This 20-Minute Pilates Ball Workout Levels Up Your Ab Workouts

Grab a Pilates ball for this 20-minute workout that will set your abs on fire!
Image Credit: Viorel Kurnosov/iStock/GettyImages

Getting strong abs doesn't have to mean going to the gym or doing endless crunches. You can work those abdominal muscles with at-home Pilates exercises that range from a combination of leg stretches, chest lifting and head curl movements.


To improve your core strength, Vanessa Dunn, CPT, FiTOUR advanced Pilates-certified instructor at the Heated Room in Los Angeles, California, designed this 20-minute Pilates ball workout.

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Check out more of our20-minute workouts here— we’ve got something for everyone.

1. Extended Abs

Activity Pilates
Region Core

1. Crunch

  • Place the ball underneath your shoulder blades to allow the chest to expand, feeling a stretch in the upper back.
  • Exhale as you curl head, neck and shoulders up over the ball.
  • Press ribs and abdominals down as you lift the chest. Lower your head and torso back down. This is 1 rep.
  • Perform 10 crunches finishing with 10 smaller pulses.

2. Single-Leg Crunch + Twist

  • Crunch your torso up as you bend your left leg to bring your nose toward your left knee. Bring your torso back down. This is 1 rep. Do 10 reps.
  • Then, add a twist, bringing the right elbow to the left knee 10 times.

3. Oblique Toe Touch

  • Straighten your left leg and kick toward the ceiling, reaching your right arm to your left foot. Repeat 10 times.
  • Hold at the top and pulse your upper body, reaching right pinky finger to left pinky toe.

4. Hamstring and Ankle Stretch

  • Grab your left ankle, shin or thigh (not your knee) and pull your leg toward your chest for a hamstring stretch.
  • Scoop out your abdominals as you point and flex and circle your foot.

5. Scissor Kicks + Torso Circles

  • Stabilize your upper body on the ball and scissor-kick your legs 10 times with each leg: Lower your right leg toward the floor as you grab your left leg and bring it into your chest.
  • Pulse once, then switch legs, grabbing your right leg and extending your left leg along the floor.
  • Finish by circling your upper back up and over the ball 10 times.

Repeat the entire Extended Abs sequence on the right side.

2. Series of 5

Activity Pilates
Region Core

Still lying on your back, curl your head, neck and shoulders off the mat and maintain this chest lift throughout the entire sequence.

1. Single-Leg Stretch

  • Hold the ball with both hands.
  • Bend one knee into the chest and reach the ball toward the ankle.
  • Keep your eyes on your toes and the ball, reaching forward as you switch legs. Make sure your stretched leg is long and your toes are pointed.
  • Repeat 10 times.

2. Double-Leg Stretch

  • Draw both your knees into your chest and pass the ball to the ankles.
  • Inhale, extend your legs forward and draw the arms back and overhead.
  • Exhale, draw knees back to chest, arms reach forward to grab ball in your hands.
  • Continue switching the ball from hands to ankles with each rep, repeating 10 times.

3. Single Straight-Leg Stretch

  • Place the ball between your palms and extend your arms straight to the ceiling.
  • One leg extends straight to the ceiling, as the opposite leg is low and long, hovering above the mat.
  • Scissor kick the legs 10 times, using your abdominal strength to gently tap the ball to your top leg with control.

4. Double Straight-Leg Stretch

  • Place your hands behind your head with your elbows wide and gently squeeze the ball between your ankles.
  • Inhale as you lower your legs toward the floor, maintaining a neutral spine.
  • Exhale, lifting your legs back toward the ceiling.

5. Crisscross

  • Hold the ball with both hands.
  • Place your hands behind your head and bend your left knee into your chest, placing the ball between the knee of left leg and the right elbow.
  • Your thigh will remain stable as you pulse into the ball with your upper body using your abdominals.
  • After 10 reps, switch to the other side.
  • Once both sides are complete, continue alternating sides, passing the ball from right to left for an additional 10 reps.

3. Tabletop Sequence

Activity Pilates
Region Core

Begin in a quadruped position: hands under shoulders and knees under hips. With your left knee bent, place the ball between your left hamstring and heel.

1. Hamstring Lift

  • Moving from the hip, extend your left leg toward the ceiling, keeping a gentle squeeze on the ball.
  • Repeat 10 times.

2. Hamstring Pulse

  • Hold the thigh at the top of the hamstring lift and pulse up and down.
  • Repeat 10 times.

3. Ball Squeeze

  • Keeping your thigh stationary, flex your foot and squeeze your heel toward your butt.
  • Repeat 10 times.

4. Thigh Circle

  • Keeping your pelvis stable, move your thigh in big circles for 10 reps.
  • Reverse the direction for another 10 reps.

5. Hydrant

  • Lower your left knee to the ground, beginning with your knees touching.
  • Exhale as you lift the knee out to the side of your body. Hold it for a second at the top.
  • Inhale as you lower back down to the starting position.
  • Repeat 10 times.

6. Hydrant Pulse

  • Hold the leg lifted to the side of the body and pulse higher. Your knee should be in line with or higher than the foot.

7. Small Circles

  • Maintain thigh lift and draw tiny circles with your knee.
  • Do 10 reps in one direction, then 10 in the other direction.

Repeat the entire sequence on the same (left) leg then switch sides (right). You will do two complete rounds on each leg.

4. Teasers

Activity Pilates
Region Core

1. Teaser 1

Teasers are an advanced exercise that requires a great amount of core strength, so they're not recommended for beginners or those who have lower back pain.

  • Begin lying on your back with your legs bent to 90 degrees, knees stacked over hips, and place the ball on your shins.
  • Keep the ball stable as you roll your spine off the mat, coming into a partial V shape (your thighs will be one part of the V, and your torso forms the other).
  • Reach your arms toward the ball and parallel to the floor.
  • Slowly roll your spine back onto the mat.
  • Repeat 5 times.
  • On the last rep, hold the teaser balance (V shape), grab the ball with both hands and circle it around your thighs 5 times.

2. Teaser Balance Kick

  • From the teaser balance, grab the ball with both hands and extend your arms up and out in a diagonal line.
  • Exhale as you extend your legs, lifting your toes toward the ball and forming a full V shape.
  • Inhale as you bend knees to tap your toes on the mat.
  • Repeat 5 times.
  • On the last rep, keep your legs as long as possible and slowly lower your entire body back on to the mat with control.

3. Full Teaser

  • With the ball still in your hands, lift your torso and legs off the mat, bringing the ball to your toes and coming into teaser. Your legs should remain as long as possible.
  • Exhale to lift, inhale to lower back down to the ground, arms extending overhead.
  • Repeat 5 times.
  • On the last rep, hold the teaser balance and circle the ball around your thighs 5 times.
  • Pass the ball to the ankles and repeat this set of teasers.

4. Teaser 2

  • From teaser balance, lift your arms to the ceiling, aligning your biceps by your ears.
  • Inhale as you lower your legs toward the mat.
  • Exhale to lift your legs back up.
  • Challenge yourself to keep your upper as still as possible. Imagine you're holding onto a bar above your head.

5. Swimming

  • Begin in a hollow hold, legs hovering off mat with chest lifted and arms reaching to the bottom of the mat.
  • Squeezing the ball in between the ankles, rotate the ball one quarter of a circle, bringing one heel on top of one other.
  • Continue switching top leg 10 times without losing the ball.


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