15-Minute Pilates Routine at Home

Take a few minutes for this beginner's set of Pilates exercises

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 for which Pilates is famous.

The muscular focus for each exercise is noted so you can target your routine. Please keep in mind that all Pilates exercises engage the core abdominal muscles. Feel free to choose any from the list for an ab workout. There are modification notes in the full instructions for each exercise.

Pilates Warm-Up Moves

Woman Doing Yoga
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The warm-up set of 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, choose at least two or three warm-up moves to begin each Pilates routine you do. Grab a mat and begin.​​

Ab Scoop

Chest Lift
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Exercise: Chest Lift/Ab Scoop.​
Target Area: Abdominals—especially the six pack or Rectus Abdominis.
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.

The Hundred

The Hundred
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Exercise: The Hundred
Target Area: Abdominals, Breathing
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.

The Roll Up

Pilates Roll Up
Daniel Sambraus/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

Exercise: The Roll Up
Target Area: Abdominals
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.

One Leg Circle

One leg circle
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Exercise: One Leg Circle.
Target Area: Abdominals, Thighs, Hip Flexors
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.

Rolling Like a Ball

Pilates Rolling like a Ball
Rolling Like a Ball - Photo by Jackie Nieves. Real Pilates

Exercise: Rolling Like a Ball
Target Area: Abdominals, Spinal Mobility
Stay in your curve for the whole exercise. Initiate the roll back with the abs and not by falling back or using momentum. 

Open Leg Balance

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Exercise: Open Leg Balance
Target Area: Abdominals, Hamstring Mobility
Use your 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. 

The Side Kick Series

Side Kick Series
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Exercise: Side Kick Series
Target Area: Abdominals, all thigh muscles—especially inner thigh
Work the torso as well as the legs. The ribs should stay supported throughout each repetition. Do not let them sink to the mat.

Front Support/Plank

Plank Preparation

Exercise: Front Support/Plank
Target Area: Back Extensors, Abdominals, Shoulders, Arms
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.


The Pilates saw.
The Pilates saw. Angela Coppola/Getty Images

Exercise: Saw
Target Area: Hamstrings, Inner thigh, Obliques, Back Mobility
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. 


Mermaid Side Stretch
Angela Coppola/Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images

Exercise: Mermaid
Target Area: Side stretch
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.

Swan Prep

Exercise: Swan Prep
Target Area: Back extensors, Abdominal stretch
Swan provides a wonderful counter stretch to the many forward flexion exercises that we do in Pilates. This is an everyday move.

Wall Roll Down

pilates picture
(c)2007, Marguerite Ogle

Exercise: Wall Roll Down
Target Area: Abdominals, Back and Hamstring stretch
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 books, "Return to Life," or, "Pilates: Body in Motion."

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