There's a common misconception that every single workout should be done lightning-fast—the harder and more grueling, the better. The truth: You can increase your strength by lowering your intensity. “Just because you slow down doesn’t mean your workout isn’t effective,” explains Dani Busko, senior Pilates instructor at Equinox SoHo in New York City. Which is why this Pilates series from Busko is so amazing. It forces you to hit the brakes and be more intentional with how you move, “helping you to zero in on underused muscles, for better tone and definition,” she says. Ready, set, slooow.
1. Half Roll-Down
“This warms up the body, giving it a road map of what you expect out of it for the rest of the series, from the lower abs, to the spine, to the back of the legs,” explains Busko.
How to do it: Begin seated with knees bent, heels on floor, and hands on sides of thighs (A). Exhale and pull abs in toward spine, tilt pelvis so low back is pressing to the floor and small of the back is the leader, and roll down one vertebra at a time until lower back touches the floor (B). Exhale, and engage hamstrings, squeeze glutes, and hollow the belly to roll back up to start. Do 8 reps.
2. Glute Bridge
“This move is the aspirin of the body,” notes Busko. “Neck pain, lazy glutes, sciatica—the glute bridge can almost always fix it if done properly.”
How to do it: Lie faceup with knees bent and arms at sides, palms face down (A). Push into arms, tuck hips, and roll up, starting with the small of the back and ending with hips (B). Starting with the ribs, slowly lower back down. Do 8 reps.
3. Standing Side Kick Series
“Standing up to do this series, rather than lying down, allows for more muscle engagement throughout the leg and helps build balance,” says Busko.
How to do it: Stand with left foot on yoga block and right foot on floor. Step to lift right foot up; keep left knee soft (A). Keeping shoulders down and back, flex foot and extend right leg forward (B). Squeeze butt to pull leg back (C). Do 8 to 10 reps. Next, circle leg clockwise for 8 to 10 reps, and then counterclockwise (D) for 8 to 10 reps. Repeat entire series on opposite leg.
4. Side Plank
“Side planks help with balance and stability, as they work every part of the core—front, back, and everything in between,” explains Busko.
How to do it: Start in plank with shoulders over arms and abs tight (A). Move left hand in toward right; pivot feet, left foot behind right (B), rotating body to right. Keep hips lifted and extend left hand up (C); hold for 10 seconds. Return to A; repeat on left. Do 8 reps per side.
5. Lower Lift
“This is a great exercise to help engage the lower belly,” says Busko.
How to do it: Lie faceup with knees bent and feet on floor. Make a diamond with hands and place them under butt, palms down. Lift legs straight up, place heels together, and allow knees to turn outward, forming a diamond with legs (A). Pull abs in toward spine, press into hands, exhale air out of belly, and lower legs to 45 degrees (B). Raise legs back up to start. Do 8 reps.
"Not only does this work the obliques, but spinal rotation is key for overall spine health," notes Busko.
How to do it: Lie faceup with knees in table top position and hands on head, elbows forward. Crunch up to bring elbows to knees (A). Hold position and shift elbows out to sides (B); twist left elbow toward center of body while bringing right knee in to touch (C). Return to B; repeat on other side. Do 8 reps per side.
7. Pilates Pushup
"The Pilates pushup allows you to lift your body weight with the triceps, which is typically a neglected muscle.” says Busko.
How to do it: Start in a plank with elbows stacked over hands and abs tight; squeeze inner thighs (A). Bend elbows and lower down as far as possible without touching chest to ground (B). Push back up. Do 8 reps.