Advanced Pilates Exercises

Exercises from the Classical Pilates Mat Sequence

Below is a reference list for advanced Pilates exercises from the classical Pilates mat sequence. Each exercise is shown with very basic "reminder" instructions and links to the detailed instructions, which include the breath patterns. Advanced Pilates exercises are meant to be practiced in the context of a variety of exercises at different levels that work together to create a balanced, dynamic workout. Before you add advanced exercises to your routine, you should have command of the beginner and intermediate exercises.

Corkscrew

Two women exercising on a Pilates machine.
Kristian Sekulic/E+/Getty Images

Brief Instructions: Lie on your back, press the backs of the arms into the mat and roll over onto your upper back. Legs are above your face. Turn the lower torso to take the legs and hips to the right (stay stable in your upper body). Roll down as you lower and circle your legs around to the left, taking the hips up as you go up on the left side. 3 Reps each direction.

Corkscrew follows Open Leg Rocker and is followed by Saw.

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Swan Dive

pilates swan
(c)2007, Marguerite Ogle

Brief Instructions: Press up into swan. Keep the full extension of the spine as you extend the arms overhead. Keep your shape as you rock forward and back in a long arc. Use the power of your breath and control from the abdominal muscles to move you. 6 Reps.

Swan dive is preceded by saw and followed by one leg kick.

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Neck Pull

pilates neck pull
(c)2010, Marguerite Ogle

Brief Instructions: Start on your back, hands behind head, legs hip distance apart, feet flexed. Elbows stay open as you curl up. Curl over your legs. Unroll your spine until you are upright. Hinge back - flat back. Start at the low belly to roll down. 3 Reps. We also have tips on the neck pull from Pilates master teachers.

Neck pull is preceded by double leg kick and followed by scissors.

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Scissors

pilates scissors exercise
(c)2010, Marguerite Ogle

Brief Instructions: On your back, roll your hips off the mat, legs together and straight. Support the pelvis with cupped hands. Open your hips so that you have a long line from the shoulder out through the legs. (It is the neutral spine and hip extension that make this an advanced exercise). Scissor the legs with as much emphasis on opening the hip of the bottom leg as on bringing the top leg toward you. 6 Reps.

Scissors is preceded by neck pull and followed by bicycle.

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Bicycle

bicycle exercise
courtesy of Kolesar Studios

Brief Instructions: On your back, roll your hips off the mat and support with cupped hands. Open your hips so that you have a long line from the shoulder out through the legs. (It is the neutral spine and hip extension that make this an advanced exercise). Scissor the legs straight with as much emphasis on opening the hip of the bottom leg as on bringing the top leg toward you. Bend the bottom knee to begin bicycling the legs. Ideally, the toe of the bottom leg taps the mat. 6 Reps.

Bicycle is preceded by scissors and followed by shoulder bridge.

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Shoulder Bridge with Kick

pilates exercise
(c)2009, Marguerite Ogle

Brief Instructions: On your back, straight arms along sides.  Knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Press directly up to shoulder bridge position (not a curl up). Hands can support the pelvis. Extend one leg, toe softly pointed. Kick the leg up to 90 degrees and return to extended position. 3 Reps each leg.

Shoulder bridge is preceded by bicycle and followed by spine twist.

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Jack Knife

pilates jack knife
(c)2010, Marguerite Ogle

Brief Instructions: Start on the back. Roll over with legs together. Legs are above your face. Jack knife the legs up as if to put the toes on the ceiling. Hips are extended and weight is at the base of the shoulder girdle and on the backs of the arms. Legs can come back over as you roll down.

Jack knife is preceded by spine twist and followed by the side kick.

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Hip Twist

(c)Susannah Marchese

Brief Instructions: Seated with arms straight behind you, palms on the mat, fingers away. Bring the knees in to the chest and then extend the legs upward, toes pointed. Circle the legs, keeping them together, to the right and down around to the left and up.
Stable upper torso. 3 Reps each direction.

Hip twist is preceded by teaser and followed by swimming.

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Kneeling Side Kick

kneeling side kick
(c)2007, Marguerite Ogle

Brief Instructions: Kneeling, place one hand on the floor directly to the side. The other hand is behind the head. Extend top leg to the side. Kick the top leg to the front and sweep it to the back. The torso remains stable. 4 Reps each leg. Kneeling side kick is preceded by leg pull back and followed by side bend.

Also see kneeling side kick before and after.

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Side Bend

(c)2010, Marguerite Ogle

Brief Instructions: Sit with legs folded to the side. Top foot in front of bottom foot. Supporting arm straight with palm on the mat.
Press up so that you are in a long sideways line supported on your feet and supporting arm. Hips and shoulders are vertically stacked. Sweep the top arm overhead and stretch the ribs up sideways making an arc of the body. Bring the arm back to the side. Return to start position. 3 Reps each side.

Side bend is preceded by kneeling side kick and followed by boomerang.

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Boomerang

(c)2010, Marguerite Ogle

Brief Instructions: Seated in a C-curve with legs straight, one over the other. Roll back taking the legs overhead, switch the legs.
Roll up to teaser. Hold teaser, sweep the arms back, clasp hands and stretch.  Take the legs down, bring the arms around to the front. Stretch over to the front. Begin the roll back. 6 Reps.

Boomerang is preceded by side bend and followed by seal.

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Crab

pilates crab exercise
(c)Lynda Lippin

Brief Instructions: Start seated in curled shape with your legs crossed at the ankles, feet off the floor and held by your hands. Stay curled and roll back onto the base of your shoulder girdle. Change your feet. Roll forward, with control, onto your head. Take a light neck stretch here. 6 Reps.

Crab is preceded by seal and followed by rocking.

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Rocking

pilates rocking
(c)2010, Marguerite Ogle

Brief Instructions: On your belly, keeping your legs as close to parallel as you can, bend your knees and reach back and grab your ankles. Your spine will be in a long curve. Pull against your hands with your shins. Use that action and your breath to create the rocking motion. 6 Reps.

Rocking is preceded by crab and followed by control balance.

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Control Balance

advanced pilates exercise
Getty Images

Brief Instructions: Start on your back, legs straight and down. Roll over with legs together. Circle arms up and around to grasp feet.
Open your hip to extend one leg up to the ceiling. Change legs. 6 Reps.

Control balance is preceded by rocking and followed by push up.

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