Pilates On the Go: Crisscross

If you have been working at the four previous exercises in the “Stomach Series” (Single Leg Stretch, Double Leg Stretch, Single Straight Leg Stretch, Double Straight Leg Stretch), your abdominals are probably looking quite “fine” and you may notice core strength is beginning to make a difference in your daily chores and activities. For the icing on the cake, let’s top it off with… drum roll… “Crisscross.” The Crisscross is perfect for working the external obliques, waistline and powerhouse.


    • After you have finished the first four exercises in the stomach series, ending with the Double Straight Leg Stretch, transition into the Crisscross by bending the knees towards the chest. The knees should be below the belt line (as though you have a belt around the waist), and the shins should be parallel to the ceiling and floor (in a table top position).

    • Place the hands one on top of the other behind the head, and reach the elbows towards opposite sides of the room. With the head on the mat, inhale through the nose, then exhale out the mouth and lift forward from the back of the chest and upper abdominals, tucking the chin towards the chest and focusing the eyes on the abdominals (elbows continue to reach wide). You are now in the proper alignment.

    • Begin with an inhale, pulling the right knee into the chest, extending the left leg out long in front of you and above the mat (extending the leg in line with the hip bone). Twist your upper body to the right (think of twisting from the waist, not the shoulder) until the left elbow touches the right knee (maintain reaching the elbows wide). Exhale all the air completely as you twist deep into the right oblique, looking back towards the right elbow while trying to keep the elbow, shoulder and upper back off the floor.

  • Repeat twisting the torso to the left, and pulling the left knee into the chest, extending the right leg long in front of you. Complete five to ten sets, and finish by pulling the knees tightly into the chest.


  1. Imagine your abdominals are anchored to the mat so that you do not rock your body from side to side as you twist.
  2. Do not rush the movement or breath. Hold the deep twist as you exhale completely before filling your lungs with air and twisting to other side.
  3. Do not let the extended leg drop too low in front of you. Keep control by engaging the buttock muscle.
  4. Make sure you are twisting from your waist and not the shoulder socket.
  5. Keep your elbows extended wide, towards opposite sides of the room as you twist (trying not to let them fold in).

I personally enjoy performing the stomach series three to four times per week to maintain strength in my powerhouse (core). Maintaining stomach strength helps me with all my daily activities.


October 08, 2010 at 5:15 am

I have a question….I’ve done some of these exercises in the past as part of a “quick Pilates abs” DVD routine and gotten great benefit. However, I’ve been diagnosed with a hiatal hernia (which is reducing but may never go away) as well as GERD, erosive esophagitis and ulcers. I find some of the exercises (like the hundred, sometimes the crisscross, and similar) to sometimes aggravate my acid problems. I realize it’s probably due to poor form (I’m on my own for expertise) so I’m hoping you can suggest any way to check my form or modify exercises that are problematic. The plank, side plank and similar aren’t a problem because of the position and movement. Thanks!

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