3 Pilates exercises to improve core strength

I have recently been invited to an evening hosted by John Lewis and it included a great Pilates class with Lottie Murphy. I have to say that as a yoga teacher I don’t usually practice Pilates that often, however, I have always been interested in learning more about it! I found these 3 exercises that Lottie showed us particularly useful to improve core strength so wanted to share them here on the blog.

Pilates for core strength with Lottie Murphy

After having two children I have to admit that my core muscles are not as strong as they used to be. Yoga alone has given me back my pre-kids figure (and more) but I sometimes still feel that there is something missing. There are lots of fabulous yoga poses to build up strength of course but what I found with most of them was that they will often build up tension in other places like the neck and shoulders (i.e. plank pose, boat pose if the core is not strong enough).

I have a very flexible lower back which can be a problem especially as I’ve got a curve in my lower spine (scoliosis) so always have to make sure that I keep this area strong. Even without a curve core strength is so important for good posture and improving it can help to relieve tension in the upper back and neck.

Lottie has a fabulous YouTube channel with lots of useful videos. I was lucky enough to do a live class with her and found that she explains really well and has a lovely sense of humour which helps a lot when you’re working on core exercises!

Here are 3 of the exercises that we did during the class which I found particularly useful to strengthen the core and which I have since then built into my daily practice.

The Hundred

This is probably the best known Pilates exercise. Lie on your back and bring the knees up, directly over the hips. Turning the legs slightly out and keeping the big toes together. Either extend both arms or bring one arm behind the head if you need more support for the neck and start moving the arms up and down.

Breathing in for five beats of the arms, breathing out for five (remember in Pilates we breathe out through the mouth, not the nose like in yoga). Repeat this cycle 9 more times to we’re making the arm movement 100 times!

The C-Curl

Sitting down, feet flat on the ground. Inhale bring the arms up and on the exhale slowly start to draw the navel back to the spine, curling the spine into a c shape and lowering it down to the ground vertebra by vertebra. Bring the arms forward at the same time. Don’t lower yourself all the way down, just to where you can still comfortably hold the position. Inhale here and slowly with control bring yourself back up on the next exhale. Inhale bring the arms up and repeat.

I do about 10 – 15 of those in the mornings.

Oblique curl up with leg raise

This is one that I didn’t know before and I could definitely feel the work!

Start lying on the back, interlace the hands behind the head. One knee is bent the other leg extended and slightly turned out, pointing the foot. Inhale and on an exhale lift the head, shoulders and the straight leg off the floor at the same time, twisting the upper body across towards the leg. Inhale to come back to the starting position.

Repeat 10 – 15 on each side. For an extra challenge hold the curled up position!

So over to you now! Let me know if you find these useful and if you have tried either yoga or Pilates before to improve your core strength! What poses or exercises do you find work best?


Hi, I’m Christine, a mum of two and I love everything to do with yoga! My blog is about how to bring yoga into our busy family lives and how to stay fit, healthy and sane. I also teach group and private yoga classes for adults and families in New Malden and Kingston.

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