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4 Effective Pilates Exercises for Toned Abs & Arms

A trainer shares her favorite magic circle exercises to target your abs and arms and see results—fast.

If you're on the lookout for an effective workout that delivers visible results, look no further than Pilates. What started in the 1920s as a practice that required the use of a large apparatus known as a reformer, Pilates is now making waves through the fitness industry thanks to new techniques and exercises that use nothing more than your own body weight. But that's not the only reason why Pilates is taking off. According to Marisa Fuller, trainer and owner of Studio Pilates in Brooklyn, NY, and Wilmington, NC, Pilates can help you transform your abs and arms to be fitter and more defined faster.

"We are seeing more Pilates studios around the country open as women are seeing faster results when incorporating Pilates into their workouts," says Fuller. "Women are seeing their bodies become leaner and toned, healing faster from injuries, and getting stronger."

The benefits of Pilates and strength training can't be denied. Performing strength exercises helps you sculpt lean muscle, enhance your balance, protect your joints, and even lengthen your life—science says so! "Through Pilates, you are able to use your body's own body weight and/or resistance springs on the reformer or magic circle. The resistance helps build muscle and stability. The exercises work the entire body, creating strong muscles and balance," Fuller adds.

Whether you want to sculpt a strong core, tone your arms, or simply enhance your overall physique, Pilates offers a variety of exercises that can deliver remarkable results. In this article, Fuller walks us through four highly effective Pilates exercises that utilize a magic circle to target your abs and arms. Perform the below moves three times through, and "enjoy the Pilates burn."

Keep reading for Fuller's fun and effective strength exercises for women in their 30s. And when you're finished, don't miss these 5 Targeted Workouts to Get Slim By Fall.

Abdominal Curls

Kick things off with abdominal curls on the floor with a magic circle. "This exercise focuses on strengthening the core and deep inner muscles. Adding in the magic circle also brings in inner thigh work," Fuller tells us.

Lie down flat with your hands at the back of your neck, your knees bent, and your feet on the floor. Place the magic circle between your thighs. Perform abdominal curls for one minute. For the last 10 seconds, hold your curl at the top while pressing on the magic circle to really make the most of this exercise and feel the burn.

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Pelvic Curls

This is another exercise where the magic circle is placed between your thighs. "This focuses on the hamstrings, pelvic floor, and transverse abdominals. Adding in the magic circle also brings in inner thigh work," Fuller explains.

Start by lying flat on your back with bent knees and feet on the floor. Your arms should be at your sides, and the magic circle should be between your thighs. Roll your lower back into the mat as you press your hips up. Your body should form a straight line from your head to your knees. Once you reach the top, roll your body back down to the mat. Your pelvis should be the last to lower. Do pelvic curls slowly for 45 seconds to one minute.

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Standing Squats

squats with a magic circle
Courtesy of Studio Pilates

Next up, get ready for standing squats while holding the magic circle. "This exercise strengthens the legs and booty," Fuller says. "When adding the magic circle, you are also bringing in some arm work."

Stand tall, hold onto the magic circle, and place your feet shoulder-width apart. Press your hips back to descend into a squat until your thighs become parallel to the ground. Push through your feet to rise back up. Perform standing squats for one minute. For the final 15 seconds, hold your squat as low as you're able to with extended arms pressing into the magic circle.

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Standing Biceps Work

bicep exercise with magic circle
Courtesy of Studio Pilates

Last but not least is standing biceps work. You'll perform this exercise by simply standing tall, placing the magic circle on your shoulder, and pressing down on the circle. Complete this exercise for one minute on each side. Feel free to make the presses quicker a few times to feel that burn.

Alexa Mellardo
Alexa is the Mind + Body Deputy Editor of Eat This, Not That!, overseeing the M+B channel and delivering compelling fitness, wellness, and self-care topics to readers. Read more about Alexa
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