Core Workout: Incline Bench Abs

by | Aug 15, 2012 | Exercise and Fitness, Functional Movement, Pilates, Videos | 1 comment

This is a fantastic core workout routine to enhance your Pilates training program and improve the strength of your Ab muscles along with helping your back bend better for exercises like the Pilates Roll Up and Neck Pull. You’ll need a decline sit-up bench, or you can use a step aerobics bench and a mat.  I love teaching these exercises to my Pilates clients, and then encourage them to practice the series when they go to the gym.

This core workout routine consists of 3 exercises: A Full Sit-Up, Double Leg Lifts and KG Curl & Pulse. Instead of putting your head at the low end of the bench, put your head at the high end.  You’ll have help getting through the “sticky” spot for a full sit up, and your back will connect to the bench more quickly as you roll down, helping you improve the articulation of your spine.

The Full Sit-Up

  • Lay down on your back, feet on the floor, head at the high end of the bench.
  • If you are having a hard time getting up, put your hands on the sides of your legs. If you are a little stronger you can put your hands behind your head.
  • Inhale and as you exhale, you nod your chin to your chest, pull your abs in and roll up to a sit.
  • Inhale and exhale to tuck your tail under, zip up your low abs and begin rolling back to the mat, pelvis, low back, bottom ribs, KG spot, neck, then head.
  • Strive to keep the shoulders forward. Focus on pulling the waist back.
  • Maintain control as you roll up, and roll down.  Curl, don’t “Hurl!”
  • Do 8-20 Repetitions.

Double Leg Lifts

Keep your lower back protected and firmly anchored to the mat to protect your back throughout the exercise.  Only lower your legs as far down as you can maintain your back against the mat.

  • Lay on your back
  • Grab the bench with your hands over head.
  • Hugs both knees to your chest.  (Easier – Knees Bent.  Harder – Legs Straight)
  • Inhale to squeeze the Glutes and lower the legs.
  • Exhales, Abs pull in to help lift the legs.
  • Lift your leg as far up as you cankeep the hips on the bench.
  • Do 8-20 Repetitions.

KG Curl & Pulse

  • Lay on your back, feet flat on the floor, hands support behind your head.
  • Curl the head & shoulders up off the bench to the bottom of the breastbone (KG spot) Keep your eyes on your Abs as you do little crunches or pulses. Pull the low abs up, in, and back towards the bench to lever the head & shoulders up.
  • Be sure the Abs are doing more work than the arms!
  • Do  8-20 Repetitions.

Completion of all 3 exercises is 1 Set. 

Do 1-3 Sets for a Great Core Workout!

As you perform this core workout routine keep in mind that your goal is to work the abs. Using the incline bench will assist with better articulation through the spine for a full roll up and rolling back to the bench. The angle of the bench can help your awareness of what it takes to pull in your abdominal muscles and let your back muscles relax to get maximum benefits from your efforts.

As you execute the routine, always remember to feel and focus on your abdominals. It’s important to pull yourself up without arching your back or pulling with your arms on the full sit-up.  For the double leg lift, the legs only lower as far down as you can keep your back to the mat, and as you lift the legs – ideally you’re using more core than Quads to bring the legs back up to the ceiling.On the KG curl pulses you’re working the high abs, but still feeling the low abs and low back firmly against the mat. Stay safe and injury-free during your core workouts by paying attention to these details during every repetition you do.

Take what you’re discovering during this incline bench core workout and apply these tips and techniques to all the sit-up exercises you do!

Pick an appropriate number of repetitions for each exercise that you can do, and do well.  Pay attention to the number and you’ll find as you get stronger, you’ll easily be able to do 20 reps and 3 sets.

From a Pilates point of view, it’s not as important how many repetitions you do, but how well you do each exercise and use the right muscles to do the work.  Incorporate this Incline Bench Ab workout into your weekly workout routine and get more from your Core.


Take your Incline Bench Abs back to Pilates!

Discover how much easier it is to find the right muscles to do the work and support you during your Pilates Mat Workouts.

Looking for a great Pilates audio workout to put on your iphone or MP3 player? Check out these downloadable Pilates Mat workouts for a great workout anytime, anywhere!

Centerworks® Pilates CD and MP3 Workouts

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. Brian Dovorany

    Many people make the mistake of only doing aerobic exercise. It’s important to also focus on building muscle mass. These are great exercises that can be done just about anywhere. You don’t need an expensive gym membership!


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