Pilates Exercises for Beginners


What is Pilates?

Pilates is a type of mind-body exercise. It uses a series thoughtful, controlled exercises that strengthen and stabilize your core.

Pilates teaches the core muscles to look like the trunk of an oak tree. Your limbs (branches), are constantly moving, but your core (trunk), remains strong and anchored.

This is accomplished by using your “powerhouse” – the combination of muscles and bones that form your core, from the bottom to the top of your hips.

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History of Pilates

Joseph Pilates was the creator of Pilates. He suffered from numerous health issues as a child and was determined that he would be a strong and healthy adult. He was said to have tried almost every type of exercise and kept track of his results. He may also have been one the first to integrate Eastern and Western traditions of fitness and health.

Pilates’ Mind-Body Benefits

It’s a mind-body exercise because Pilates is so precise and tightly controlled. It’s possible to sit next to a friend on an elliptical and have a conversation. If you practice Pilates correctly and use the breath in the correct way, your attention will be on the exercise. It can be exhausting, but also exhilarating.

  • Pilates can bring you many benefits.
  • Your core strength
  • Other muscles are strengthened without any impact
  • Prevention of injury
  • Creates long lean muscles
  • Flexibility increases
  • Mind-body awareness increases
  • Better posture and alignment
  • Reduces stress

Mat Pilates or Reformer: What is the Difference?

You can do Pilates on a mat or on a reformer machine. You can do the Pilates 100 on a mat or on a Pilates Reformer, but the goal is stability and mobility. Are you unsure which type of Pilates is right for you? Let’s take an in-depth look.

Mat Pilates

Mat Pilates is performed on a mat using your own weight as resistance. Mat Pilates is the best way to learn Pilates properly and to start your journey.

Pilates Reformer

The original hospital beds that Joseph Pilates used to create the Pilates Reformers were transformed into Pilates reformers in World War 1. While the reformer has been updated over time, the fundamental structure of the reformer is the same.

After you have learned the principles of Pilates, it is possible to take your Pilates workout to the reformer. This can not only provide new challenges for your core but also give you a great workout that will build strength and endurance.

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Pilates Exercises for Beginners – Do’s and Don’ts

Although it can seem intimidating to learn something new, everyone begins as a beginner at one point. These tips will help you navigate your first Pilates class confidently.

DO look for a qualified, certified instructor

More than any other form of exercise, Pilates should be taught by someone who has been properly trained and is certified in Pilates. Proper technique is essential as the learning curve can be quite steep. Tell the instructor that you are new to the subject and they will help you navigate your way.

This is not the same as a cardio session.

Although you might sweat the first few classes of Pilates, you won’t feel drenched or exhausted. You will eventually be able to work hard, but the first few sessions might not feel like it. Just remember details matter. It all comes down to the quality of movement.

Do not forget the basics

You must learn the basics of Pilates before you can engage your deeper muscles.

Don’t wear an over-sized t-shirt, sweatshirt or jacket.

You should wear fitted or loose fitting clothing when doing Pilates. Your instructor and you will be able to see your curves to determine if you are performing the moves correctly. Sweats and big t-shirts will get in the way.

Do consider purchasing a package

It is hard to believe that you will not experience the full benefits of Pilates after the first few classes. You will see results if you do several classes. If possible, purchase a package. This will allow you to save money in all likelihood.

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Don’t eat too much before you go to class

It’s fine to have a small snack about an hour before you start your workout. A small snack of 100 to 200 calories that is filling and satisfying, such as a banana or toast with peanut Butter, is fine. A full meal is not. It’s best to not have a lunch stomach after all the intense breathing and pulling through your core.

Do not forget to bring your own mat

Ask ahead to find out if there are mats available. You may need to bring your own mats. It is best to check in advance. Make sure to bring water and a towel for sweating.

Do try Pilates at Home!

It’s great to start Pilates classes in a gym or studio. But once you have mastered your poses, don’t be afraid of practicing Pilates at home.

For beginners, quick Pilates exercises

It’s a great way for you to do some Pilates at home! This quick workout will take you through some of the most popular and basic mat pilates moves. Or, you can try one of our 10-minute free pilates workouts. This exercise is best done without shoes. All you need is a mat and a surface to work on.

Pay attention to your breathing. Make sure to inhale and exhale through each exercise. Think of exhaling through a straw. This forced exhale will engage your core muscles.

Quality over quantity is the key to Pilates. Instead of trying to do high reps, focus on the quality and precision of each move. You’ll need to do between 8-12 reps for each exercise.

As you get more familiar with the moves, you can repeat each exercise 2-3 times after you have completed the first time.


Place your feet on the mat and place your knees bent. Your arms should be rounded to form a circle in front of your chest.

Slowly lift your abdominals towards the mat until you reach your mid-back. Next, engage your abdominals and return to your original position.

Pilates 100

Place your back on the ground. To form a tabletop, bring your knees to the chest. Your head, neck and shoulder should be off the mat. Your arms should be extended to the sides. Keep your legs extended as long as you can while keeping your abs engaged. Modify by bending your knees or bringing your feet up to the mat with bent knees.

You should pump your arms quickly and controlledly while taking five quick breaths in (sniffing in, puffing out) and five short ones out. Keep your neck and shoulders relaxed, and concentrate on your abdominal muscles.

Full Body Roll-Up

Place your arms and legs overhead on the mat, with your feet bent.

Reach your arms high and lift them over your shoulders. Next, curl your upper body and torso towards the floor until you are in a seated position. Keep your torso folded over, keeping your abs engaged and reaching towards the toes.

Slowly roll down to the start while keeping your heels on the ground. Keep your abs engaged.

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Place your arms and legs extended on your stomach. Engage your abdominals to feel your transverse abdominis contract.

Keep your legs and arms elevated off the ground and your nose in a hovering position above the mat. Move your arms and legs from the hips, shoulders and elbows. As if you were swimming. Swimming takes five short breathes in and five out. It’s like sniffing in, puffing out.


Begin by lying down on your back, feet up off the ground, and then move to a tabletop position. Keep your hands behind your head. The head, neck, shoulders, and head are flexed off of the mat.

One knee should be bent in front of the other elbow. You can do the same thing on the opposite side, but this time you will be working your obliques.

Bird Dog

On all fours, kneel on the mat. Reach your arm out and draw your abdominals in. Then, extend the opposite leg behind you.

Repeat the process on the opposite side.