PBS host Stephanie Mansour of "Step It Up With Steph" demonstrates the clam exercise, part of a daily Pilates routine you can do from your couch.

Daily couch Pilates: Strengthen your core with this 5-minute routine

Updated 3:05 AM ET, Wed September 23, 2020

Think you don't have time for a workout? Join Stephanie Mansour for a five-part series of quick strength workouts and start feeling better, five minutes at a time.

(CNN)The times we live in are a lot. It can be all too easy to throw your hands up and just veg out on the couch — all the while knowing you'll be sore afterward.

You can turn that couch, however, into your secret weapon to feeling better and stronger.
For this Pilates core and glute workout, for starters, you don't even need to get off the couch! Strengthening your core can be easy to fit into your everyday life — no matter how unmotivated you're feeling these days.
This five-minute Pilates routine works the deepest abdominal muscles, the transverse abdominis, which help support the low back and core.
These exercises also work the inner thighs and outer hips, which help with core stabilization and balance. Finally, the other muscles of the core, like the ones that run along the spine, are recruited to maintain proper form while exercising on couch cushions (as opposed to a solid floor).
Pilates provides significant improvement in pain relief in patients with chronic low back pain, research has shown. Pilates also helps improve flexibility and trunk stability, according to studies. Doing core exercises in Pilates also aligns the body into better posture and helps maintain the integrity of the bones and joints in the body.
I became a Pilates instructor after healing my low back pain by attending Pilates classes. Learning how to engage my core allowed me to take pressure off of my low back, move around and bend over with proper form, and strengthen my abdominals, which ultimately erased my need for weekly chiropractic sessions.
The couch routine below is meant to be performed daily, but you'll feel strengthening and flexibility effects after one workout. The more consistent you are with the routine, the stronger you'll become.
Remember to breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth in Pilates. On the exhale, engage your abdominals even more by breathing out all of the air from your stomach and pulling your naval in toward your spine. Pretend you're zipping into a tight pair of jeans and squeezing in your belly to fit into them.


This basic Pilates abdominal exercise demonstrates how challenging it can be to engage the abs while the legs are moving. Keep the abdominals engaged and maintain the position of the low back pressing into the couch. You do not want to arch the low back; if this occurs, extend the legs higher instead of extending them lower.
Lying on the couch on your back, bend your knees and lift up your feet off the couch.
With your legs at a 90-degree angle or a tabletop position, inhale and press the heels together and open the legs so that the knees point outward as wide as your shoulders — kind of like how a frog looks.
Exhale as you press the legs forward and straight, bringing the inner thighs together and pulling your naval down toward the couch.
Inhale as you bend and open the knees and come back to the starting position.
Repeat this 10 times.


The muscles along the spine and the transverse abdominis will be working hard to stabilize and balance the body in this position.
Sitting on the edge of the couch, bend your knees in toward your chest. Inhale, pulling your abs in tightly, and slowly lean back onto your tailbone. Reach your arms up in front of you as high as your shoulders, and slowly bring them up toward the ceiling.
Then extend your legs straight out in front of you if you're able. Lift them up toward the ceiling and grab the calves to keep the legs steady as you exhale.
Slowly bend the knees and place the hands on your knees as your bring your feet to the floor and inhale.
Repeat this 10 times.

Bicycle abs

Make sure that the abs are engaged; otherwise this just becomes a twisting exercise. You want to feel a tightening across your entire stomach as you engage not only your transverse abdominis but also the internal and external obliques as you make the crisscross motion of the bicycle abs.
Sitting on the edge of the couch, place your hands behind yo