A rock-hard six-pack is a lot to manage, but a firmer, flatter abdomen is within relatively easy reach.

A rock-hard six-pack is a lot to manage, but a firmer, flatter abdomen is within relatively easy reach.

To get you started, a couple of Pilates fundamentals that are easily incorporated into daily routine. Done right, they can enhance your middle (especially lower abs) and develop a better body self-awareness. Lee Kelly, an instructor at Harrison West movement arts studio Alphastate, spotted us for proper form and breathing.

1. Stay neutral

Incorporated into daily movement, the neutral spine position strengthens muscle and improves posture.

In a standing position, relax and focus awareness on your spinal alignment and the core muscles circling your middle, then engage those muscles to press your belly button toward your spine and your tailbone out (lying down, it would be against the floor). Don't suck in your gut; remember to keep breathing and keep shoulders and neck relaxed.

"It should feel long in the torso," Kelly explained, "the feeling of your pelvis hanging off your spine."

2. Towel on

Kelly suggested a towel to prepare for the next move, a fundamental Pilates warm-up.

Lay a towel over your exercise mat, so it'll rest under your torso with enough left overhead to grasp the corners easily. Lie on top with spine neutral, knees bent and feet on the floor, slightly apart. Grasp the corners, inhale, and on the exhale use the towel as a support to lift your upper torso slightly off the mat. Let your head rest against the towel so your core and arms are doing the work, not your neck. Cast a look at your middle to make sure your pelvis is scooped and your tailbone's against the mat. Slowly lower your torso.

3. Count to a hundred

Once you're comfortable with proper form, remove the towel. Take the same starting position, except with arms at your sides. Inhale; on the exhale lift your upper torso and let your arms slide down the mat. With your next inhale, shallowly pump your arms up and down five times. Do the same with your next exhale, and so on, keeping count until you reach 100. Lower your torso.

If you start trembling, you're doing it right. If this position ceases to be a challenge, lift your bent legs so knees are over hips, or lift legs straight in the air.