You've probably read about celebs extolling the virtues of Pilates (lean legs, a supertaut tummy), or maybe even heard the hype from mat-class-obsessed friends. If you're still skeptical, keep reading: "Pilates puts your muscles—especially the smaller, stabilizing ones—under constant tension over a large range of motion to create that enviable long, lean look," says Lauren Piskin, owner of Physicalmind Studio in New York City. What's more, one study found that women who swapped their usual routines for two 60-minute Pilates sessions a week saw significant increases in abdominal endurance, hamstring flexibility, and upper-body muscular endurance.
Problem is, these perks often come with a hefty price tag: A few sessions a week (typically using a bed-size contraption called a Reformer) can set you back hundreds of dollars. So Piskin created this at-home total-body workout, which gives your abs some extra love without damaging your bottom line. All you need is a Pilates ball. "The ball mimics the resistance of the machine to challenge your muscles as you move through fluid movements," says Piskin. Do the following sequence two or three times a week. Starting with the first move, do eight to 10 reps of each exercise with little to no rest between exercises.
Mermaid with Ball
Sit with the ball at your left side, and bend your left leg in front of you, your right leg behind you. Place your left hand on the ball, elbow slightly bent, and extend your right arm out to your side at shoulder level (a). Brace your core and roll the ball out to the left as far as you can while reaching your right arm over your head (b). Hold for two or three seconds, then roll the ball back toward your body and return to the starting position. That's one rep. Finish all reps, then switch sides and repeat.
Lie faceup on the floor or an exercise mat with your arms at your sides, palms down, legs straight. Lift your legs until they're perpendicular to the floor, feet flexed (a). Keeping your shoulders relaxed and legs straight, brace your core and raise your hips, slowly reaching your legs behind your head as far as you possibly can and pointing your toes behind you (b). Slowly reverse the movement to return to start. That's one rep.