Time is money. And not having to pay for classes or commute to a studio, saves you a lot of both. Even so, a lot of people avoid exercising at home because they don’t have the equipment or because they simply don’t have any idea where to start.
Enter Pilates. All you need is a mat or a square of carpet, and you can do a variety of moves to strengthen and tone your entire body, improve balance, flexibility, and mobility. Ready to give it a try? Find a space where you have room to move — because you’ll be doing a lot of that — and try this beginner-friendly Pilates workout.
1. The Hundred
This staple of Pilates warms up the body and strengthens the abdominals. “This is a great exercise to begin working on intercostal breathing — inhaling into your ribcage and keeping your navel pulled in.
- Lie down on your back and extend your legs at a 45-degree angle.
- Use your abdominal muscles to lift your head and upper back off the ground.
- Extend your arms alongside your body.
- Begin to pump your arms up and down while inhaling and exhaling in unison.
- Inhale five quick counts, and then exhale five quick counts — that’s one cycle. Do 10 cycles
2. The Swan
Build strength in the spine, backs of the legs, and buttocks with the swan.
- Lie on your stomach with your legs separated hip distance apart and slightly rotated outward.
- Place your palms on the floor next to your face so your thumbs line up with your nose.
- Press into your palms and slowly lift your upper body off the floor, using primarily the strength of your lower and mid-back muscles.
- Press the tops of your feet into the mat. (“Keep your glutes engaged by actively pushing down on the hip you are reaching away from,” Martin says.)
- Lower back down with control.
- Do six reps.
3. Single-Leg Kick
Strengthen your glutes and hamstrings and stretch your hip flexors and quadriceps with the single-leg kick.
- Lie on your stomach and prop yourself up on your forearms, with your shoulders aligned over your elbows and your forearms parallel.
- Exhale, contract your abdominals and the backs of your legs, keeping the legs straight and the toes pointed.
- Bend the left knee, inhale and raise the lower leg off the mat, pulling it in toward your buttock with two quick pulses. (“But don’t over-reach the leg; that will strain the lower back,” Martin says.)
- Extend the leg again.
- Do six reps on each leg.
4. Roll Up
The roll-up helps you learn to articulate the spine and builds abdominal strength.
- Lie on your back with your legs extended and your arms overhead, palms up.
- Point your feet and press your lower back into the ground.
- Exhale to begin, then inhale and raise your arms up so your fingers point at the ceiling.
- Contract your abdominal muscles and begin to curl your spine off the mat vertebra by vertebra.
- Rise slowly and keep a curve in your spine as you come through a sitting position and reach toward your toes.
- Inhale and slowly reverse the move so your spine meets the ground vertebra by vertebra.
- Do three to 10 reps.
No pool? No problem. The Pilates swimming exercise strengthen the glutes, hamstrings and back muscles, as well as lengthening the fronts of the hips.
- Lie on your stomach and extend your arms overhead.
- Inhale, contract the abdominals and lift your arms, chest and legs off the floor.
- Keep your legs straight.
- Exhale and hold.
- Begin active breathing as you move opposite arms up and down and scissor your legs at the same time as if swimming.
- Use the same breathing pattern as you did in the Hundred exercise — five quick inhales and five quick exhales. Do 20 to 50 reps.