The 7 Minute Pilates Workout


Long weekends and holidays can derail your workout routines faster than you can refill your dinner plate. Add to that list work overload and low motivation and getting to the gym can be more than a hurdle. Thankfully there are dozens of quick and dirty exercise regimens you can do when you are pressed for time, space and resources.

My favorite quickie Pilates routine borrows from a well-circulated article published in the New York Times last year and titled the Scientific 7 Minute Workout.

In it, the experts compiled a list of 12 of the most effective exercises. In assessing the list, I was thrilled to see that the moves looked just like a classic Pilates routine. I have taken the liberty of translating that original article and each exercise into Pilates speak. In case these exercises surprise you, I'll remind you that the conditioning regimens devised by Mr. Pilates were vigorous athletic endeavors. This 7 minute routine of 12 exercises is exactly the kind of efficient workout that Mr. Pilates promoted. Each exercise should be performed for 30 seconds with a 30 second break in between.

1. Jumping Jacks - Think 4 count Jumping Jack

  • Stand up with legs together and arms down at your sides.
  • Then jump feet together and arms and legs up.
  • Jump feet back apart and arms out sideways.
  • Jump feet together and arms down to body.
  • Repeat.

2. The Wall: Chair - Think Wall Sit.

  • Lean against wall with legs in front and feet apart and parallel.
  • Slide down wall and raise arms to shoulder height.
  • Hold for 5 breath cycles.
  • Slide back up and lower arms.
  • Repeat. 

3. Pilates Push Ups - Think Push Ups with a Stretch

  • Starts standing with legs together arms raised.
  • Bend forward and walk hands out to a Push-Up
  • Land in a full push up position. Perform 3 - 5 tricep push ups with the arms bent into sides.
  • Lift hips and walk hands back to feet.
  • Return upright and repeat.

4. Roll Back - Think Backward Sit Ups

  • Begin sitting up with legs apart and bent. Hold behind your thighs.
  • Drop your head and curl your tail rounding down towards the floor.
  • Hold at your lowest point for 3 deep breaths. Pull your abdominals in with each count.
  • On the last breath, round up and over. 
  • Roll up to sitting to begin again.
  • Repeat.

5. Going Up - Think Step Ups

  • Face a sturdy back chair against a wall for stability or use a step up stool
  • Place one foot atop and reach the arms up or out for balance.
  • Slowly shift weight onto the step and rise up onto the upper leg reaching the back leg long and low.
  • Return slowly down with control.
  • Repeat 15 seconds each leg.

6. Standing Footwork - Think Squats

  • Stand with legs parallel and hip width apart. Cross arms genie-style.
  • Bend the knees deeply keeping the heels flat and the back tall.
  • Hold at the lowest point for 3 counts.
  • Squeeze the gluteals and come up slowly.
  • Repeat.

7.​ Leg Pull Up - Think Reverse Planks

  • Sit upright with legs long in front of you and held together.
  • Place your hands behind you on the floor.
  • Press your hips up swiftly with control.
  • Hold the pose for 3 breaths. Keep your head looking forward.
  • Lower with control and repeat.

8. Long Stretch - Think Planks

  • Assume a Push up position
  • Glide forward lifting your heels and pushing onto the tip-toes
  • Glide back pressing the heels backwards
  • Repeat

9. Archival Running in Place - Think Running in place

  • Stand tall with legs together and arms bent, fists into your sides.
  • Hop one leg forward and one back at the same time into a small lunge.
  • Hop 4 times up and down in the same position.
  • Switch feet and continue hopping.
  • Repeat

10.​ Pilates Lunges with Weights - Think Lunges

  • Stand tall holding light weights at your side. The feet are in a “V” shape.
  • Lunge forward pitching the body low and raising arms up to ears.
  • The back leg is straight while the front leg bends deep.
  • Return back to two legs with a strong push off the front leg.
  • Repeat the same leg 5 more times or 15 seconds.
  • Switch legs and repeat.

11. Plank / Side Bend Combo - Think Side Planks and Planks

12.​ Side Bend - Think Side Planks with a Hip Dip

  • Begin in a Side Plank
  • Hold for 3 counts
  • Lower the bottom hip towards the floor. Keep the supporting arm straight.
  • Rise back up. Hold for 3 more counts.
  • Repeat for 15 seconds.
  • Switch sides.

Advice on the above workout. Timing is essential. The idea is to complete the circuit in 7 minutes. If you need to start out with less time or repetitions, do so but build up quickly. Once you can complete the full circuit in 7 minutes, aim to add on additional circuits. Work your way up to 3 full circuits.

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