With cut out dresses rocking the red carpets this awards season, they’re all working hard on their abs leading up to Sunday night’s Academy Awards. Although it takes a strict diet and some mega cardio to get those toned tummies, strengthening your core is a must. These ab exercises below are a few of my favourites, all of which incorporate a bit of Pilates. Add these into your current workout routine or run through this circuit 3-5 times to help strengthen your mid-section. Remember, you cannot spot reduce so doing abdominal exercises will NOT burn the fat off of your stomach. What proper core function can do is change how you hold your body, which will make you look taller and leaner, as well as lengthen and strengthen your abdominal muscles.

Stability Ball Dead Bug
This is a great exercise to help lengthen your hamstrings as well as strengthen your core muscles. Place your toes on one end of the ball, with straight legs (if you have tight hamstrings or a weak core then begin this exercise with your legs bent and the ball resting on your knees) and your hands on the other end of the ball, keeping your arms straight. Slowly lower your right arm and left leg towards the floor, while keeping your back in a neutral spine position (do not let your back or pelvis lift as you lower your arms and legs – this is what works your core!). Once you have gone as low as you can while maintaining a strong spine return your arm and leg back to the start and switch sides. Focus on squeezing the ball tight with the arm and leg that are staying still. Work up to being able to do 10 on each side.

Stability Ball Rollup
Lie on your back with your arms and legs extended and a ball in-between your hands (if you have a weak core then do this without a ball). Begin by raising the ball towards the ceiling then peel your head, neck and shoulders off the floor one vertebrae at a time, rolling up until you are reaching towards your toes, thinking about sending your hips behind you. Once you have gone as far as you can, stack your spine so you are sitting tall then roll through your pelvis as you place one vertebrae at a time back down onto the matt. Start with 5 and work your way up to 10.

Stability Ball Knee Tucks
This one is an old favourite of mine but in order to make it effective you have to do it correctly. Start with your hands on the floor and then place one leg at a time up onto the ball. Once you are in a push-up position, press the laces of your shoes into the ball and think about keeping your legs strong and straight (contract the muscles on the front of the legs to do this). Keep your spine and pelvis as still as you can and slowly draw your knees in towards your chest on as far as you can maintain a level pelvis (your low back should not round). Once there, slowly roll the ball back to the starting position without allowing your low back to arch.  Start with 5 and work up to 10 or 20.

Stability Ball Side Plank
This is a take on the classic side plank (if you want to make this easier just eliminate the ball from the exercise). Squeeze a stability ball between your feet and lift up onto one elbow finding strength from the underside of your arm to lift. Slowly lower your ribs towards the floor thinking about trying to lengthen the underside of your body and then lift back up. Repeat 10 on one side and then switch to the other. This is a great exercise to work the abdominal muscles that are on the sides of your body (the obliques).

Stability Ball Side Sit-ups
This is another favourite of mine which targets the same muscles as the side plank. Place a ball near the wall, with your hips on top of the ball and your feet against the wall with your bottom foot forward and your top leg back. Interlock your fingers behind your head and lower your body down onto the ball until the underside of your arm just touches the ball then lift back up. As you, do this imagine you are positioned between two panes of glass which will help keep your body straight.  Repeat this 10-20 times then switch to the other side.