Short Box Abdominals

Exercise of the Week: Short Box Abdominals & Mermaid

Short Box Abdominals


I confess that I never really understood the Short Box Abdominals until I Andrea Maida helped me understand that the beauty of them lay in the fact that we put our spine through every possible type of movement: flexion, flexion with rotation, flatback and flat back with rotation and side bending (lateral flexion).


Lateral flexion and rotation are important in everyday life and in athletic activities.  Sadly, they are all but forgotten in many fitness programmes.  When it comes to “core strength”, the go to exercise is forward flexion, which though important is but a small part of the whole.


Training the abdominals (and obliques) fully contributes not only to the actions that these powerful muscles initiate (think of that golf swing, tennis backhand return, cricket batting), but also to the spinal stabilisation function that protects the spine.  Without spinal lateral flexion and rotation the abdominals are not nearly being trained to their full capacity.  This results in less than optimal performance and possible injury.


Every fitness programme should include lateral flexion and rotational elements.  The muscles and fascia should be looked at in terms of strength, flexibility and alignment.  All too often  alignment is the missing vital ingredient as the shoulders compensate for lack of rotation in the trunk.  This result is excessive wear and tear in the body.


Circular energy forms the basis of lateral flexion.  Often an arc rather than a full circle, it contrasts with the spirals of energy created by rotation.  These circular and spiral forces create smooth flowing movements in daily life and in athletic activities.  When performing these exercises, try to touch each part of the arc or spiral, gathering energy along the way.  There is infinite energy to be found!



What’s it good for?

  • Strengthens abdominals.
  • Strengthens back extensors – especially in the flat back version.
  • Stretches the lower back – especially in the round back version.
  • Teaches us to balance strength between the front and back of our “core”.
  • Raises awareness of alignment.


Things to think about…

  • Engage the abdominals and squeeze the glutes (draw the sit bones together) before beginning the exercise.
  • If you are doing the closed leg variant: engage the inner thighs and maintain that connection throughout.
  • For the open leg variant: get the connection to the outer thighs.
  • Roll back only as far as you can stay connected your abdominals.
  • Keep the back in place: create and maintain the “C curve” throughout the movement.
  • Keep your shoulders away from your ears!



  • There are several exercises: Around the World, Spear a Fish, Climb a Tree that are not shown in this video.
  • Hold a weighted (1-3 kgs in you hands and lift and lower it three times when the torso is in the lowered position.
  • Reach the arms overhead so the arms are parallel with the ears.  Roll down but keep the arms up.


Happy Pilatesing!


Miguel x

  • Sharon Barber
    Posted at 08:58h, 21 August Reply

    Thank you for this. Although we do this often, there is always something new to learn..

    • Miguel Bengoa
      Posted at 13:36h, 22 August Reply

      I agree, there is always something to learn: that’s why the more you learn, the more you can appreciate teh power of the Foundations of Pilates: AKA Pre-Pilates 🙂

Post A Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.