I love a good Pilates workout, so when I heard about the newest trend to hit TikTok, wall Pilates, I knew it wouldn’t be long before I gave it a try. Resistance bands and even mats need replacing over time and a reformer machine or a gym membership aren’t cheap, but a wall? I definitely have one of those! And it won’t need replacing any time soon.
What is wall Pilates?
If you’re new to Pilates, the back story begins with German born Joseph Pilates, who designed the workout for rehabilitation purposes in the 1920s, where it became popular among the dance and theater performance community because it helped them quicken their recovery time from on-the-job injuries. Pilates classes often involve a reformer machine, or what Joseph Pilates would refer to as the Cadillac, which uses a spring tension and pulley system to help put your body into better alignment while also using resistance to build and strengthen your muscles, especially your core.
Many of the same movements can be done on a mat as well; you’d simply use your own body weight as resistance instead. Incorporating a wall reintroduces the reformer by mimicking the foot bar of the machine with specific moves, but it will spice up your mat Pilates routine in many other ways as well (as I discovered!).
I experimented with different wall routines for a month and below are five of my favorite moves:
Wall Pilates Workout Moves
How to do it
Lie face up with knees bent and feet flat against the wall, keeping your legs parallel throughout the move. Exhale and slowly lift up hips, connecting with each vertebra and lifting until only your shoulders are pressing into the floor. Inhale and lower to start, and repeat 10 times.
Glutes and hamstrings. The burn came sooner than regular bridges and even though the wall felt secure it took more focus for me to keep this move in proper form. These definitely are an elevated glute exercises which showed after doing them regularly for four weeks.
How to do it
Lie face up with your feet flat against the wall, legs straight and about 45 degrees off the floor. Engage core and lift head, neck and shoulders up off the mat. Keeping arms straight, hover them a few inches from the mat and pump them up and down quickly. Inhale for five arm pumps, then exhale for five arm pumps. Repeat for 10 rounds.
Transverse abdominals and upper legs. This classic Pilates move felt differently when I pushed my legs against the wall – I felt a burning in my legs as well and more stability in my spine. I could go through two rounds when I can usually only make it through one, but I was super sore afterwards and had to take a day off later. The burn crept up on me!
How to do it
Stand with your feet out about a foot away from the wall, facing out, while your back, hips and shoulders lean against it. Place your arms at your sides with the palms of your hands facing the wall. Bend your knees and gently slide down the wall. Try to get your thighs parallel to the floor. Straighten your legs back to your starting position. Repeat 10 times.
Quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings and inner thighs. The burn was immediate, and I felt it the day after as well, especially in my quads. I developed a love-hate relationship with this move because it made me cry in the moment, but I couldn’t deny the effects it had on my backside after four weeks. Also, between this move and the glute bridges, my hamstrings were toast after the first week.
Kneeling side leg lift
How to do it
Take a high kneeling position on your mat with your right side facing a wall. Place your right palm on the floor just under your shoulder and move your left leg straight so that your left foot is flat on the floor. You can rotate your right knee for balance and comfort. Now reach your left arm OVER your head and place your left palm on the wall. Gently push into the wall until you feel a stretch in your obliques and triceps. Finally, lift your left leg to hip height and point your toe, lowering your leg until your toe hovers above the floor. Repeat 10 times before switching sides.
Oblique abdominals and upper legs. This one was fun even while it was burning off my love handles.
The wall roll down
How to do it
Stand straight with your back against a wall. Step at least five inches away while keeping your back pressed against the wall. Engaging your core, slowly roll your back down the wall, keeping your arms parallel to your sides. Then slowly roll back to the starting position and repeat the exercise.
Stretches the hamstrings and back. A simple move, I love ending a workout with this one because the wall is a great tool to help align my spine and straighten my posture – core benefits I’ve found from doing Pilates workouts. Indeed, I was surprised to discover how smoothly something like a wall could fit into many of the classic Pilates moves.
Any drawbacks to a wall Pilates workout?
Even advanced wall Pilates workouts are low impact, gentle on joints and generally easy to follow, making them safe to try out on our your own. However, always stay connected to yourself through each move, remember to breathe in and out deeply, and follow your instructor.
The presence of the wall can make it easier to increase your range of motion during certain exercises, such as the bridge move. You might be tempted to push a little too far, lifting your body until your shoulder blades are raised but that will put too much weight on the base of your neck, which you do not want. This happened to me during the hundreds move, when I thought they felt easier during my first time using the wall.
So again, don’t forget to follow along with your instructor and most importantly, keep listening to your body. Otherwise, enjoy how wall Pilates does anything but build a wall – in fact, it opens another great way to explore this already awesome regimen.