14 Pilates Exercises That’ll Work Your Core From Every Angle

December 1, 2022 / Workout
14 Pilates Exercises That’ll Work Your Core From Every Angle

Pilates is a low-impact exercise that offers tremendous strength and toning potential. Pilates exercises help realign the natural curves to your spine and fix imbalances caused by poor posture. People of all athletic abilities – from casual exercisers to workout warriors – can benefit.

Pilates exercises do more than make you look good on the outside. Unlike isolation exercises, such as the standard crunch, Pilates strengthens your entire core. Although the emphasis is on the core, the rest of your body benefits as well.

“If you have a weak back or core section, pick Pilates.”

Pilates is corrective by nature and provides benefits for curing low back and neck pain. Pilates exercises will give you sleek, toned muscles without bulking you up. Pilates exercises will define, tone and tighten your muscles, while the cardio will burn off fats to showcase them.

There are two types of Pilates. The most common type, which you can do almost anywhere, consists of a series of floor exercises performed on a mat. These primarily use the body’s own weight as resistance, but can also involve work with resistance bands, pilates balls and the Pilates Magic Circle, a flexible circle made of rubber or thin metal.

The second type of Pilates relies on two machines called the Cadillac and the Reformer, which use a system of springs, levers and pulleys to strengthen and condition your body.

In both types of Pilates, all movement originates from the core – or powerhouse – which includes the muscles that run around your trunk and pelvis. Sometimes exercises are performed slowly; other times you pick up the pace but all the movements are focused and concentrated.

Like all exercise programs, pilates takes time for results to show. The key to pilates exercise is consistency. Starting and stopping only delays the favorable results wanted. Pilates offers a strenuous workout, but it is not considered an aerobic exercise program, so it needs to be part of an overall regimen that includes exercise that gets the heart rate elevated. How this is done is up to each individual. Jogging or walking four days a week partnered with pilates the other three days of the week gives an excellent overall body workout.

Best Pilates Exercises to Strengthen Your Core

Best Pilates Exercises

Once the beginner level exercises have been learned and perfected, seeking a pilates training with certified instructor and learning the equipment will get you to a higher level of pilates exercise.

A mat that is six feet long and three feet wide for a good work out is a must.

Wear comfortable clothes that you can move easily in. Bare feet or socks on the feet are all that is needed for pilates exercise. Keep a towel handy for rolling up and placing behind the knees or feet depending on the type of exercise.

Cat Cow

Pilates Exercises

What it is: This exercise warms up the body and gives flexibility to the spine.
What it’s for: Loosening up the back
Fitness level: Beginner
Fitness goal: Toning, strength, flexibility

How to do it:

1. Get on your hands and knees with your hands directly under your shoulders and knees under hips. Elbows should not be locked.

2. Exhale as you gently rock your pelvis/hips under as if you were tucking your tail between your legs like a dog. Most of your weight will be shifted back toward your heels with only about 20% of the weight on your hands.

3. Inhale as you release your tailbone out, lengthening it as you move your pelvis down and forward. Lift your chest and extend your spine long keeping your stomach muscles tight.

4. Move slowly in and out of flexion and extension, keeping within a comfortable range of motion for 8-10 repetitions.

Dead Bug

Pilates Exercises

It is a functional core strengthening exercise that works the lower and upper body muscles. You can also use this exercise as a warm-up exercise at the beginning of your workout.

What it is: Posture and core strengthening exercise
What it’s for: Strengthens abdominis, obliques, pelvic floor, multifidus and quadratus lumborum
Fitness level: Beginner
Fitness goal: Strength and stability

Cobra Pose

At Home Pilates Exercises

What it is: Stretches muscles in the chest, shoulder and abdominals.
What it’s for: Opens the chest and stretches the body
Fitness level: Beginner
Fitness goal: Health and flexibility

How to do it:

1. Lie on your belly with your chin on the floor, palms flat on the floor under the shoulders and legs together.

2. Pull up kneecaps, squeeze thighs and butt and press the pubic bone into the floor.

3. Without using the arms, inhale and lift your head and chest off the floor, keeping neck in line with the spine.

4. With elbows close to your sides, press down into palms and use arms to lift your torso even higher.

5. Drop the shoulders down and back, and press the chest forward. Keep legs, buttocks and core strong. Keep the pubic bone pressing into the floor.

