Best Pilates Exercises for Beginners

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Pilates can be intimidating. It’s easy to see how a beginner may see the exercises as too difficult. However there are some easy, effective and fun exercises for Pilates beginners that are accessible for even those who have never stepped onto a mat.

To show you just how accessible Pilates is for newcomers, here are the six best Pilates exercises for beginners.

1. Rolling like a ball

Starting off with whimsy is never a bad idea. This move is playful and simple, not to mention it offers a great massage for tight back muscles and a perfect warm-up for those abs. One reason that it’s great for beginners in particular is that it teaches you how to get that rounded spinal shape that is central to Pilates. The core engagement is also phenomenal, pulling in the muscles all the way around the midsection.

  • Sit down just forward of center on the mat, knees bent and feed pointed. Toes should be barely touching the floor.
  • Place the hands on the back of the thighs, then lift the legs slightly off of the floor. Ensure that the knees remain shoulder width apart.
  • Lower the head slightly between the knees and inhale as you pull the belly button towards the spine.
  • Stay in this position for two cycles of breath.
  • On the inhale, rock back all the way to the upper back and shoulders, stopping before the neck while keeping the head off of the floor.
  • Exhale, rocking back up to the seated balance position.
  • Repeat four more times for five total reps.


2. The Saw

Learning how to form a solid base can be a challenge for beginners, but the Saw offers a perfect way to practice that skill. Posture is a key ingredient to great Pilates. The Saw also loosens the shoulders and upper back, opening up the chest to allow for easier breathing.

  • Sit upright in the center of the mat, legs straight out with feet touching either side.
  • Extend the arms out from the body to the sides, straight and with fingers pointing. Inhale deeply.
  • Exhale, and in one fluid motion twist to the left as the right arm stretches toward the left foot, pulsing three times.
  • Inhale, pulling back up to center.
  • Repeat to the opposite side, then repeat the whole cycle twice more for three total reps.


3. The Criss-Cross

Pilates doesn’t have to be a complicated or heavy kind of workout. The great thing about this exercise is it involves simple movements – with profound effects.

  • Lie on your back on the mat, pulling your knees to your chest with your hands behind your head (or place a towel underneath to give a bit more of a boost).
  • Extend the right leg out straight, keeping that left leg bent as you inhale.
  • Exhale as you twist toward the left leg, engaging the core to draw the upper body off the ground.
  • Inhale back down as you switch legs.
  • Repeat three times to each side.


4. The Mermaid

The sides of the body are often neglected and easy to ignore, but stretching them out can feel positively magical. Relieving tension and offering a wonderful lengthening to the side body, the Mermaid not only does some great toning bout also feels fantastic.

  • Sit down on the mat with the right hip towards the ground, legs folded to the left side.
  • Place the left hand around the ankles, then inhale as you reach the right arm up into the air with the upper arm next to the ear.
  • Exhale as you pull the straight right arm forward, then swoop it out to the left as you feel the stretch in your side body.
  • Repeat twice on this side.
  • Staying in the same position, reach your right hand down to the ground and do the same movement with your left hand.
  • Switch your legs to the other side and repeat the entire sequence in reverse.


5. Single-Leg Circles

A big trick to Pilates is keeping those abs engaged while the body is moving. That’s no small thing to do, but it is a powerful door to unlock. The single leg circle sequence offers a serious boost to the core while also exploring how the legs work together with it. If you need to, it’s okay to bend the leg slightly. In fact it’s better to get a slight bend on the leg than it is to lift the hip off of the floor at all. Another option is to bend the stationary leg that’s on the floor, offering a bit more stability and grounding.

  • Lie down on the mat, legs either bent with feet on the ground or extended out straight and together.
  • Extend the right leg straight up towards the sky as you inhale.
  • Exhale, circling the leg across the body towards the left edge of the mat and back around to the right edge, stopping center.
  • Inhale has you pause, consciously keeping the abdominals fully engaged.
  • Repeat five times, then switch legs.


6. The Hundred

There’s no way around it – the hundred is a core of every Pilates practice.  This movement is a challenge for many beginners, but it keeps the blood pumping and is a perfect warm-up. If one hundred reps proves to be too ambitious at the beginning, then it’s absolutely permissible to keep it to fifty, then work up to the full 100.

  • Lie down flat on the mat, drawing both legs up to the chest and rolling the head and upper back up to create a tight ball as you inhale.
  • Exhale, pulling the legs up to a tabletop position with the knees directly over the hips and the shins parallel to the floor.
  • Stretch the arms out by the sides and pulse them ten times, inhaling for five and exhaling for five counts.
  • Repeat the pumping nine more times without a break, for a total of ten reps and one hundred counts.
  • Inhale as you roll your head and shoulders back down the floor and rest your head flat.


Pilates Exercises can be Easy!

Pilates is a form of exercise that truly should be accessible to everyone, no matter what their level or comfort. Starting something is always the hardest part, but with these moves it doesn’t have to be overwhelming!

The First Step on your Pilates Journey

Another easy way to begin your Pilates journey is with a single step – downloading our 100 day challenge app! We provide you with a simple, but impactful, short exercise video each day with a new Pilates move. At the end of 100 days, see what benefits your mind and body have unlocked!



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