Traditional Pilates uses specially designed equipment with springs and bands for resistance. However, a full body Pilates workout can also be done at home or in a class using just your own bodyweight for resistance. The following is a breakdown of 8 Pilates exercises that encourage full body toning, and can be performed at home. Grab your mat and let’s get started!
1. The Pilates 100
This move is all about body positioning. You want to isolate your abdominals, and then make them work.
- Start by sitting with your knees bent and your hands grabbing just behind your knees.
- Slowly lean back until you feel your abs engage.
- Now let go of your legs and straighten your arms.
- As you contract your abs, feel yourself moving forward and back just 1-2 inches.
- Count 5 pulses breathing in, and 5 pulses breathing out. 50 pulses is one set.
- Do 2 sets. These are intense, so if you’re a beginner, start with one 50 pulse rep and work up to doing 100.
2. Abdominal Roll-Up
- Sit with your legs out in front of you and toes pointed.
- Arms are straight out over your legs.
- Raise your arms as you lean half way back, or until your abdominals engage.
- Return to the start. This is one rep. 6-8 reps is good for beginners.
- If this starts feeling too easy, advance to the intensified ab roll-up.
3. Intensified Ab Roll-Up
- To intensify the abdominal roll up, instead of stopping when the abs engage, just pause.
- Continue lowering your upper body until it hits the ground but don’t stop.
- Immediately engage your abs and pull yourself up to the half way point again, then all the way up to the starting position.
4. Shoulder Bridge: Lower Back
- With all the ab work you do in Pilates, it is important to have a strong lower back.
- Lay on your back, bend your knees and straighten your arms out along your sides.
- Engage your glutes and hamstrings as you lift your hips. In this move your chest, hips and knees should be in line.
- Tuck your pelvis under and don’t arch your back.
- Hold this position for 5 breaths, then slowly lower your hips one vertebrae at a time back to the starting position. Do 30 reps.
5. Intensified Shoulder Bridge
- In this advanced version of the shoulder bridge, you simply extend one leg out straight and then lift and lower your hips exactly as you did for the basic shoulder bridge move.
- Do 5 reps then switch legs.
- Do a total of 30 reps which is 3 sets of 5 on each leg.
- Remember, form is everything so if you need to stop and reposition yourself, do it.
6. Letter T for Upper Back
- This move targets the upper back.
- Lying face down with your arms and legs straight, forming the letter “T” with your body.
- With your head and chest raised slightly, exhale and swing your arms back to your sides.
- Squeeze your hands toward each other as if you were trying to touch them together.
- Return your arms to the T position. That is one rep.
- As you practice this move, try letting only your waist touch the mat. Do 5 reps.
7. Side Kicks for Lower Body
- This move works your thighs and glutes big time.
- Start by kneeling on your mat.
- Lean to one side with your weight on one straight arm; the other arm has your hand behind your head.
- This is for balance. Extend your free leg out parallel to the floor so that there is a straight line from your foot, hip, shoulder and head.
- Keeping your knee straight but not locked, make a kicking motion to the front, the side and the back.
- That is one rep. Do 5 reps then switch sides.
8. Wall Sits
- This move is meant to challenge your endurance.
- It mainly uses your core muscle groups and quads, but it is good for the entire body.
- Start with your back flat against a wall.
- Lower your body until your legs make a 90 degree angle, or as if you are sitting in a chair.
- Straighten your arms out in front of you. Hold for 30 seconds.
- To intensify this move, add 3-5 pound hand weights and hold them still in the “seated” position.
- Don’t forget to breathe.
Pilates works by positioning the body just so that the target muscle group is engaged, then working that muscle group with very small, controlled movements. Positioning is everything, both for effectiveness and for safety. Use caution when you first begin Pilates, as it is quite intense. As with any form of exercise, adequate warm up, stretch and cool down phases are highly recommended. An hour of beginner-level Pilates done on the mat or at home burns around 250-300 calories. Adding Pilates to your existing workout routine will enhance your performance as well as endurance in other sports as well.