6. Breathe and hold for 2-6 breaths.

7. To release: exhale and slowly lower chest and head to the floor. Turn the head to one side and rest, rock the hips from side to side to release any tension in the lower back.

Bird Dog

No equipment pilates exercises

This move strengthens the spinal extensor muscles and deep spinal stabilizers, which support your spine, and builds strength and stability in your buttocks, lower back, and shoulders.

What it is: Strength and stability building exercise.
What it’s for: Strengthens erector spinae and hips
Fitness level: Beginner
Fitness goal: Toning, strength, stamina

How to do it:

1. Get down on your hands and knees with your palms flat on the floor and shoulder-width apart. Relax your core so that your lower back and abdomen are in their natural positions. 

2. Brace your abs, and raise your right arm and left leg until they’re in line with your body. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds. Return to the starting position. Repeat with your left arm and right leg.

Swiss Ball Rollout

No equipment pilates exercises

What it is: core exercise
What it’s for: Opens the chest and back and strengthens the core body
Fitness level: Beginner, Intermediate
Fitness goal: Health, strength, flexibility

How to do it:

1: Kneel behind a stability ball with your knees hip-width apart. Rest your forearms on the ball with your hands clasped.

2: Keeping your back flat and core in tight. Brace your core and slowly roll forward as far as possible, straightening your arms as far as you can without allowing your hips to drop.

3: Hold this position, then bend your elbows and roll the ball back in toward start position. Do this as many times as possible for 30 seconds.

Bicycle Crunch

at home pilates exercises

What it is: Strength-building exercise.
What it’s for: Strengthens abs and obliques
Fitness level: Beginner, Intermediate
Fitness goal: Toning, strength

How to do it:

1: Lie on back with knees and hips at a 90-degree angle. Place hands behind your head. Exhale as you lift head and shoulders off the floor. Twist torso to the right, bringing left shoulder in to touch your right knee. Keep left leg straight and lifted off the floor.

2: Inhale as you slowly lower. Repeat, twisting torso to the left. Continue alternating sides for 30 seconds.

Superman

best pilates exercises

What it is: It is a low-intensity strengthening and stability exercise.
What it’s for: Strengthens arms, legs, glutes, abs, and back
Fitness level: Beginner
Fitness goal: Stability, strength, stamina

How to do it:

1. Lie face down with your body fully extended, arms parallel to each other and legs straight.

2. Breathe slowly as you lift your arms and legs through a count of 10.

3. Hold and squeeze for 2 seconds at the maximum tension point.

4. Return to the starting position through a count of 10.

5. Repeat 3 times without resting.

Plank

plank

What it is: Full-body isometric strength exercise
What it’s for: Strengthens the core, legs, hips, back, belly and upper body
Fitness level: Beginner, Intermediate
Fitness goal: Toning, strength, stabilization

How to do it:

1. Lie face-down with elbows and knees on the floor. Place a doubled-up yoga mat or towel beneath you to cushion the pressure.

2. Clasp hands on the floor, positioning them under your face with elbows under your shoulders. Tuck chin slightly into chest to protect the neck.

3. Contract abdominals and slowly use core muscles to lift right knee off the floor. Then repeat with left knee, so you’re held up by your elbows and toes. Hold body straight as a plank.

4. Press up through shoulders and avoid slumping through the lower back as you hold this contraction. Breathe deeply for 30 seconds. Work your way up to 1 minute.

5. Repeat as many times as you can.

Swiss Ball V-sit

V-Up Down with Stability ball

What it is: Strength-building exercise.
What it’s for: Strengthens core
Fitness level: Beginner
Fitness goal: Toning, strength, stamina

How to do it:

1. Set yourself up with your arms extended in front of you and place the pilates ball between your thighs and extended your legs towards the ceiling as high as you can get them. Make sure they are straight.

