At Home Pilates Routines for All Levels

This set of Pilates exercises is designed to provide you with an at home routine and help you build familiarity with Pilates mat exercises whether you are new or experienced. These exercises develop the core strength, stability, and flexibility that Pilates is famous for.

To help you target your own workout, I have noted the muscular focus for each exercise. Please keep in mind that all Pilates exercises engage the core abdominal muscles. So feel free to choose any from the list for an ab workout.

There are modification notes in the full instructions for each exercise. You may want to review the Pilates Fundamentals and the Pilates Exercise Modification Tips before you begin.

Pilates Warm-Up Moves

Woman Doing Yoga
Ken Reid/Photolibrary/Getty Images

The warm-up exercises are very important in teaching the foundations of Pilates movement. They also prepare the body for safely executing more challenging exercises later. Even if you skip the later moves, I suggest that you choose at least two or three warm-up moves to begin each Pilates routine you do. Grab a mat and begin.

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Ab Scoop

pilates exercises
by Peter Kramer, courtesy of Kolesar Studios

Target Area: Abdominals--especially the six pack or Rectus Abdominis.

Tips: This is not a crunch. The abdominals must be pulled way down into a deep scoop as you use them to control a slow, smooth curl up and roll down. Precision and this type of scoop is one of the secrets of Pilates.

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The Hundred

pilates picture
courtesy of Peak Pilates

Target Area: Abdominals, Breathing

Tips: Your abdominals will be deeply pulled in, so you will have to use your full lung capacity by breathing into your back and lower ribs. Use your abs to hold yourself up--don't let your neck and shoulders do all the work.

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The Roll Up

Pilates Roll Up
(c)2006 Marguerite Ogle

Target Area: Abdominals

Tips: Use your abdominals to roll up and down with control. Do not rely on momentum or letting your legs lift off the mat. Pilates is about control, this is where you build that control.

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One Leg Circle

pilates pictures
courtesy of Peak Pilates

Target Area: Abdominals, Thighs, Hip Flexors

Tips: The abdominals keep the pelvis stable as the leg moves. No rocking and rolling! Be sure to use your full range of motion without losing control.

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Rolling Like a Ball

pilates picture
by Peter Kramer, courtesy of Kolesar Studios

Target Area: Abdominals, Spinal Mobility

Tips: Stay in your curve for the whole exercise. Initiate the roll back with the abs and not by falling back or using momentum. 

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Open Leg Balance

pilates exercises
courtesy of Kolesar Studios

Target Area: Abdominals, Hamstring Mobility

Tips: Use you abdominals and back muscles to control the pose. Try to work with the straightest arms and legs possible. If it doesn't work at first, keep practicing. You'll get there. 

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The Side Kick Series

photo: Peter Kramer, courtesy of Kolesar Studios

Target Area: Abdominals, all Thigh muscles--especially inner thigh

Tips: Work the torso as well as the legs. The ribs should stay supported throughout each repetition. Do not let them sink to the mat.

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Front Support/Plank

pilates pictures
courtesy of Peak Pilates

Target Area: Back Extensors, Abdominals, Shoulders, Arms

Tips: Stay in one line from your heels to your ears. Though the focus is somewhat on the upper body, if you engage the legs and imagine squeezing the gluteals together, the exercise will be easier.

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Pilates Mat Exercise - Saw
(c)2006, Marguerite Ogle

Target Area: Hamstrings, Inner thigh, Obliques, Back Mobility

Tips: Keep your hips anchored and level as you twist to the side. Use opposition when reaching forward so that you also reach back at the same time. 

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pilates picture
by Peter Kramer, courtesy of Kolesar Studios(c)2006

Target Area: Side stretch

Tips: Bend your body directly sideways as you stretch, as though you were between two sheets of glass. Keep the hip on your stretching side down.

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Swan Prep

Pilates Mat Exercises
courtesy of Peak Pilates

Target Area: Back extensors, Abdominal stretch

Tips: Swan provides a wonderful counter stretch to the many forward flexion exercises that we do in Pilates. This is an every day move.

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Wall Roll Down

pilates picture
(c)2007, Marguerite Ogle

Target Area: Abdominals, Back and Hamstring stretch

Tips: Use this exercise as a transition from doing your Pilates routine to carrying good posture into your daily life. Squeeze this move into your daily routine.

Once you are ready to explore the complete mat work, try following a complete program in Joe Pilates own book Return to Life or Pilates: Body in Motion.

Edited by Alycea Ungaro

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