Level 2 Pilates Exercises for Strength and Flexibility

This is an intermediate level Pilates mat routine. It focuses on abdominal strength as well as stretching the back, sides, front body, and hamstrings. If you have not done much Pilates training before, you may want to start with the Pilates Beginner Exercises or Quick Workout 1. Both are excellent routines that include less difficult exercises.

This series does not include a warm-up. However, any workout should begin with some moment of tuning in and establishing alignment. You may want to explore the warm-up exercises before beginning this routine.

Ready to go? Each step will display an exercise and provide a link to the full exercise instructions for that move. As you come to know each exercise you will only need to check this step-by-step as a reminder. For now, go to each exercise and learn it well, then use your back button to return to this sequence.


The Hundred

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The Hundred, modified for warm up. by Peter Kramer courtesy of Kolesar studios

This classic Pilates exercise is often used as a powerful warm-up for the abdominals. Since it happens early in your workout, you may want to modify it by keeping the legs high or bending the knees with the shins parallel to the floor.


Single Straight Leg Stretch

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Though it is called a stretch, this exercise is a full-on abdominal workout. Your arms are lightly pulling the leg toward you, but you are using your abs and not holding yourself up by grasping the leg.


Criss Cross

Pilates Mat Exercise
Pilates Mat Exercise Criss Cross. photo (c)2006, Marguerite Ogle

Criss Cross adds the rotation of the spine, creating more challenge for the obliques in our abdominal workout.


Swan with Neck Roll

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Pilates Swan with Neck Roll. courtesy of Peak Pilates

Swan with Neck Roll is a back extension exercise. It is important to include extension exercises in your Pilates workouts. They help balance the many forward flexion exercises we do.


Double Straight Leg Lowers

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Pilates Mat Exercise - Double Straight Leg Lower. by Peter Kramer, courtesy of Kolesar Studios

Pull in your abdominals, pull your sit bones together, and stay with the mid-line. Double Straight Leg Lowers would just love to pull you out of whack. What would that look like? Your back would be off the mat, there would be a big space between your upper thighs, and your neck would be straining. Instead, your abs are down and your movement is controlled as you lower and lift.



Women doing pilates class
Stephanie Hager - HagerPhoto/Getty Images

Do Rainbow with or without the magic circle. Rainbow is a great exercise for toning the inner and outer thigh. Stay pulled up—everything comes from strong abdominals.


Teaser with One Leg

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Teaser, one leg. by Peter Kramer courtesy of Kolesar Studios

A teaser is a fabulous core strength builder. It builds strength, stamina, control, balance, breath, and fluidity—all of the things we strive for in a Pilates exercise. Teaser with One Leg is a modified version. Once you are familiar with Teaser, do Teaser with both legs extended.


Rolling Like a Ball

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Pilates Rolling Like a Ball. by Peter Kramer, courtesty of Kolesar Studios

Rolling like a ball stimulates the spine, deeply works the abdominals and tunes us into the inner flow of movement and breath in the body. You may want to review Tips for Rolling Exercises before you start rolling like a ball.


Mermaid Side Stretch

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Mermaid - Pilates Stretch. by Peter Kramer, courtesy of Kolesar Studios, (c)2006

Ah, the big stretch. Go for breathing and length—connecting the energy down through the sit bones and up through the top of the head.

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.