Pilates Mat Exercises #6-10: The Ab Five

Pilates Mat Exercises #6-10: The Ab FiveThe infamous Series of 5.

Stomach Suicide.

The. Ab. Five.

No matter the level of practitioner, these 5 iconic Mat exercises challenge our connection and stamina. They teach us control, lower body connection and determination.

They remain dreaded beloved by clients and teachers alike.

Located early on in the order of the Mat exercises, the completion of these 5 exercises gets you dialed into the workout and grateful to sit up for a bit afterwards.

Who doesn't enjoy a little dessert (Spine Stretch Forward) when you've finally completed Criss Cross?


Single Leg Pull and Double Leg Pull

Pilates Mat Exercises #6-10: The Ab Five

The first 2 exercises in the series come from Joe Pilates.

Pilates Mat Exercises #6-10: The Ab Five

They are featured in Pilates' manifesto Return to Life. They are also referred to as Single Leg Stretch and Double Leg Stretch.

Hmmm… let's think about the addition of the word ‘stretch' into the names…

Single Straight Leg Stretch, Double Straight Leg Stretch and Criss Cross

Pilates Mat Exercises #6-10: The Ab Five

Romana Kryzanowska, Joe Pilates' chosen protege, added these 3 exercises (to which Jay Grimes says: “Because they’re good”) because she saw too many “poochy bellies” and Romana did not like “poochy bellies.”

Pilates Mat Exercises #6-10: The Ab Five

(Click here for more information about my awesome blue Mat!)

Pilates Mat Exercises #6-10: The Ab Five

And they are good. They never disappoint.

Single Leg Pull and Double Leg Pull are in my opinion ‘wind-relieving’ exercises to help to stimulate digestion and ultimately rid the body of toxins. They are a great strengthener of the entire trunk and the deep breaths of the Double Leg Pull again lead to a stretch and a wringing out of the entire system: stretch out and lengthen, and then fold up completely.

Just what we need to be doing.


I get by with a little help from my stomach

As a beginning practitioner you may work through these exercises at a deliberate pace, perhaps resting your head in between exercises.

Slowly you will build strength and endurance.

With more proficiency you'll proceed gradually toward a brisk pace with no stopping until post-Criss Cross.

In any event your stomach will be on fire before you reach the 5th exercise.

And why are the hardest ones at the end?


What if the Series of 5 wasn't about your abs?



Let's entertain a new spin on this legendary series.

Back to the Lower Body

Continuing my fixation on all things lower body…let's look at the reach away from the center.

Yes, there is a lot of pulling into the center in each of the five exercises, but there is also a long reach away from the center. Hmm.

The reach of the lower body.


My bottom is a Spine Corrector and why it's okay to say so

Take a look at these 2 photos:

Pilates Mat Exercises #6-10: The Ab Five

The above photo is Scissors done on the Spine Corrector.

Look familiar?

Pilates Mat Exercises #6-10: The Ab Five


What if we were to fasten in the upper stomach on the Mat in the same manner that one must to work the Scissors (Single Straight Leg Stretch) on the Spine Corrector?

Our scoop will work fiercely to anchor the trunk into the Mat as we reach the legs long and away.

We can mine all the benefits of the apparatus and take it with us to the Mat.



The outward reach of the lower body will allow us to elongate the thighs and ultimately open the hips.

Just like our friend the Spine Corrector 🙂

OMG hello #premiseofthemethod…

You'll open up in the front just in time to sit up for Spine Stretch. How convenient!

Open up in the front, and then you'll open up the back.

Sounds like a plan.

The Song Remains the Same

Later we'll turn this exercise onto its head and tackle the High Scissors and Control Balance at the end of our Mat sequence.


Pilates Mat Exercises #6-10: The Ab Five

Stay tuned in 2016

For those of you who enjoyed my series on Transitions on the Reformer you can look forward to more Transitions – this time on the Mat – coming up in the next few months.


It's also not too late to enter to win a FREE Skype lesson. The deadline for entries has been extended to January 15.

So get your New Year's workout on and show me your stuff!

Pilates Mat Exercises #6-10: The Ab Five

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  1. ANgel davis says

    I adore your tree in the backdrop of your personal torture. Sixteen years of the ab series and it never disappoints. I still struggle to get through. Can’t wait for your new series for mat! Yippee! Happy New Year! Oh and I love the reference to “the fab five”!! #dd4ever 🙂

    • Hi Angel!
      Happy New Year to you too 🙂 Yes, it is a challenge to keep up one’s workout on the road and at the holiday time. I am always happy when there is someone that gets my humor/homage bits that I enjoy putting into the posts – LOL – #DD4EVER indeed! And it’s no secret that I love the Mat. Hope to see you again in 2016 and keep up the good work!

  2. Adore the tree pics too! One can fit in a Mat session no matter where they are stationed 🙂 Let’s work on the Mat anchoring and reaching aspects this Weds! Stomach suicide deux = the Wunda Chair workout you seamlessly demonstrated with MeJo on Pilatesology!

    • Corrie,

      Yes, the Mat comes in so handy on the road. My first mat in TX felt so impossible and bad, but gosh it did the trick and I felt so good after my flight and everything. The subsequent mat workouts felt somewhat more normal, and thanks to my father-in-law who ordered Mats from amazon to learn some exercises himself, I had that awesome blue mat to use. It’s been really fun to teach my 82yr old father-in-law a few Mat exercises. You can tell he used to be an avid athlete by the way he works and focuses. How cool. He started sweating at one point which surprised him. Hee Hee.

      We shall see what happens when I get home and get on the Reformer…evil music cue, please…

      Oh that Wunda Chair with MeJo was so fun – and super hard to do. I completely forgot that it was not my own private class she was so awesome. I didn’t know that all those exercises could be done on one side. But of course they can! I love having lessons with her. I highly recommend it if you are ever in Greenwich, CT. And good for you for doing that workout. I need to do it again. I have done it 1 more time since the filming, but it would be good to revisit…:)
      See you on Wednesday!

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