The next best thing after world peace!
Interview with Mila Kunis in GQ Magazine 2011
GQ: “Great stomach.”
Kunis: “Pilates. I'm telling you—Pilates. I can tell you that my stomach is the last place to get fit naturally. So it's the one thing I have to do: Pilates.”
Joseph Pilates gave an interview in Readers Digest in 1934 advocating the most important thing you can do to look younger and be healthier is to pull your abdomen in. For poor posture he said there is “one cause and one cure” … pull the abdomen in. His parting words in this interview were, “Say it to yourself dozens, hundreds of times a day, till pulling it in becomes a habit and sinks down into the subconscious where your breathing is taken care of. Every time you do it, you’re a little nearer to healthful, youthful posture and a regal carriage.”
Such is the importance placed on the deep contraction of the abdominals as a primary concept of the Pilates Method.
“Pilates abs” are flat, sleek abdominals that don’t show a six-pack, but rather are drawn in and even across the torso and feature an equally sleek curved back on the other side.
The Pilates method repertoire is focused strongly on specific abdominal exercises – heaps of them – as well as teaching you to do ALL movements from your abdominal centre. Every movement should start with a deep abdominal contraction a nano-second prior to movement, and the Pilates Method will train you to do this for all ranges of movement – forward, side and extension of the torso. The abdominals are focused in every position. It also works to create spinal support and best posture, both of which are crucial to the strength and effectiveness of the abdominals during movement and when being challenged throughout the Pilates exercises.
How do you find the Pilates way to draw your abdomen in and achieve Pilates nirvana? Slow and steady wins the race.
Start with connecting an exhale with a drawing in of your abdominals. Do that without creating tension anywhere else in the body, and not allowing the spine to change when you pull in.
Once you’ve mastered this fundamental connection, you will have set yourself on a path to effective abdominal engagement. From there … puff, puff …. it’s onward and upward.
Practicing abdominal deepening the Pilates way should be a daily activity. As Joe said, every day until it becomes a habit and sinks into the unconscious. Try doing ‘The Hundred’ every day to help speed your Pilates abdominals along.
Then get ye to a regular Pilates class to truly find the way to flat, sleek enviable Pilates abdominals.
The Hundred – Modified (legs down and long)
The Hundred is a signature exercise of Pilates and is a challenging but effective abdominal exercise. Pilates devotees love and hate the Hundred equally! But they do it.
In this version, keep your legs long along the floor, reaching out from the hips as strongly as possible the whole time. It’s important to keep your pelvis flat (not tucked) and still try to deepen the abdominals and spine toward the floor without tucking. Keeping your legs very actively reaching, take your upper body into a deep chest lift, arms alongside the body, and beat your arms from the shoulders 100 times. As you beat, breathe in over 5 beats and out over 5 beats (you will do 10 sets of breath), contracting the abdominals deeply over the whole sequence. No tension in the neck or shoulders, and take a rest in between if you need to while you build up strength (ie: do 50 beats, rest, then do another 50).