, scooping and activating abdominals.
  3. As you exhale roll like a ball back to your starting position trying to stay balanced.
  4. Really use the breath here to activate abs and pelvic floor to help control your return to your balanced position. Try for 8-10 reps once you’re in a rhythm. 

Follow Tilly Pilates for hundreds of Pilates workout ideas, including Pilates ab workouts, at @tillypilates. Click here to check out the Tilly Pilates online library, where you’ll find over a hundred Pilates classes. 

Related: Best Pilates exercises for beginners

Words: Tilly Heath | Images: Oliver Weait