2. Your upper body should be sitting up, but with a slight angle so you are on your tailbone a bit. Squeeze the pilates ball with your legs while holding the V-sit as long as you can.

Butterfly Sit-up

Butterfly Sit-up

What it is: Abs and core exercise
What it’s for: Toned abs and core
Fitness level: Beginner, Intermediate
Fitness goal: Toning & strength, stamina

How to do it:

1: Lay on your back with your arms extended above your head. Bringing the soles of your feet together, bend your knees so they from a diamond shape with your hips.

2: Using your abdominal muscles, pull your upper body up into a seated position touching your feet.

3: Return to the original position to complete this move.

Inner Thigh Lifts

Side Lying Hip Adduction

What it is: Leg, thigh and hip exercise
What it’s for: Strengthening and toning the hips and thigh
Fitness level: Intermediate
Fitness goal: Toning, strength, flexibility

How to do it:

1. Lay on your right side supporting your weight with your right elbow and forearm, placing your left hand in-front of you for balance. Keep your right leg straight and bend your left leg in front of your right.

2. Slowly lift your right leg off the ground and hold for as long as you can. Lower your leg down, repeat and switch sides.

Half Vipers

Half Wipers

What it is: It works the obliques, abs, and lower back muscles.
What it’s for: Strengthening and toning abs, obliques and core
Fitness level: Advanced
Fitness goal: Stamina, Fat loss

How to do it:

1. Lie on your back with arms outstretched, palms facing down.

2. Raise your knees up to a 90-degree angle. Drop knees down to one side.

3. Breathe slowly as you rotate your knees to the other side through a count of 10.

4. Hold and squeeze for 2 seconds at the maximum tension point, about 1 inch from the ground.

5. Then rotate to the other side through a count of 10.

6. Repeat 3 times without resting.

Pilates Teaser

Teaser Pilates

What it is: Abs and core exercise
What it’s for: Toned abs and core
Fitness level: Advanced
Fitness goal: Toning & strength; Flexibility; Stamina

The Pilates Teaser is very difficult to perform correctly. This advanced exercise should only be done after correctly executing the intermediate level exercises first.

How to do it:

1. Start balanced on your tailbone with legs extended and arms reaching toward your feet. Chest is high with your shoulders down and the back of your neck long.

2. Inhale as you hold your balance to prepare.

3. Exhale as you articulate the spine down the mat. Reach your waistband to the mat while your legs lower as you bring the rest of the spine, shoulders and head down.

4. Stretch your arms overhead on the mat with legs long. Inhale as you stretch, then exhale to circle the arms out, curling the head and shoulders while peeling the spine and legs back up into the Pilates Teaser or “V” position.

Lotus Pose

Full Lotus Pose

What it is: Spiritual and mental relaxation
What it’s for: Slows production of stress hormones and calms mind
Fitness level: Beginner
Fitness goal: Mental health

It’s essentially a yoga pose, but when it comes to flexibility, you can include it at the end of your pilates workouts. Also, this is a meditation pose, slowing the production of stress hormones and providing mental relaxation.

How to do it:

1. Sit in a comfortable cross-legged position on the floor and close your eyes.

2. Breathe through your nose, lengthening breaths until you can count to 4 or 6 on each inhale and exhale.

3. Visualize a calming object or peaceful, quiet place.

4. If distracting thoughts surface, acknowledge them and let them pass – just focus on your breathing.

5. Continue for 5-10 minutes. 

Conclusion

Keep in mind, that a healthy person would include pilates exercise with aerobic exercise for the ultimate workout. When meditation accompanies a pilates workout, the entire body and mind receive a workout that benefits an overall feeling of wellness.

Pilates does have a place in a weight-loss program, but you need to do cardio as well. The ideal routine is three to four cardio sessions per week of 30 to 45 minutes each; You can combine this routine with a one-hour pilates class two to three times a week. Pilates will tone and tighten your muscles, while the cardio will burn off fats to showcase them.