The Best Pilates Exercises to do at Home

Pilates is more than a fitness craze or a way to get a fantastic Pilates body; it’s also an excellent way to improve your health and keep you strong and capable no matter your age. Whether you are new to Pilates workouts or are a long-time enthusiast, then you already know how amazing Pilates can be for your overall fitness. But how can you sustain your practice when you can’t get to your fitness center or Pilates studio?

If you miss having a Pilates instructor, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with a list of the best Pilates exercises for a home-based workout. Doing Pilates these exercises at home requires nothing more than a Pilates mat and your body. So, are you ready to get a terrific Pilates workout in the comfort of your home? Break out your mat, and let’s get started!

Some Basic Pilates Concepts You Will Need to Know

To describe the Pilates exercises that follow, you will need to understand some of the fundamental Pilates positions and techniques. So, let’s review some basic practices that help beginners learn balance and form the basis for more complicated Pilates workouts. 

  • Neutral Pelvis: This position is often used in Pilates as the basis for many other exercises. To find your neutral pelvis, lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Relax your gluteal and abdominal muscles to let your tailbone drop to the floor. There should be a curve in your lower back.
  • Imprinted Pelvis: Starting in the neutral spine position, flatten the small of your back by pulling your belly button to your spine and tilting your pelvis. Follow the longer instructions for imprinting below if you are having trouble finding this basic Pilates position.
  • Sequential Breathing: Breath control is a core tenet of Pilates practice. Bring air slowly into your nose, pulling it in deeply and allowing it to expand your ribs and belly. Exhale by relaxing in reverse order, from your abdominal muscles to your ribs, allowing your chest to drop. 
  • The Table Top: This is a starting position for several Pilates poses. Lie faceup on the mat and lift your legs, with your knees bent, so your thighs are perpendicular to the floor. Your knees should be over your hips, with your lower legs parallel to the floor. Your pelvis should be neutral. Squeeze the legs together gently to engage the thighs. This position can be used as a modification in more challenging exercises. 

Warming Up for Your Pilates Workout

As any Pilates instructor will tell you, it is essential to warm up before any workout. Ensuring your body is warm before a workout prevents strains and injuries that will sideline your practice in a long-term way.

Here are a few warmup exercises with which you can start your Pilates workout. Each of these exercises can be done in reps of three to five. 

  • Imprinting: Imprinting helps you settle into your workout, improves your focus and reduces stress. 
    • Lie faceup on the mat with your arms by your sides and knees bent, in a neutral spine. Begin sequential breathing and relax your muscles serially in the following order: Allow your shoulders to release toward the floor; relax your jaw and throat; relax your ribcage, sternum, abdominals, hips and legs, allowing them to melt into the floor. 
    • Continue to breathe sequentially throughout. 
    • Continue this exercise for three to five minutes, visualizing your spine lengthening, sinking into the mat and making an “imprint.”
  • Pelvic Curl: The pelvic curl is an excellent warmup for your abdomen and spine and a great way to check your alignment and strengthen your core. 
    • Lie faceup with your back straight, legs bent at the knees and feet flat on the floor.
    • On an out-breath, engage your abdominals, pulling your belly toward your spine and pulling the lower back flat into the imprinted pelvis position. 
    • Breathe in, pressing down through your feet, and curl your tailbone upward. Raise your hips then your lower and middle spine sequentially until your torso and legs form a straight line. 
    • Exhale as you roll your spine back to the floor, one vertebra at a time starting at the top. 
    • Inhale, allow your gluteal muscles and abs to relax and return to starting position with a neutral spine. 
  • Arm Circles: Arm circles will help you warm up your shoulders.
    • Lie faceup on your yoga mat with bent knees and your arms by your sides. 
    • Take a breath in and lift your arms, reaching upward toward the ceiling, then move them over your head.
    • Exhale, bringing your arms from the top of your head to your sides. 
    • Once you have completed a set, reverse direction for another set, bringing your arms from your sides, over your head and then up toward the ceiling. Repeat for three to five reps in each direction.
  • Wall Roll-Down: Wall roll-downs engage and warm up your core abdominals.
    • Stand with your back against the wall and your body at its full height. 
    • Walk six to 10 inches away, using only your feet and keeping your upper body still. 
    • Pull your abdominal muscles in, raising your arms over your head. 
    • Bend your neck, dropping your chin to your chest. Roll your spine downwards against the wall, one vertebra at a time, while keeping your abdominals pulled to your spine and your hips against the wall. 
    • Reverse the process to roll back up the wall vertebra by vertebra. 
  • Cat Stretch: The cat stretch is a gentle way to stretch your back in preparation for your workout. 
    • Returning to your mat, get onto your hands and knees, keeping your palms lined up below your shoulders and your knees hip-distance apart. 
    • With your pelvis and spine in neutral, inhale.
    • Breathe out and extend your back toward the ceiling like an angry cat, pulling your tailbone inward. 
    • Breathe in and extend the spine downward, allowing it to stretch in the opposite direction. 

