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5-Minute Pilates Ab Workout (Standing Abs, No Equipment)

Sculpt a strong, defined core without hitting the floor with this all standing pilates ab workout. These are seven of my favorite pilates-inspired ab exercises to strengthen the upper abs, lower abs, obliques, deep transverse abdominal muscles and pelvic floor. Build functional core strength, increase core stability, and improve ab definition with this guided five minute pilates abs routine.

Pilates is the top trending workout of the year – and for good reason.

As a certified personal trainer, I teach and coach a variety of workout formats. However, I personally noticed my core feels strongest (and most defined) when I’m regularly teaching barre and pilates classes.

Pilates workouts focus on small, targeted movements and breath control, which helps us isolate and engage our core muscles more effectively.

Pilates ab workouts are so effective because they target the deep core muscles that criss-cross around the trunk of your body. These muscles act like a natural girdle, pulling your stomach in and supporting your spine.

These exercises are particularly effective at strengthening the deep core muscles that lie underneath your rectus abdominis and obliques, known as your transversus abdominis muscles.

That’s the reason some of the first ab workouts I did postpartum to repair my abdominal separation (diastasis recti) were pilates-based.

Bonus: these pilates ab exercises are all performed with just your bodyweight from a standing position. That makes it a great way to mix up traditional reformer pilates or pilates mat ab workouts and challenge the ab muscles in new ways.

woman performing a standing leg lift as part of pilates ab workout

5-Minute Pilates Ab Workout

Seven pilates ab exercises to strengthen your core and add muscle definition to your midsection.

Add this pilates ab workout to your weekly workout routine 1-2 times a week to build muscle and improve definition in the abdominal muscles.

Workout Equipment:

No equipment, just your body weight.

Workout Instructions:

Follow along with the guided Pilates Ab Workout Video on YouTube, led by certified personal trainer Lindsey Bomgren. 

Your Workout Looks Like This:

  • 7 Pilates Abs Exercises
  • Timed Intervals (30 seconds of work, 10 seconds of rest. Perform as many reps as possible with good form within the timed interval.)
  • Perform Each Pilates Move x1 (no repeats)
woman performing standing crunch as part of pilates ab workout

Prefer to Watch On YouTube?

youtube icon Pilates Abs

Workout Outline

  1. Knee to Elbow Crunch and Side Leg Lift (Right)
  2. Single Leg Balance Knee Drive and Rotation (Right)
  3. Lateral Lunge and Chop (Right)
  4. Standing Bicycle Crunch
  5. Knee to Elbow Crunch and Side Leg Lift (Left)
  6. Single Leg Balance Knee Drive and Rotation (Left)
  7. Lateral Lunge and Chop (Left)

4 Standing Pilates Ab Exercises

Knee to Elbow Crunch and Side Leg Lift

Targets: Lower abs, upper abs, inner obliques, outer obliques, outer glutes, transversus abdominis, hips and abductors.

two women performing a knee to elbow crunch and side leg lift as part of pilates ab workout

How To Do Standing Knee to Elbow Crunches and Side Leg Lifts

  1. Start standing, feet hip-width apart and flat on the floor. Slightly tuck your pelvis, core engaged. Shift your weight to your left foot, kick standing your right toes for balance. Raise your right arm overhead, right bicep near right ear.
  2. Balancing on your left foot, bend your right knee and right elbow to 90 degrees and crunch through your abdominals to bring them to touch at your belly button.
  3. On an inhale, return your right toes to the ground and right arm overhead.
  4. Then, exhale as you lift your right leg out to the right, keeping your right leg as straight as possible. Sweep your right arm down to meet your right leg, keeping your right arm straight.

Modification: Place your opposite hand on a chair or countertop for additional balance support.

Single Leg Balance Knee Drive and Rotation

Targets: Lower abs, obliques, erector spinae, transversus abdominis and hips.

two women performing a balance knee drive and torso rotation as part of pilates ab workout

How To Do Balance Knee Drives and Rotations

  1. Start standing feet shoulder-width apart. Extend both arms out in front of you at shoulder height, elbows bent and fingertips touching (as if you’re holding a large beach ball).
  2. Brace your core as you lift your right leg off the ground, aiming to get your right thigh parallel to the mat (bend your knee at a 90-degree angle). Ground through your left foot for balance.
  3. As you lift your right leg, rotate your shoulders towards the right, extending your right arm behind you. Aim to keep your hips stable and facing forward.
  4. On an inhale, reverse the rotation as you lower the right toes to the ground, returning to starting position.

Modification: Place your opposite hand on a chair or countertop for additional balance support. Omit the spinal rotation, keeping your shoulders and hips facing forward.

Lateral Lunge and Chop

Targets: Legs, quads, outer glutes (gluteus medius), inner thighs (adductors), obliques, erector spinae, transversus abdominis.

two women performing a crossbody chop as example of standing pilates abs exercises

How To Do Lateral Lunges and Cross-Body Chops

  1. Start standing, feet wider than hip width apart, shoulders stacked over hips. Clasp your hands together.
  2. Shift your weight towards your right, bending your right knee while keeping your left leg straight. Think of performing a shallow single leg squat on the right. As you shift towards the right, bring your hands outside your right knee.
  3. Then, straighten your right leg and slightly pivot your right toes towards the right as you drive your arms cross-body, “chopping” your hands from your right knee to over your left shoulder.

Standing Bicycle Crunch

Targets: Deep transverse abdominals, obliques, upper abs and lower abs.

two women performing standing bicycle crunches as part of pilates ab workout

How To Do Standing Bicycle Crunches

  1. Start standing with feet hip-width distance apart, shoulders stacked over hips and pelvis slightly tucked to engage the core. Place your hands behind your head, lightly pressing into the back of your head with your fingertips, elbows out wide.
  2. Transfer your weight into your left foot, then exhale as you drive your right knee up towards your chest.
  3. As your knee drives up, slightly rotate your shoulders, bringing your left elbow to tap your right knee.
  4. Slowly and with control, lower your right foot to tap the ground, straightening your upper body so your shoulders now face the front of the room, returning to starting position.
  5. Repeat and switch legs, this time driving your left knee up while rotating your torso to bring your right elbow to tap your left knee.

Pilates Ab Workout FAQs

Can I Get Abs with Pilates?

Pilates is an excellent way to strengthen and define the abs. Pilates ab exercises focus on small, targeted movements and breath control. This helps you isolate and engage your core muscles more effectively, leading to a stronger and more toned midsection.

How Do You Build Abs?

Visible abs are due to a combination of strengthening the actual core muscles and having relatively low body fat percentage. Abs are built through a combination of targeted isolation exercises (such as upper ab exercises, lower ab exercises and oblique exercises) as well as complete functional core exercises targeting multiple ab muscles at once.

Can I Do Pilates Abs Every Day?

Your abs are a muscle group that require rest and recovery time, just like any of your other major muscle groups. Overtraining can lead to muscle imbalances, burnout and injury. For the best results, follow a well-rounded strength/pilates workout plan, such as the “3-2-8 Method“.

Pin This Workout: 5-Minute Pilates Abs Workout

woman performing standing pilates crunch

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