15 Pilates Exercises For Beginners

15 Pilates Exercises For Beginners

If you’re intrigued by Pilates, but aren’t quite sure where to start, try working your way down this list of 15 classic Pilates exercises that are suitable for beginners. These moves are also a great way to practice Pilates outside of the studio, because let’s face it…sometimes you just can’t make it out of your house!

 

Benefits of Pilates Exercises

Pilates is known for promoting a lean, muscular physique. By consistently practicing this form of exercise, you can expect to change the shape and tone of your body and build a strong core, says Kara Tatelbaum, a certified Pilates instructor.

Similarly to yoga and barre classes, Pilates targets the transverse abdominis, or the deepest layer of your abs, explains Tatelbaum. Once you start working on your core, you may see “the aesthetic benefit of a flatter stomach and slimmer waist, but also a healthier spine, improved posture, mindful breathing, elimination of lower back pain, and increased flexibility.”

And, while Pilates alone might not lead to weight loss, she says you’ll definitely see and feel the results of a regular practice.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to 15 Pilates exercises you can do at home.

For workouts that can help you practice your newly mastered pilates moves, try Openfit’s Xtend Barre program for free today! 

 

side leg lift

1. Side Leg Lifts

  • Lie on your right side with your shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles in one straight line, and your head resting on your right arm. (If you feel unstable, bend the knee of your lower leg slightly, for more of an anchor.)
  • Engage your abs, then slowly lift your right leg as you inhale (try not to go past a 45-degree angle). Keep your leg internally rotated (toes facing forward) as you lift it.
  • Exhale as you lower your leg.
  • Repeat until all reps are complete, then switch sides, performing equal reps on both sides.

 

2. Leg Circles

  • Lie on your back with your legs out straight in front of you, with your arms extended out to your sides. Engage your core, keeping your lower back pressed into the floor (keep pressing it down throughout the exercise).
  • Inhale as you lift your right leg straight up with your toes pointing toward the ceiling.
  • Move your right leg in large, controlled, clockwise circles, exhaling as you take your leg down and around. Reverse the direction of the circles for the same number of reps.
  • Lower your right leg and repeat equal reps with your left leg.

 

3. One Hundred

  • Lie on your back with your legs extended in the air. Lower them to a 45-degree angle (or make it easier by bending your legs to 90-degree angle). Extend your arms straight by your sides, slightly off the floor. Engage your core so your lower back is pressed into the ground.
  • Inhale to engage your abdominals and lift shoulder blades and head off the ground. Begin pumping your arms up and down in a small motion, as you inhale for 5 counts and exhale for 5 counts.
  • Continue with sets of 10 counts, until you reach 100.

 

4. Single-Leg Stretch

  • Lie on your back and bring both knees to your chest. Engage your abs to lift your head, neck, and shoulders off the mat, while pressing your lower back into the floor. Wrap your hands lightly around the outside of your thighs, just above the knees.
  • Inhale, and reach your right leg out straight, so it hovers just a few inches above the floor. Keep your lower back pressing into the floor. If it comes up, don’t lower your leg as far down. Your hands can be lightly touching your left shin.
  • Exhale, and switch legs, bending your right leg in to the tucked position, and stretching your left leg out straight so it hovers just a few inches above the floor. Your hands can be lightly touching your right shin.
  • Continue alternating until all reps are complete.

 

5. Double Leg Stretch

  • Lie on your back and bring your knees to your chest. Engage your abs to lift your head, neck, and shoulders off the mat, while pressing your lower back into the floor. Wrap your hands lightly around the outside of your thighs, just above the knees.
  • Inhale, and reach both of your arms overhead at the same time you extend both legs out straight, just a few inches above the floor. Keep your lower back pressing into the floor. If it comes up, don’t lower your legs as far down.
  • Exhale, and sweep your arms back around as your knees return to your chest.
  • Repeat until all reps are complete.

pilates exercises - criss cross

 

6. Criss Cross

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent at 90-degrees (shins parallel to the ground). Gently place your finger tips behind your head with your elbows pointing out to the sides. Engage your core, keeping your lower back pressed into the floor, and lift your shoulder blades off the floor.
  • Exhale as you twist your upper body to the right, extending your left leg straight out, and bringing your left elbow to your right knee.
  • Come back to the center as you inhale.
  • Exhale again, twisting your upper body to the left, as your right leg extends, bringing your right elbow to your left knee
  • Continue alternating until all reps are complete.