The Best Exercises for your Home Pilates Workout

Whether you are looking for a beginner’s workout, or something more advanced, the following Pilates routine will give you a full-body workout, improve your core strength and benefit your focus and balance. With each of these exercises, it is essential that you listen to your body, stop if they feel uncomfortable and seek advice from a trained Pilates instructor.

  • Plank: Plank is a well-known Pilates position that engages your abs and builds core strength. 
    • Position yourself on your hands and knees, like in the cat stretch above.
    • With your core engaged and belly in, reach one leg straight back, resting on the ball of the foot. 
    • Follow with the other leg, also resting on the ball of the foot.
    • Hold for 20 seconds.
  • Hip Rolls: Hip rolls target the midsection and help readjust the spine. 
    • Lie with your back on the mat, your knees bent and feet flat. Your inner thighs should be touching with your arms resting on the floor perpendicular to your torso. 
    • Move both knees together to one side, peeling your top foot up as you move and rolling your head to your opposite shoulder. Do not allow your knees to drop, but rather keep the bottom foot planted. Inhale to hold the position. 
    • Exhale and return to starting position, then repeat the sequence on the other side. 
    • Continue for three to five reps each side.
  • Ab Scoop: The ab scoop engages your core, targets the abdominals and is an excellent exercise if you are looking for six-pack abs. 
    • To start, lie faceup on the mat with your feet hip-distance apart and your arms by your sides, with the palms facing upward and your shoulder blades down. 
    • Exhale while scooping your abdominals inward by pulling your belly to your spine. Lift your head, bringing your chin to your chest while keeping your hands lined up with your shoulders. 
    • Inhale as you relax down, returning your pelvis to neutral. 
    • Repeat for three to five reps.
  • Saw: The saw is an excellent leg-stretch exercise and targets the hamstrings, back, inner thighs and obliques.
    • Sit with your bottom on your yoga mat and your legs outstretched in front of you, a little more than hip-width apart. 
    • Reach your arms out to your sides at shoulder height, with palms facing down.
    • Inhale deeply, then exhale and twist to the left, rotating your torso. 
    • Inhale and reach your right hand to your left leg for a good leg stretch. Hold for the exhale and lift yourself back up on the inhale. 
    • Come back to center, take a breath, switch legs and repeat on the other side by reaching your left hand to your right leg. 
  • Single Leg Stretch: The single leg stretch is an excellent workout for your abs, arms and legs.
    • Start by lying on your yoga mat in table top position.
    • Take a breath through your nose and bring your head and chest off the mat.
    • Extend your right leg out from your body, keeping your left leg at a 90-degree angle. 
    • Grasp your right knee with your left hand and your right ankle with your right hand. Both toes should remain pointed throughout the exercise.
    • Slowly switch legs so you are grasping your left knee with your right hand and your left ankle with your right hand. Your right leg will return to a 90-degree angle.
    • Switch back and forth from right leg to left leg, inhaling for two counts and exhaling for two counts. 
    • Repeat for as many reps as possible; then, you can allow your head to return to the mat and pull your knees in for a rest. 
  • The Hundred: This exercise targets the abdominals, strengthens your core and requires a full range of breath. 
    • Start in the table top position. More advanced Pilates students can move their legs from a 90-degree angle to a 45-degree angle or even extend them completely. Your hands should be at your sides and palms down.
    • Lift your arms up, holding them about an inch above the mat. Extend through your arms, reaching your fingertips toward your feet. 
    • Take a deep breath in, then release it. Bend your neck, bringing your chin to your chest and your chest off the mat, with your shoulder blades up and your hands reaching even further forward.
    • Inhale deeply and exhale, then pump your arms up and down, keeping your belly in and being careful not to imprint your back. 
    • Continue to pump the arms for five inhales and exhales. 
    • Repeat for three to five reps.

Keeping your Home Pilates Workout on Track

Keeping up your workouts can be difficult when you don’t have the incentive of a class and a Pilates instructor. If you are having trouble staying motivated, you might search for an online workout partner or even consider joining a virtual class. By keeping an ongoing commitment, you will continue to reap the long-term benefits of continuing your Pilates practice throughout your life.

You may also want consider getting some equipment for your home such as the Stott At Home Pilates Reformer.