How to Do the Crisscross in Pilates

The Crisscross is one of the most popular abdominal-toning exercises. It’s even practiced outside of Pilates classes — and for good reason! The twisting action works the external obliques as well as the powerhouse, a combination that quickly creates a slim and well-defined waistline. Moreover, the obliques help to perfect and maintain posture and spinal flexibility. There are many ways to “cheat” at this exercise, so be sure to follow the instructions and tips closely for the best — and safest — results.


  1. Begin lying on the floor with your legs extended straight out in front of you. Rest your arms along your sides with your palms facing down. Relax your shoulders away from your ears and let your belly drop toward the floor.
  2. Inhale as you pull your abs in deeply, sinking your navel in toward your spine. Bend your knees and lift your feet off the floor. Raise your shins so they are parallel to the floor. Your thighs and shins should create 90-degree angles.
  3. Place your hands behind your head, one hand stacked on top of the other. Keep your elbows extended away from your head and your shoulders dropped away from your ears. Curl your head forward until your shoulder blades lift off the floor.
  4. Exhale as you deeply scoop your abs. Extend and straighten your left leg, keeping it raised about six inches above the mat. Rotate your torso to the right, reaching your left armpit toward your right knee.
  5. Inhale as you return your torso to center and bring both knees to their starting positions.
  6. Exhale and scoop your abs again. Extend and straighten your right leg, letting it hover six inches above the mat. Rotate your torso to the left this time, reaching your right armpit toward your left knee. This is one complete round.
  7. Repeat six complete rounds. More advanced students can repeat up to 10 rounds. When you are finished, come back to center. Lower your head to the floor and place the soles of your feet flat on the mat.

Hot Tip: Don’t Rush

It’s easy to get sloppy in this exercise if you’re not paying attention! To ensure that every movement is precise and effective, do the exercise slowly and with complete control. Feel the depth of each twist as you hold the position and fully exhale. Return to center very slowly before repeating on the opposite side.

Modifications & Tips

The Crisscross can be an effective waist-toning exercise when it’s performed correctly! Keep the following information in mind when practicing this move:

  • Keep your torso completely still throughout the exercise. Imagine your center is bolted down to the mat, so don’t rock from side to side as you twist.
  • Keep your back flat throughout the exercise.
  • Make sure you have plenty of space between your shoulders and ears. Do not scrunch your shoulders or tighten your neck.
  • Keep your elbows fully extended throughout the exercise.
  • When you are lowering your legs, lower them only as far as you can without arching your back or causing your abdomen to bulge. Keep your legs higher, at a 45-degree angle to the floor (or more), until you have built up enough strength to lower them further.
  • If it is too difficult to perform this exercise without arching your back, leave your feet on the floor with your knees bent. Practice the upper body portion of the exercise until you have built up enough strength to do it with raised legs.

Crisscross for Control

The Crisscross demands precision, concentration, and coordination. Maintaining stability throughout your back and pelvis as you twist will help you develop a strong and resilient core. Make sure your breath is coordinated with your movements, and keep your motions as fluid as possible. You will gain strength and stamina throughout your torso in no time!

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