Pilates Moves That Get Results

February 2, 2020

Pilates for Beginners
What sets Pilates apart is its focus on building muscle with springs, bands, or your own body weight.Alycea Ungaro, author of 15 Minutes of Everyday Pilates, shares her daily workouts for beginners. Some of the moves are shown using a Pilates studio’s equipment, but you can do most of them at home. If you’re a man over 45 or a woman over 55, or if you have a medical condition, consult your doctor first.

Flat belly. Pilates hundred.
This classic move makes effective use of your abdominal muscles to help flatten your belly. Grasp behind your knees and dig your stomach in, then curl up into position on the floor. Now curl your head and shoulders up slightly, with your lower back still attached to the floor. Pump your arms up and down in small movements at your sides. Inhale 5 times and exhale 5 times until you reach 50 pumps. Sit up and repeat the process for a total of 100 pumps.

Flat Belly. The Reformer’s Hundred
In the studio, you can try Pilates 100 on an orthotic, a spring-based resistance machine. Lie on your back with your legs in a tabletop position or stretched at a 45-degree angle. Pull the band next to your abdomen. Curl your head and shoulders upward and pulsate your arms up and down. Inhale 5 times and exhale 5 times until you reach 100 pulses. If any of the movements don’t feel right, talk to a fitness expert.

Flat abs, curly belly.
Start this introductory sit-up with your legs straight out in front of you. Extend your arms over your legs and lower your head between your arms. Curl backwards, bending your knees and stopping halfway through. Raise your arms straight up and tighten your abs. Exhale and lower your arms as you return to the curl. Do 6-8 reps at a moderate pace. As you get more advanced, try lowering all the way to the floor.

Flat abdominal muscles, neck dissection
If sit-ups are making your neck sore, try this option. Lie flat on your back and tuck one end of the resistance band or towel under the center of your back. Bend your knees and grab the other end of the band over your head. Inhale and use your abdominal muscles to slowly peel your body away so that your head rests on the band. Exhale and return to the starting position. Do this five times, making sure your abdominal muscles are doing all the work.

Obliques: twisting and stretching
Carry a resistance band with you for this waist exercise. Sit with your legs a little wider apart than your hips. Hold the resistance band in your hands and raise your arms above your head. Exhale as you turn to the side, using the muscles in your lower back. Inhale and keep your hips in position as you extend your arms and stretch back. Exhale and return to the starting position. Alternate each side for a total of four sets.

Lower Back. Shoulder Bridge, Part 1
Along with strengthening your abdominal muscles, it’s vital to tone your back. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet hip-width apart. Place your hands at your sides and lift your hips, not arch your back. Tighten the muscles in your hips and legs and hold for five breaths. If you stop here, lower one vertebra at a time to the floor, or continue with the advanced pose.

Lower Back. Shoulder Bridge, Part II
Keeping your hips elevated, straighten one leg and point your foot. Kick the leg down and bend the foot. Repeat, exhaling as you extend your leg up and inhaling as you kick your leg down. Keep your torso strong and your other foot firmly planted on the mat. Do this 5 times for each leg.

Upper back. Ties
Toning the upper back is a fast track to better posture. This move uses a reformer with an accessory called a long box. Lie on your back with your chest just past the edge of the long box. Grab the front of the straps with straight arms. Raise your head and chest while pulling the straps down toward your hips. The long box will slide forward and you are on top. Release your arms to return to the starting position. Do five reps.

Upper Back. Letters ‘T’
Want to target your upper back without braces? Lie face down on the mat with your feet together. Raise your head and chest slightly and extend your arms perpendicular to your body, palms down. Exhale and sweep your arms back as you lift your chin and chest higher. Keep your lower back on the mat and use your upper back muscles to bring your arms closer to your body. Return to the starting position. Do five reps.

Upper body: tendon stretching
This powerful upper body toning technique can be performed on a mat, orthotics or a Venda chair. If using a mat, sit with your legs straight out in front of you, feet together and bent. Press your hands flat against the mat, look down, and lift your back and upper legs with your upper body. Swing yourself back and forth, then slowly lower yourself back down to the mat. Do five reps.

Upper Body: Sparks
A pair of small hand weights add impact to an at-home Pilates workout. For this move, imagine you’re spinning the weights like fireworks on the 4th of July. Stand at your thighs and hold the weights. Place them slightly inward, facing each other, and make eight small circles. Each circle should be a little higher until your hand is above your head. As you lower your arms, make eight circles in the opposite direction. Repeat 2-3 times.

Lower Body. Kneeling Knee Stretches
This corrective cone exercise is an effective way to work the entire lower body. Kneel on the orthotics and go around your back, keeping your arms straight. Use your glute muscles and thighs to push and pull your lower body back and forth. The platform will slide a few inches with each movement. Do five reps. As you progress, do five more reps with your back arched.

Lower body, kneeling side kick.
Here’s a way to tone your thighs and hips without a reformer. First, kneel. Lean to your left and place your left hand on the mat under your shoulder and your right hand behind your head with your elbow pointing up. Lift your right leg until it’s parallel to the floor. Keeping your torso stable, kick your leg in front of you, then behind you, knee straight. Do 5 reps on each side.

Lower body, leg swing.
This move will sculpt your legs while getting your heart rate up. Stand with your arms crossed in front of you, at shoulder height. Keeping your abs tight, exhale and lift your right knee toward your right elbow. Quickly lower your leg and repeat on the other side. Continue to switch sides, swinging each leg a total of 10 times.

Stamina: wall chairs
In addition to building muscles, Pilates is also known for increasing endurance. A wall and small hand weights are the only necessities for this efficient exercise. Stand with your back against a wall and your feet hip-width apart. Walk your feet outward a little, bend your knees and slide them down as if you were sitting in a chair. Progress the intensity daily until you can get your upper legs parallel to the floor. Raise your arms to shoulder height and hold for 30 seconds. Do this twice.

Cardio. Standing long jump
While Pilates focuses on strength training, you can get some cardio in with moves like these. Stand with your abdomen in, arms over your head. Inhale, lower your head, bend your knees, and swing your arms back. Exhale and jump with your legs straight and your arms extended over your head. Bend your knees slightly as you land and quickly return to the starting position. Do 8-10 reps at a fast pace. You should be panting by the time you finish.