Basics of the criss-cross exercise in Pilates

The criss-cross exercise in Pilates works the core muscles such as the abdominal muscles and the obliques. However, there is a proper way of doing this mat exercise that will help you avoid injuries.

This is not an exercise you can only do during Pilates. You can include the criss-cross exercise in all your core muscle workouts. While it primarily works the obliques, it also worksthe entire core muscles. You will benefit thoroughly from including this in the routine.

Everything you need to know about the criss-cross exercise in Pilates

Before beginning an exercise, there are a few factors to focus on and understand. These are the correct forms, tips, benefits, common mistakes, and others.

Correct form

  • Lie down on your back on a mat
  • Put your hands behind your head to support your neck and protect your head
  • Keep your elbows wide
  • Pull up your upper body from the shoulder blades and lower body from the hips from the mat, keeping your knees bent
  • At this point, you should feel you core muscles engaging
  • Turn towards your right when your elbows wide
  • Stretch out your right leg while keep your left leg bent
  • Try to touch your right elbow to your left knee
  • Hold for two seconds and come back to the neutral position
  • Repeat the same on your left side


  • After understanding the correct form for the criss-cross exercise in Pilates, you need to know some tips that will help you gain the most from the exercise.
  • Finish one entire movement (left and right) with each inhale and exhale
  • Do not put immense pressure on your head or neck with your hand
  • Pull up your upper body from your abdominal muscles and obliques and not by pushing your head forward
  • Twist your upper body from your obliques
  • Establish a muscle-mind connection (which is important for every exercise)

Benefits of doing the criss-cross exercise in Pilates

Defines the hip

When you exercise, significant pressure is put on the obliques, which are a defining factor for the hips. Therefore, working on them will help with hip definition and posture.

Provides stability and control

It is commonly known that core muscles provide stability and balance. Therefore, it is important to have a strong set of core muscles, and the exercise helps with just that.


Helps with other Pilates movements

When you do the Criss Cross exercise in Pilates, you are using a movement that is used in other Pilates movements. When you master the twisting movement, you will be able to do other movements with ease.

Variations of the criss-cross exercise in Pilates

Now, every movement has advanced variations.

While there is no weight involved for progressive overload, you can beginning the exercise with legs higher up. The higher the legs are, the easier the exercise is.

As your abdominal muscles become stronger, you can start lowering your legs to increase the pressure on your core muscles.

Additionally, you can add other core exercises to this movement to make it a superset for core workouts!

Common mistakes

As a beginner, you are bound to make mistakes in form. While practice makes perfect, being aware of some of the common mistakes before starting the workout can help you achieve the correct form faster.

Not having a steady pelvic

Much of the exercise depends on how steady your pelvic joint is. Therefore, create a muscle-mind connection and ensure that it is as steady as possible. It will help in the spine’s rotation as well as maximize the pressure on your obliques.


Working out with your legs and elbows

This exercise is meant for the core muscles. However, there will be times when the core muscles will disengage and you will end up pulling and pushing from your legs and elbows, respectively. You need to be aware of this and ensure you are not doing the same. The idea is to constantly work the core muscles and not other body parts.

Not warming up

If you do not warm-up and instead, jump directly into this exercise, you will be in danger of suffering from cramps and spasms. When core muscles cramp, it can be extremely painful and can result in prolonged pain. Therefore, always warm up before this exercise and cool down afterwards with stretching.


Bottom line

The criss-cross exercise in Pilates is important for the core muscles, but it also adds to your overall balance and stability. However, do not rush into this and do not attempt the variations in the beginning.

The core muscles are sensitive and you need to be careful while working them. Always begin with the beginner’s version of the exercise before leveling up.

Finally, continuously hydrate yourself during the exercise and rest between sets.