 

7. Scissor Kick

  • Lie on your back with your arms by your sides.
  • Lift both legs off the ground a few inches and separate them into a slight“V” shape. Engage your core and press your lower back into the floor (keep pressing it down throughout the exercise).
  • Keeping your legs straight, bring your legs together, crossing your right leg over your left.
  • Repeat on the other side: Return to the “V” shape, bring your legs together, crossing your left leg over your right.
  • Continue alternating until you’ve completed all reps.

 

8. Teaser

  • Start by lying on your back with your core engaged and lower back pressed into the ground. Lift your legs up and bend them to 90-degrees. Extend your legs out at a 45-degree angle. Reach your arms straight up to the ceiling.
  • Inhale as you lift your torso up, extending your legs out to a 45-degree angle, reaching your arms toward your toes, creating a “V” shape with your body.
  • Hold this position for 5 breaths, then slowly roll back down as you exhale, and return your knees to 90 degrees.
  • Repeat until you’ve completed all reps.

 

9. Pendulum

  • Lie on your back with your legs extended up, bent at 90 degrees. Extend your arms out to the sides, palms facing down.
  • Keeping your core engaged, slowly drop both knees to the right as you exhale. Only go as far as you can without your left shoulders coming off the ground.
  • Bring the knees back to center as you inhale, and repeat on the left side.
  • Continue alternating sides, performing equal reps on both sides.

 

pilates exercises- plank leg raise

10. Plank Leg Lift

  • Start in a side plank on your left side:left forearm on the floor, shoulders stacked over your elbow, feet stacked, and your body straight from head to heels. Lift your right arm up toward the ceiling.
  • Lift your right leg as high as you can, then bring it slightly forward to tap the floor in front of you.
  • Reverse the movement, by lifting your leg up, then bringing it slightly behind you to tap the floor just behind you.
  • Continue alternating the taps in front and behind, then switch sides. Keep your core tight to avoid any twisting.
  • Switch sides, performing equal reps on both legs.

 

11. Plank Rock

  • Start in high plank position: arms straight, shoulders stacked over your wrists, straight line from your head to heels, core engaged.
  • Shift your body forward a couple of inches, so your shoulders move slightly past your wrists. Then, shift your body a couple of inches backwards, so your shoulders move slightly behind your wrists.
  • Keep your core, glutes, and quads engaged to maintain a straight line from your head to heels the whole time.
  • Continue moving forward and back slowly until you’ve completed all your reps.

 

Best Ab Exercises - Mountain Climber

12. Slow Mountain Climber

  • Start in high plank position: arms straight, shoulders stacked over your wrists, straight line from your head to heels, core engaged.
  • Lift your right foot off the floor and slowly bring your right knee toward your chest as you inhale, keeping your back flat and your hips down. Tap the floor under your torso with your right toes.
  • Return your right foot to your starting plank position as you exhale, then repeat with the left leg.
  • Continue alternating your legs, performing equal reps on both sides. Make sure you maintain a proper position the entire time.

 

side plank hip lift dumbbell weighted

13. Hip Dip

  • Lie on your right side propped up on your right forearm, with your shoulders stacked over your elbow and your feet stacked on top of each other. Lift your hips until your body makes a straight line from head to heels. Place your left hand on your hip.
  • Slowly lower your right hip, gently tapping it on the floor.
  • Reverse the move, returning to starting position.
  • Repeat until all reps are complete, then switch sides, performing equal reps on each.

 

pilates leg kick

14. Double Leg Kick

  • Lie on your stomach with your legs together, extended straight behind you. Lift your torso up and place your forearms on the mat in front of your chest, with your hands together. Engage your core and press your pelvis down into the floor.
  • As you inhale, point your toes and bend your legs, kicking them toward your glutes. Do a slight pulse away from your glutes, then squeeze them back in for a second kick. That’s one rep.
  • Inhale as you lower your legs down.
  • Repeat until all reps are complete.

 

15. Jackknife

  • Lie on your back with your legs extended straight out at a 45-degree angle. Engage your core to press your lower back into the floor. Extend your arms straight by your sides on the mat, palms facing down.
  • As you inhale, engage your ab muscles to lift your hips up and over your shoulders, reaching toes up toward the celling. (Make sure your shoulders are bearing most of the weight — never your neck.)
  • Exhale, lift your legs back overhead, then roll down to your starting position.
  • Repeat until all reps are complete.
Stepfanie Romine

About

Stepfanie Romine is a writer, ACE-certified health coach and registered yoga teacher based in Asheville, N.C. She has co-authored and contributed to several books about healthy living, and her next project is The No Meat Athlete Cookbook (The Experiment, May 2017).