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Pilates Moves Recruit Deep Abs Better Than Crunches

Pilates professionals can confidently promote the effectiveness of certain Pilates exercises to target the deep abdominal muscles (i.e., the internal obliques and transversus abdominis), resulting in aesthetic improvements and functional benefits, says a recent Pilates study presented at the 55th Annual Meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), held in Indianapolis. Particular Pilates moves that involve less flexion recruited the deep abdominal muscles more efficiently than standard crunches.

Researchers recruited 12 participants—10 women and two men—to perform 10 repetitions of the Pilates hundred, roll-up and double-leg stretch, along with 10 standard crunches, and the investigators measured muscle activation. The exercises with the least flexion, the hundred and the double-leg stretch, featured the highest recruitment of the internal obliques and the transversus abdominis. Consistently performing exercises that train these muscles translates into a leaner, flatter appearance of the stomach, better
support for overall movement, and
a stronger back, according to lead
researcher and IDEA author Michele
S. Olson, PhD, FACSM, at Auburn University in Montgomery, Alabama.

Editor’s Note: For earlier Pilates research led by Michele Olson, see the CEC article “Pilates Exercise: Lessons From the Lab” in the November–December 2005 issue of IDEA Fitness Journal.


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Shirley Archer-Eichenberger, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is an internationally acknowledged integrative health and mindfulness specialist, best-selling author of 16 fitness and wellness books translated into multiple languages and sold worldwide, award-winning health journalist, contributing editor to Fitness Journal, media spokesperson, and IDEA's 2008 Fitness Instructor of the Year. She's a 25-year industry veteran and former health and fitness educator at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who has served on multiple industry committees and co-authored trade books and manuals for ACE, ACSM and YMCA of the USA. She has appeared on TV worldwide and was a featured trainer on America's Next Top Model.

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