Let us start by saying that Pilates is no joke! Pilates is entirely its own form of exercise and it is quite the challenge, despite the common misconception that its “ just stretching or yoga” Pilates can be a great workout for everyone at any fitness level.
The practice incorporates all the elements of healthy physical movement: breath, posture, strength, balance, coordination, and flexibility. It focuses on both eccentric and concentric contractions of muscles to achieve balanced stretch and strength. And no, you are not too tough for Pilates – in fact, no one is too tough to skip out on all of the benefits you can gain from practicing Pilates exercises.
For starters, it was created by a man, Joseph Pilates who was a boxer and physical trainer and overall badass who used to train and practice teaching the pilates method to soldiers in the army back in the 1920’s. The practice is so effective that it is still going strong to this day all over the world.
So, if you thought that it was just for dainty, flexible women, now you know the real deal and we are here to provide you with some of our favorite exercises.
No matter what part of your body you’re trying to work out, these Pilates exercises will help get you right on track to achieving your fitness goals and keep you coming back for more!
One of the best things about the Pilates method, aside from the physical benefits, is that you can practice pilates anywhere – no fancy Pilates studio or health club membership required. We’re all about incorporating new challenges and different methods of exercise into our fitness routine.
Pilates was developed to be done using your own body weight and as it grew, Pilates apparatus was created such as the Reformer, Cadillac, Barrel, etc. but today we are here to share with you some Pilates exercises that you can do anywhere. Nothing strengthens your core like Pilates – get ready to shred your abs!
Here’s our list….
Pilates Exercises You Can Do Anywhere
#1. The Hundred
How to perform: Begin in a supine position laying down on your back and bring knees into a tabletop position above your hips. Lift head, neck, and shoulders off the ground and stretch arms down by hips with palms facing down. Extend legs to a 45-degree angle ( or as low as you can WITHOUT creating an arch your lower back) with heels together and toes apart (the Pilates stance).
Pulse arms up and down while breathing in through the nose for 5 counts and OPEN mouth exhales of 5 counts. Might sound strange but it is effective. Super important to maintain focus on breath here. Repeat exercise for 10 sets. Abs on fire!
#2 Pelvic Curl
Or as the call in Pilates lingo “C-curl”. In one fluid like movement, the pelvic curl helps open up tight hip flexors, strengthens and activates the glutes, and improves spinal mobility by focusing on the segmental movement of the spine and activates TVA (transverse abdominis).
How to perform: Start by lying on your back with arms by your sides. Inhale to prepare. Press arms down into the floor. Exhale as you tuck the pelvis so the tailbone lifts off the mat, followed by each vertebra from the lumbar spine to the thoracic spine.
Squeeze the glutes as you lift to achieve a straight line from knees to shoulders. Hold for 1-3 seconds. To lower, reverse the movement by rolling down segmentally beginning with the thoracic spine and ending with the tailbone.
# 3 Supine Twist
This exercise is a good one because it encourages lumbar spine mobility by adding a rotational component, while also forcing your obliques to activate in order to control the movement. And it feels amazing too.
How to perform: Lie on back with legs in “tabletop” position, knees together, arms outstretched to the side with palms up. Draw abdominal muscles in. Gently rotate legs to one side keeping knees stuck together (don’t let one knee get lower/higher than the other). This will cause one hip to lift off the mat.
Gently return to center then rotate to opposite side.
#4 Leg Circle
This is great for core and pelvic strength and stability.
How to perform: Lie faceup with your arms by your sides, palms down. Bend your left knee and place your left foot flat on the floor. Extend your right leg up so that it’s perpendicular to the floor. Circle your right leg out to the side, down toward the ground, and return to your starting position.
Make the circle as big as you can while still keeping your lower back on the floor. Reverse the circle.
Complete all reps one on leg, and then repeat on the other.
#5 Chest Lift with Rotation
So much abdominal work is done in one plane of movement. This exercise targets all the abdominal muscles — transverse abdominus, rectus abdominis, and obliques by forcing you to maintain a contraction while rotating side to side.
How to perform: Lie on your back. Hammock your head with your hands to relax the neck. Inhale to prepare, then exhale as you lift your shoulder blades off the floor. Make sure the lift comes from your abdominal muscles, not your neck.
While lifted, gently rotate to one side, then the other, then return to enter. Repeat 1-2 more repetitions or rest between sets.
#6 Swan – A Back Extension
Nowadays, we spend so much time either hunched over sitting at desks, driving, or looking down at our cell phones (#guilty) so the importance of back extensions are crucial!
