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12 Pilates Exercises – A Guide To Strengthening Your Core With Equipment Free Moves

12 Pilates Exercises – A Guide To Strengthening Your Core With Equipment Free Moves

Pilates exercises are all about core strength – even the NHS gives a shout out to the workout’s focus on harnessing those central stomach muscles – so try these moves daily and the definition will follow.

It’s important to remember, pilates exercises are designed to target your whole core, not just your ‘abs’.

The result? Injury prevention, the alleviation of back-ache, more strength and power in other workouts, and yes (often) a flat stomach.

Try these twelve pilates exercises from Tony Diamond (@tonydiamondpilates), Pilates and yoga instructor at Third Space, London (, for core strength and full body toning and see your lean body take shape.


1. Roll down

Targets: Abs

a. Stand with your feet together, leaning back slightly against a wall.

b. Keeping your knees soft and arms relaxed, roll your spine down vertebra by vertebra. Slowly reverse the movement to the start. After 10 reps, let your body hang in a forward bend with your abs engaged. Hold this pose for 30 seconds, then slowly return to standing.


Roll Down





2. Teaser

Targets: Abs

a. Lying flat on your back, extend your arms and legs away from your body.

b. As you exhale, slowly draw your arms, torso and legs up, engaging your abs. On the inhale, slowly reverse the movement, ready to go again. 20 reps should do it.






3. Swimming

Targets: Core

a. Lying on your stomach, draw your abs in towards your spine and extend your arms and legs away from your body.

b. Raise your left arm and right leg, keeping your pelvic area stable. Lower your left arm and right leg to the floor while simultaneously raising your right arm and left leg. Repeat, alternating sides, for one minute.






4. Side Kick

Targets: Obliques

a. In a side plank with your left leg stacked on top of your right and your left hand on your hip, slowly raise your left leg, keeping your core engaged.

b. Reverse the movement, and that’s one rep. Keep going for 10 reps, then swap sides. Keep it slow and controlled for maximum gains.






5. Single Leg Circles

Targets: Glutes and core

a. Lying on your back with your arms by your sides, extend your right leg to the ceiling. Slowly circle your leg outwards for 10 revolutions, allowing your pelvis to move freely.

b. Lower your right leg to the floor, then repeat the move with your left leg. On your next set, circle your legs inwards. Keep your pelvis still for a challenge.

Single Leg Circle





6. Single Leg Stretch

Targets: Glutes and core

a. On your back again, draw your knees up over your hips and bend them at 90°. Raise your shoulders off the ground, then extend your right leg parallel to the floor, while holding your left leg in place.

b. Draw your right knee back up, then repeat the movement with your left leg. Keep alternating for 20 reps – 10 on each side.

Single Leg Stretch





7. Bridge

Targets: Glutes

a. Still on your back, hands palm-down at your sides, raise your knees, keeping your feet flat on the floor under your knees.

b. Engage your abs and raise your hips to create a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Hold this pose for 30 seconds. This one’s tough, but, to make it tougher, try it with your arms in the air. You masochist, you.






8. Plank Single Arm Swap

Targets: Abs

a. Begin in a high plank with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart.

b. Draw your abs in towards your spine and keep pushing through your heels. Slowly raise your left hand to your right shoulder and hold it there without moving for 30 seconds. Return to high plank, then repeat with your right arm.






9. Seesaw

Targets: Core

a. Lying on your stomach, extend your arms and legs away from your body.

b. Breathing in, raise your upper body and arms. Then, as you exhale, lower your upper body and, engaging your glutes, raise your legs, making sure they stay straight at all times. Do 20 reps, rocking on your pelvis with your body taut like a plank of wood. Or, you know, a seesaw.





10. Mermaid with a twist

Targets: Shoulders, arms and abs. 

a. Sit on your left hip, with your left leg flat on the floor, knee bent, leaning on your left hand. Resting all your weight on your left arm, straighten both legs and raise your hips towards the ceiling with your right arm extended overhead.

b. Twist to the left and down, reaching your right arm under your torso. Return to the lifted position.

Mermaid With A Twist





11. Two by four

Targets: Calves, abs and abductors

a. Stand straight with your toes turned out and heels together. Rise up on to the balls of your feet. Bend into a plié for four counts. Lower your heels to the floor and straighten to standing.

b. Then reverse the movement: lower into a plié for four counts, quickly lift your heels, straighten your knees and lower back down. Engage your core to ensure your back stays straight throughout the movement.

12. Swiss ball handstand

Targets: Abs and deltoids

a. Assume a push-up position with your arms completely straight with hands slightly wider than your shoulders, shins resting on the Swiss ball. Without bending your knees, roll the ball towards your body by raising your hips as high as you can.

b. Pause, then return the ball tothe starting position by lowering your hips.






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