Core Training Exercise: The Tabletop Prop – Help Strengthen the Abs and Relax the Thighs

by | Jul 16, 2012 | Exercise and Fitness, Pilates, Pilates Exercises, Techniques & Teaching Tips | 1 comment

Core Training Exercise: The Tabletop Prop

Simple Exercise Strategies To Strengthen the Abs and Relax the Thighs

I often see people in the gym doing sit ups thinking that they are working hard to develop the strength of their abdominal muscles, but their thigh muscles (Quads) are the ones doing most of the work!

Here’s an exercise to help you learn how to get out of your thighs and get more efficient working out of your middle when doing abdominal strengthening exercises.

Get more benefits from your core strengthening work, help protect your lower back, and free up your legs and hips for better movement with this Table Top Prop core training exercise.

 Tabletop Prop Core Training Exercise

The Pilates tabletop prop core training exercise will help you become aware of how much you’re gripping or grabbing with your thighs when you think about using your stomach. This exercise can help you re-train your muscles to better work the Abs and begin to feel what it’s like to have your legs to less of the work when focused on your core.


  • Improve Core Strength
  • Keep Your Lower Back Safe & Pain-Free
  • Increase Hip Mobility

Tabletop Prop Exercise: How-To Instructions

  1. Lay on your back on the mat.
  2. Use a chair, box, or Pilates Spine Corrector barrel to rest your legs on.
  3. Scoot in close as you can to the chair so you can rest your calves up on the back of the chair.  Ideally, you should be at a 90 degree angle with your legs on the chair.
  4. Focus on relaxing the front of your legs.  You can put your hands at the front of your legs and jiggle your thighs a little bit to be sure your legs are relaxed.  If you notice a lot of tension where the leg meets the hip, this is the tension that you need to focus on letting go of.
  5. Breathe in and out focusing on relaxing your whole body. As the leg tension releases, you may feel like the back of your thigh bones drop a little heavier to the floor, while your spine lengthens and get’s closer to the mat
  6. Pull your Abs up, in and back to the mat behind you while keeping the thighs relaxed.
  7. It may take some practice to be able to pull your Abs in and keep your legs relaxed.
  8. It doesn’t matter how many repetitions you do as long as you’re aware of relaxed thighs and are actively working Abdominal muscles to pull in flatter to the floor.
  9. With practice, you’ll be able to take this concept back to all of the other abdominal exercises that you do!

What to Watch For:

When you start to pull your stomach in if your butt tucks under, you lost your position and you’re using the back of your legs instead your stomach.  To make sure that your hips and pelvis stay still, you can put your hands on your pubic bone as you pull in your stomach up and in.  Or place your hands on your hips to be sure your hips don’t move at all while you engage your abs.

Challenge Yourself:

  • For more of a challenge for your Abs, add curl-ups by rolling up your head up and shoulders up off the mat.  (Curl up to the bottom of your shoulder blades.)  You can keep your hands by your thighs to feel the Quads stay relaxed, or place your hands behind your head to support the head & neck while you’re in the curled-up position.
  • Hold the curl and take 3-5 breaths while deepening the Abdominal contraction and keeping the thighs relaxed.
  • Repeat this for 3-5, up to 10 repetitions.

This exercise will challenge your brain as much as your body!  In order to make improvements in your technique, you’ve got to be aware of what your body is doing when you move so you can better identify which muscles are doing the work.

The Tabletop Prop Exercise is a great Ab exercise if you’re challenged with lower back issues.  With the support of the legs on a chair, it will be easier to relax the back muscles and feel your spine drop closer to the mat.   It’s important that the back muscles release/stretch while the Abs work, so you’re not playing tug-of-war with the front and back of your body.

Use this exercise to help learn how to use your stomach more and legs less to strengthen core support, improve your abs, support your back.  Discover what it feels like to keep less work in your legs when you’re really supposed to be using your belly. Regardless of the Ab exercises you do during your workouts, applying what you learn with the Tabletop Prop exercise can help you get the best benefits possible from your core strengthening workouts.


To see the original article on this topic (without a video demo) Check out the article: Abs vs. Thighs: Preparatory Exercises to Help find the Abs & Relax the Hip Flexors for Effective Core Strengthening.

Have you found this exercise helpful?  Drop me a comment and let me know!  Or stop by my Facebook page and show me the love (“Like” me) at    I’d love to hear from you and what you’re discovering by playing with these Abs vs. Thighs concepts and core conditioning exercises.

Aliesa George: Over the past three decades, Aliesa George has helped assist people with their personal health journeys by sharing, teaching, and developing Pilates, Foot Fitness, and other Mind-Body programs.

1 Comment

  1. muscles exercises

    There are some core exercises one must always remember or try when there is time. Firstly, the dumbbell squats comes in handy any time with one of the requirements being dumbbells. One important advice is that one must choose some weight that he or she is very comfortable with.


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