This exercise targets the scapular retractors, scapular depressors and back extensors to open up all that gets closed up and tight by desk work and phone/computer use during the day.
How to perform: Lie on the mat face down.
Keep your arms close to your body as you bend your elbows to bring your hands under your shoulders. Shoulders should be away from the ears.
The legs are usually together, but it is acceptable to do this exercise with the legs shoulder-width apart. Pull your belly into your spine (as always!) to engage your abdominal muscles, lifting your belly button up away from the mat. The abdominals remain lifted throughout the exercise.
Inhale: Lengthen your spine, sending energy through the crown of your head as you press your forearms and hands into the mat to support a long upward arc the upper body. The elbows are close to the body, the head stays in line with the spine, and the hips stay on the mat.
Protect your lower back by sending your tailbone down toward the mat. Exhale: Keep your abdominals lifted as you release the arc, lengthening your spine as your torso returns to the mat in a sequential way: low-belly, mid-belly, low-ribs and so on.
Repeat Swan 3 to 5 times using an even, flowing breath to support the movement.
The Mermaid Stretch is a great exercise. Primarily, it unilaterally stretches and engages your intercostal muscles – which are primary breathing muscles – your back extensor muscles and your Quadratus Lumborum.
There is also a minimal abdominal engagement to maintain the integrity of the torso. It feels amazing does wonder for postural problems and imbalances.
How to perform: Sit up tall with knees bent and legs stacked on top of each other. The hand closest to the legs wraps around the ankle; the other arm reaches up toward the ceiling, resting against your ear.
Take a deep inhale and lift your spine up tall.
Exhale; lengthen body out over legs. Inhale; draw body back upright. Exhale; deepen abdominals and sit even taller.
#8 Pilates Push Up
Great for full body activation – core strength and stabilization, scapular stability, shoulder strength and stabilization, strengthen triceps, elbow extensors, muscles of the chest, etc.
How to perform: Stand at one end of your mat with your arms relaxed at your sides. Inhale and roll down through your spine, flexing one vertebra at a time.
Exhale and walk your hands out along the mat. Continue walking until your wrists are under your shoulders and your body is in one long line.Inhale and exhale in plank position. Inhale and bend your elbows as far as you can while keeping your torso in one line. Exhale and straighten your elbows. Repeat 10-12. If you need to modify this exercise, perform with knees down.
The Corkscrew is an intermediate Pilates exercise that creates balance and strength throughout the entire body. It strengthens the neck and shoulders while massaging the spine and back. Keeping your hips and shoulders stabilized throughout the exercise helps to tone and strengthen the abdominal muscles, mainly the obliques. The more you can keep your movements precise and fluid, the more benefit you’ll gain from the Corkscrew.
How to perform: Lie on your back with your legs together and lifted at an angle toward the ceiling. Place your arms out about shoulder level, palms facing down on the floor.
Controlling the movement, roll your lower body, pelvis and legs only, to the right.
Hold for a count, then roll back to the center starting point using your abs. Concentrate on not allowing your shoulders to do any of the work, keeping the movement in your lower body. Repeat the movement on your left side.
This one is another difficult one!
And way more challenging than it looks. This exercise will help build mobility and flexibility in your spine when you work on rolling up and down one vertebra at a time. Because you have to balance in a V position, you can also improve your balance with this exercise. This traditional exercise also strengthens your hip flexors and abdominal muscles.
How to perform: Begin lying down, arms along your sides. (In Return to Life Through Contrology Joseph Pilates teaches this exercise as beginning sitting.
Extend your legs to a 45-degree angle (you can also start with legs outstretched for a more advanced version)
Exhale: Lengthen your spine to nod your head slightly and begin scooping your abdominal muscles in and up so that your upper body begins to roll off the mat. Simultaneously your arms are coming up to parallel your legs. Fingertips reach past the toes but the shoulders stay down. ( if that is way too much, feel free to simply reach the arms forward or gently grab behind the knees for extra support! )
This is a scooping move. The energy moves up the front and down the back with a feeling of support length along the backs of your legs.
Inhale as you come to the top and open your chest, lifting your head slightly to express the length of your spine.
Exhale to roll down. Start from the low abs and use control, rolling down sequentially along the spine. Keep the legs together. Think of rolling down your midline.
There you have it! Time to start on your homework. Try committing to at least 2-3 times per week to practice these exercises to allow yourself time to master them and reap all the benefits.
There is nothing more motivating than progress, so set yourself up for success and let Pilates help you achieve your fitness and overall health goals.