5 Pilates Exercises to do At Home

One of our favorite things about Pilates is that you can do it literally anywhere. The machines and props are great, but the most foundational exercises can be done with nothing at all.

Next time you’re on the road or can’t get into the studio as soon as you’d like, try out our 5 exercises to give yourself a DIY Pilates tune-up.

1) Tuck / neutral

Lay on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Relax your arms by your sides and have your heels in as close to your butt as feels comfortable. On an inhale, find your neutral pelvis, allowing your tailbone to drop down towards the floor and a small space to come between your lower back and the mat. On your exhale, find your tuck position, pulling your belly button down towards your spine and getting rid of that space under your low back.

Rock back and forth, inhaling as you find neutral and exhaling as you tuck, about 10 times.

Cues:

  • the slower the better - this will allow you to really feel the movement in your spine and the engagement in your abdominals

  • neutral is subtle - careful not to rock so far forward that you go into an arch

  • don’t let your ribs flare open, especially in your neutral position

2) Bridge

Stay laying down with your knees bent and feet flat. Find your neutral pelvis and take an inhale.

On an exhale, pull your navel into your spine and start to peel your spine off the floor, one vertebra at a time, until your hips are lifted. Take an inhale at the top, thinking about pulling your hip bones towards your lowest ribs and vice versa. On your exhale, roll down through your spine one vertebra at a time. Try for 10 of these, focusing on your breath.

Cues:

  • keep the weight distributed through all 10 toes (not just the pinky toe edge of the foot)

  • keep your abdominals strong to protect your lower back from overworking

  • don’t let your lower ribs flare apart - think of knitting them together

3) Heel taps

Still laying on your back, reach your arms out to the sides like a T. One at a time, bring your legs into a tabletop position so your knees are over your hips and your shins are parallel to the floor. Flex your feet.

Inhale as you lower one foot down towards the floor, going as low as you can without letting your lower back pop off the mat. Exhale to bring it back up. Do 10 sets, resting if you feel like your lower back is doing all the work.

Cues:

  • reach your arms out wide for extra stability

  • don’t let your ribs pop open

  • keep your leg in the same shape the entire time so the movement is happening at the hip rather than at the knee

4) Cat / cow

Cat/cow is the perfect example of an exercise that is simple, but so incredibly nuanced.

Kneel with your palms underneath your shoulders and your knees underneath your hips. Spread your fingers wide, thinking about distributing the weight evenly through your hand. Then find your neutral spine: look straight down at the floor rather than in front of you, and think about extending the crown of your head and your tailbone long in opposite directions.

On an inhale, lift your sternum, shining your collarbones through your arms and lifting your tailbone towards the ceiling. On an exhale, pull your navel to the sky and reach the crown of your head and your tailbone towards the floor. Repeat, following your breath, 5 times or more.

Cues:

  • press your palms into the floor to activate your arms and shoulders - even when you’re in the “cow” position (with head and tail up), your shoulders should never be up by your ears

  • tuck your toes under for a little more stability, or untuck them for a bit more of a challenge

  • don’t think about the position of your head - if you focus on elongating through your spine, your head will go where it needs to be

5) Baby swan

Lay down on your stomach with your legs stretched out behind you and your hands planted by your shoulders. Think about pressing your pubic bone into the floor and pulling your navel up towards your spine. Lift the fronts of your shoulders away from the floor and squeeze your shoulder blades together.

On an inhale, begin lifting the back of your head and your upper spine off the floor as you press your hands into the mat. Exhale to lower back down. Do 5-10 sets.

Cues:

  • press the tops of your feet firmly into the mat and squeeze your legs together

  • it doesn’t matter how high you lift - it’s more important that you’re keeping your abdominals engaged and feeling your upper back work

  • in between sets, rock your hips from side to side to make sure your low back isn’t gripping


Let us know if you have questions or want to practice any of these in the studio. We’d love to help you hone your inner teacher!

Ali Weeks