Pilates is a workout that's focused on elongating, chiseling, and sculpting muscles. So it’s not usually the first thing that springs to mind when it comes to weight loss. But you should rethink this, says celebrity Pilates instructor Andrea Speir whose clients include the newly slimmed down Jonah Hill. "The more muscle strength you have, the more calories you burn,” she says.
At Speir Pilates, her boutique studio in Santa Monica where Jonah has been training, classes target not only the big muscles but also all of the smaller groups and the core.
"If you are trying to lose a bunch of weight and you don’t know how to engage your core, you are not going to burn calories as effectively," says Speir. "We teach you to use your core at the deepest level, then we add in cardio, plyometrics, and HIIT-style moves. Once you’re using the muscles in the traditional Pilates fashion, you add in some cardio to spike the heart rate and you have a super-effective weight loss workout."
Here, Speir recommends six moves you can incorporate into your regular workout routine that will build strong muscle and torch fat.
Move One: Rolling Like A Ball Jump
What It Does: Adding a cardiovascular element to your full body Pilates work will help spike your heart rate, speed up your metabolism, and burn calories. The burst of energy required to jump from a rolling position on the ground uses every muscle group in your body and revs up the body to burn calories.
How To: Have a seat on the ground with your knees bent and apart, holding onto your ankles so you're round in a ball shape (a). Rock back to the top of your shoulders (b) then rock back up to a seated position and explode up in a jump, reaching your fingers toward the sky (c). Lower back to a seated position (d). Do 20 reps.
Move Two: Elephant Push Up
What It Does: Full-body work that focuses on the core is key. Planking is some of the most dynamic work you can do, and keeping your body guessing by gently throwing off your balance will keep all those little muscles, as well as the bigger ones, working. Now throw a pushup into the mix and you’ve got a recipe for full body toning.
How To: Come into a plank position, with hands under shoulders and feet hip-distance apart (a) Lift one leg up a few inches and hold it there (b). Do one pushup (c). Switch sides and repeat 10 times.
Move Three: Open Leg Rocker
What It Does: This Pilates teaser position targets the deep transverse abdominals that wrap around the core like a corset. By working these deep muscles, you get that true strength that will help make every other exercise that much more dynamic.
How To: Sit with knees bent, hold onto ankles, and extend legs up toward sky (a). Rock back toward shoulder tips (b) then rock back up and hold position (c). Repeat 20 times.
Move Four: Side Leg Kick
What It Does: Constantly challenging your body is key when it comes to Pilates for weight loss. By sticking with moves you know, your body can become complacent and your results might plateau. Doing moves that you find hard, and doing them with a strong and controlled pace will make your muscles kick in and fire for you.
How To: Lie on side with head resting in your hand and legs outstretched and stacked one on top of the other (a). Kick top leg up toward the sky (b) and lower back down (c). Repeat 30 times.
Move Five: Control Balance
What It Does: Stretching is a key factor for success. This is something that is so often avoided by people when they are done with their workout. Stretching helps improve circulation, which will help the body accept the changes and results that are coming, and prevents injuries, which will keep your body healthy and capable of doing that daily workout.
How To: Lie on your back and extend legs up toward the sky (a). Lower one leg toward the ground over your head (b). Lift that leg back to the sky (c). Switch legs and repeat at a slow pace for 30 seconds.
Move Six: Side Plank
What It Does: You don’t want to just work the major muscles, you need to work your body in every direction. A side plank is a fantastic way to challenge the obliques and the side of the abdominals, as well as the arms, back, core and even legs.
How To: Lie on side with top leg staggered in front of the bottom leg, lifting hips toward sky and reaching top arm up and over ear (a). Lift hips high to activate the obliques and hold for one minute (b). Repeat on the other side for one minute.
This article originally appeared on Women's Health US.