Pilates Workouts 12 Pilates Exercises to Work Your Core in 15 Minutes By Marguerite Ogle MS, RYT Marguerite Ogle MS, RYT LinkedIn Marguerite Ogle is a freelance writer and experienced natural wellness and life coach, who has been teaching Pilates for more than 35 years. Learn about our editorial process Updated on October 05, 2022 Reviewed Verywell Fit articles are reviewed by nutrition and exercise professionals. Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Kristin McGee, CPT Reviewed by Kristin McGee, CPT Kristin McGee is a certified personal trainer and currently teaches yoga and meditation for Peloton. She is also certified in Pilates by the National Association of Sports Medicine. Learn about our Review Board Print This set of Pilates exercises is designed to provide you with an at-home Pilates routine and help you build familiarity with Pilates mat exercises, whether you are new or experienced. These exercises develop the core strength, stability, and flexibility for which Pilates is famous. The muscular focus for each exercise is noted so you can target your routine. Please keep in mind that all Pilates exercises engage the core abdominal muscles. Feel free to choose any from the list for an ab workout. There are modification notes in the full instructions for each exercise. The warm-up set of exercises are very important in teaching the foundations of Pilates movement. They also prepare the body for safely executing more challenging exercises later. Even if you skip the later moves, choose at least two or three warm-up moves to begin each Pilates routine you do. Grab a mat and begin. 1 Ab Scoop 1:02 Watch Now: Ab Scoop Your Way to a Six-Pack Exercise: Chest Lift/Ab Scoop Target area: Abdominals—especially the six-pack or rectus abdominis This is not a crunch. The abdominals must be pulled way down into a deep scoop as you use them to control a slow, smooth curl up and roll down. Precision in this type of scoop is one of the secrets of Pilates. 2 The Hundred 1:40 Watch Now: How to Do the Classic Hundred Like a Pro Exercise: The Hundred Target area: Abdominals, breathing Your abdominals will be deeply pulled in, so you will have to use your full lung capacity by breathing into your back and lower ribs. Use your abs to hold yourself up—don't let your neck and shoulders do all the work. 3 The Roll Up 1:56 Watch Now: How to Do a Roll Up Exercise: The Roll Up Target area: Abdominals Use your abdominals to roll up and down with control. Do not rely on momentum or letting your legs lift off the mat. Pilates is about control, and this is where you build that control. 4 One Leg Circle 1:24 Watch Now: How to Do a One Leg Circle Exercise: One Leg Circle Target area: Abdominals, thighs, hip flexors The abdominals keep the pelvis stable as the leg moves. No rocking and rolling! Be sure to use your full range of motion without losing control. 5 Rolling Like a Ball 1:00 Watch Now: How to Nail Rolling Like a Ball Exercise: Rolling Like a Ball Target area: Abdominals, spinal mobility Stay in your curve for the whole exercise. Initiate the roll back with the abs and not by falling back or using momentum. 6 Open Leg Balance 0:54 Watch Now: Challenge Your Abs with the Open Leg Balance Exercise: Open Leg Balance Target area: Abdominals, hamstring mobility Use your abdominals and back muscles to control the pose. Try to work with the straightest arms and legs possible. If it doesn't work at first, keep practicing. You'll get there! 7 The Side Kick Series 3:55 Watch Now: 4 Side Kicks to Tone Your Thighs and Core Exercise: Side Kick Series Target area: Abdominals, all thigh muscles—especially inner thigh Work the torso as well as the legs. The ribs should stay supported throughout each repetition. Do not let them sink to the mat. 8 Front Support/Plank 1:30 Watch Now: The Right Way to Plank in Pilates Exercise: Front Support/Plank Target area: Back extensors, abdominals, shoulders, arms Stay in one line from your heels to your ears. Though the focus is somewhat on the upper body, if you engage the legs and imagine squeezing the gluteals together, the exercise will be easier. 9 Saw 1:20 Watch Now: The Pilates Saw is the Ultimate Stretch Exercise: Saw Target area: Hamstrings, inner thigh, obliques, back mobility Keep your hips anchored and level as you twist to the side. Use opposition when reaching forward so that you also reach back at the same time. 10 Mermaid 1:10 Watch Now: Reward Your Body with the Mermaid Side Stretch Exercise: Mermaid Target area: Side stretch Bend your body directly sideways as you stretch, as though you were between two sheets of glass. Keep the hip on your stretching side down. 11 Swan Prep 1:25 Watch Now: How to Do the Swan Stretch for Your Front Body Exercise: Swan Prep Target area: Back extensors, abdominal stretch Swan provides a wonderful counter stretch to the many forward flexion exercises we do in Pilates. This is an everyday move. 12 Wall Roll Down Verywell / Ben Goldstein Exercise: Wall Roll Down Target area: Abdominals, back, and hamstring stretch Use this exercise as a transition from doing your Pilates routine to carrying good posture into your daily life. Squeeze this move into your daily routine. 2 Sources Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Fleming KM, Herring MP. The effects of pilates on mental health outcomes: A meta-analysis of controlled trials. Complement Ther Med. 2018;37:80-95. doi:10.1016/j.ctim.2018.02.003 Byrnes K, Wu PJ, Whillier S. Is Pilates an effective rehabilitation tool? A systematic review. J Bodyw Mov Ther. 2018;22(1):192-202. doi:10.1016/j.jbmt.2017.04.008 By Marguerite Ogle MS, RYT Marguerite Ogle is a freelance writer and experienced natural wellness and life coach, who has been teaching Pilates for more than 35 years. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from companies that partner with and compensate Verywell Fit for displaying their offer. These partnerships do not impact our editorial choices or otherwise influence our editorial content.