Still exercising at home to stay safe during the pandemic? While there’s no shortage of workouts to keep you moving outside the gym, you may be bored with your usual walks, runs or dumbbell lifting in the living room. With the change of seasons, why not change up your fitness routine? Now would be a great time to try Pilates.
No matter what your fitness level, Pilates can be an ideal workout. It’s especially fantastic for building core strength, as it involves body weight resistance. No gym or studio visits are required, and you don’t need any special equipment. Let’s take a look at what it is, how Pilates can benefit you and how to get started at home.
What is Pilates?
Pilates refers to a series of roughly 500 exercises—of which 34 are mat-based exercises— inspired by ballet, calisthenics and yoga. The Pilates method was developed in the U.K. 1920 by Joseph Pilates as a workout program for injured soldiers and dancers. Later, Pilates moved to the U.S. and opened a studio in New York. And the rest is history!
Pilates exercises stretch and lengthen most of the major muscle groups in a balanced fashion, especially your core muscles. This improves strength, flexibility, mobility, balance and body awareness.
The exercises are also low-impact movements that place little to no stress on your body. But they’re not easy. Performing Pilates requires endurance and strength, but it comes with little risk of injury.
You can do Pilates with or without equipment. Equipment-based Pilates requires the use of the pulleys and springs and other unique resistance-type gear typically found only in Pilates studios.
The typical Pilates class lasts between 20 minutes and an hour, depending on your fitness level and personal preferences. If you’re not a fan of sweaty, noisy gyms, Pilates just might be for you.
What are some pilates benefits?
Pilates boasts an impressive list of benefits, including:
- Increased muscle strength and tone
- Improved flexibility and mobility
- Better posture
- Enhanced muscular control
- Greater joint mobility
- Improved balance
- Improved performance
- Better muscular balance on both sides of your body
- Greater concentration and proprioception
- Better coordination
- Reduced stress and anxiety
- Improved respiratory, circulatory, and lymphatic systems.
- And so much more.
Now that you know more about the practice, I know you’re eager to get on the mat! Whether you’ve got 20 minutes before work on weekdays or can spend Saturday afternoon doing an hour-long full-body session, the following steps will help you learn Pilates exercises you can do at home.
How to do Pilates at home
To get started, here is a very compact yet comprehensive Pilates routine, which can be done anywhere. Keep in mind that performing Pilates exercises at home can feel quite awkward, especially if you’re used to the studio ambiance. But don’t let that stand in your way. It’s just a matter of time (and practice) before you get used to it. Don’t give up!
Before beginning, make sure you:
- Have enough space. Your studio apartment may not even have a living room, but as long as you can stretch your entire body on the floor, reaching your arms and legs out from the center in all directions (and without hitting any walls), you’re good to go.
- Have the right surface. Get yourself a mat. I’d recommend thicker styles to help cushion and support your spine, especially if you’re exercising on a hard floor. Don’t have a mat? No problem. Start with a non-slippery padded surface.
- Educate yourself. Watch a few online guided classes and exercise tutorials to help you learn proper techniques while getting a feel for what Pilates exercises look like.
- Take your time. Most importantly, don’t rush. Take your time to practice the correct techniques. This will require a lot of physical discipline as well as mental focus.
At-Home Pilates Workout Routine
The typical Pilates routine consists of a variety of moves performed in low repetitions, often eight to 10 times, during a session of 30 to 60 minutes.
The routine can help you build strength, burn calories, prevent injury, ease lower back pain, and so much more.
I’d recommend doing this routine at least twice a week. Do it more frequently if you can (for 20 to 30 minutes per session) but keep it right.
Start by lying down on your belly, hands in front of your shoulders with palms facing down. Keep your shoulders pulled away from your ears.
While bracing your core and looking forward, slowly raise your torso as you press your forearms and hands into the mat.
Hold for a moment, then lengthen your spine as your torso returns to the starting position in a slow way.
That’s one rep.
Shoot for 12 reps to complete one set. Do three sets.
Lie down on your back, knees bent, feet on the ground, then slightly curl your head to lift your shoulders off the floor.
Then, raise your left leg slightly off the ground while extending the right leg to the ceiling.
Exhale, and scissor your legs while keeping your knees straights and toes pointed. Switch/scissors your legs on the inhale then repeat again.
Keep your core engaged and back flat on the ground throughout the exercise.
How do you know if it is your flexibility or your core? Breathe.
Shoot for 20 reps to complete one set—complete three sets.
Begin by lying on your back, then press the backs of your arms into the floor.
Lift your legs up to the ceiling until they’re vertical above your hips, then squeeze them together while focusing on joining your inner thighs.
Next, while engaging your core, reach your legs over to the right side, allowing the hips to move first, then pull the legs back up to the starting position.
Reach your legs to the left, letting the hips lift away from the ground, then back to starting position. That’s one rep.
Shoot for 10 reps to complete one set.
4. Shoulder bridge with a kick
Begin by lying on your back, arms straight along your sides, and feet flat on the ground under your knees.
Tighten your core and butt muscles, then raise your hips to a bridge position. Aim to form a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. Remember, your neck shouldn’t be in pain.
Next, raise your right leg out long in front of you then extend it up to the ceiling, toes pointed. Keep your knees within the same plane as your collarbone and hips.
Then bend your right knee and return to the starting position.
Switch sides to complete one rep.
5. Kneeling Sidekick
Assume a kneeling position while facing the side of the mat. Keep your legs slightly apart, arms raised to a “T” position.
Place your right palm on the floor, fingers pointing away from the knee. Then place your left behind your head, elbow bent, and pointing up.
Next, lower your left hand to the ground and extend your right arm out, holding the right hand behind your head.
Then, while engaging your core, kick forward with your right leg then bring it back. That’s one rep.
Shoot for 10 reps on each side to complete one set. Perform three sets.
6. Double Side Leg Lifts
Begin by lying on your left side, both legs extended. Make sure your ears, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles are aligned.
Then, move your legs slightly in front, forming a banana shape. This helps protect your lower back and improves balance, too.
Next, while pulling your core muscles in and supporting your head with one hand, raise both legs off the floor, keeping them locked. Slowly lower your legs down but do not reach the ground. This is one rep.
Remember to keep your chest square, hips forward, and heels together the entire time.
Perform 10 reps on each side to complete one set. Shoot for three sets.
7. The Roll-up
Begin by lying down on the ground while keeping your arms extended overhead (palms facing each other), shoulders down, and legs straight.
On the exhale, bring your arms overhead in an arch. Then, once they go past 90 degrees, slowly raise your head, neck and shoulder off the floor, then roll up by using your core muscles and lifting your arms toward the ceiling. Then, curl your chin and chest forward.
On the exhale, reverse to roll down, moving slowly and smoothly until you’re lying flat on the mat.
That’s one rep.
Shoot for 12 reps to complete one set.
8. The Hundred
Lie on your back and bring your knees in toward your chest, shins parallel to the ceiling, then raise your head, neck and shoulders off the mat.
While keeping your heels together and toes apart, extend your legs to a 45-degree angle. This is the tabletop position.
On the inhale, pump your arms up and down about 3 to 5 inches for a five-second count, then keep moving your arms up and down for another five-second count on the exhale.
If this is too easy, imagine yourself pushing the wall or ceiling. This way, you won’t only use your hand and feet, but push with your core power.
Repeat for 10 sets.