Pilates Ab Curl – Move of the Month – Sep17

Each month at Move Move we set ourselves a Move of the Month Challenge. Throughout the month we focus on mastering that move. Sometimes our Move of the Month is just one move, other times it maybe a series of moves. But our aim is to progress in some way.

As with many things Pilates, it’s the simple looking things that are the most complicated. The Pilates Ab Curl definitely falls into this category.

Learning to do an Ab Curl well is super important as it forms the basis for so many other ‘harder’ moves. Taking the time to perfect your Ab Curl will serve you well throughout your Pilates lifetime.

The exercise:

Begin lying down on the mat with neutral spine and both legs bent, feet on the mat about hip distance apart. Place your hands behind you head, elbows slightly lifted off the mat.

  1. Inhale nod your chin slightly
  2. Exhale and curl your upper body and head off the mat.
  3. Inhale to hold.
  4. Exhale as you return to the mat. 


Sounds simple right?

This most basic version of the ab prep is a great place to start learning how to position your head. Your head is really heavy (all those brains!) and you don’t want to just use your neck muscles to hold it up. They need help from the rest of your body. If you leave your head behind when you curl up or jam your chin into your chest, your neck muscles are doing more than their fair share of the work. To get your head in the right position, think about giving yourself a very attractive double chin or imagine that you’re trying to hold a peach between your chin and your chest.

Once you’ve mastered head position, it’s time to think about your hips. One of the most common things I see when people try Ab Curl for the first time is that they tilt their pelvis as they curl up (think old fashioned ab crunch). Focus on trying to keep your pelvis neutral as you curl your upper body up. You’ll notice when it’s right because you’ll feel your ab muscles working much harder.

An Ab Curl done well can be a fantastic way to work those ab muscles but if you’re ready for more of a challenge you can progress the basic version in many different ways. Here are a few ideas:

  • Hands by your sides. Now you’ll know for sure if you mastered that head position – remember if you feel anything in your neck at all to put your hands back behind your head.
  • Feet up at table-top. This will challenge your deep core muscles much more. If all you feel is your thighs then you’re not ready for this version just yet.
  • Pulses. As with pretty much any move, pulses can take it from 0 to 60 in as long as it takes you to start counting!
  • Obliques. Add a twist, as you curl up turn your upper body to one side. On the next rep go to the other side. 


Mastering the Ab Curl can take time. This is one of the moves I’ve struggled with throughout my Pilates journey. When I first started, if I wasn’t feeling it in my neck I was feeling it in my thighs when I moved into table top. Even now after 10+ years of Pilates I have days where old patterns and habits creep back in. On those days I take myself back to the most basic version of Ab Curl and practice doing that well so that tomorrow I can do the Advanced Hundred with a smile on my face.

Ab Curl Facts

Your Head Weight About 5kgs

On average, that’s about 7% of your total body weight which your abdominals need to lift when you curl.

Your Brain Weighs About 1.5kgs

Compare that to an elephant’s brain at 6kgs or a whale’s at 8kgs! Interestingly your brain weighs about the same as your liver which at about 1.6kgs is the heaviest organ in your body.

Each of Your Legs Make Up Around 17% of Your Body Weight

Which might be why it’s sometimes so hard to keep your legs up in table top… they’re just so damned heavy!

The Biggest-Bone in Your Body is Your Thigh Bone - the Femur

And the biggest muscle is your Gluteus Maximus. Now you know why we’re so big on bums at Move Move!

Pilates Ab Curl - Move of the Month - Sep17

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