Pilates Exercises You Can Do in Bed

Pilates exercises have a long history of being practiced in bed. In fact, many people see the genesis of Joseph Pilates' exercises and equipment in the work he did helping to rehabilitate fellow detainees on the Isle of Man in WWI (and injured soldiers after the war), much of which we know occurred in and around beds.

Throughout his life, Joseph Pilates remained concerned with the lifestyle and rehabilitative aspects of his work. He even patented his own design for a bed—a V shape. Instructor Siri Galliano has adapted Pilates mat exercises for those who need or want to exercise in bed.

These exercises require no space wider or bigger or longer than your own body. People who are ill or injured can perform these Pilates moves in bed. They can also be used to calm yourself. Done dynamically, they wake up your circulation and nervous system after a long night's sleep.

Those who have health concerns should check with their healthcare practitioner before starting this or any exercise program to ensure that it's safe for them. Beginners will also want to familiarize themselves with the Pilates principles and movement fundamentals.

Spine Twist

Young woman doing spinal twist pose on bed outdoors

PhotoAlto / Milena Boniek / Getty Image 

The spine twist helps improve the flexibility of your spine and core. This makes it easier to move around and helps support a healthy posture. Pilates routines that include the spine twist have also been found to reduce low back pain and disability.

To do it:

  1. Sit up in the bed, your torso straight and abs engaged.
  2. Exhale as you turn your head and shoulders to the right. Keep your torso straight and imagine that you are getting taller as you turn.
  3. Inhale as you return your body to face forward again.
  4. Exhale and turn to the other side.
  5. Repeat five times per side.

Tendon Stretch

A towel can be used to stretch the Achilles tendon.
Use a towel wrapped around the ball of the foot to stretch the calf muscle.

Brett Sears

The tendon stretch is often done on the Pilates reformer. However, this exercise can be adapted for use in bed. It helps by improving flexibility in your hamstrings and calves, which are the muscles on the back of your legs.

To get an even better stretch, you can use a towel as shown in the picture. Without the towel, here are the steps to an effective tendon stretch:

  1. Bring your heels together and push your heels away as you stretch your toes toward your head.
  2. Hold for three seconds.
  3. Next, point the toes away from you.
  4. Hold for another three seconds
  5. Do 10 repetitions.

Double-Leg Stretch

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

The double-leg stretch is an intermediate exercise that works the abdominals, radiating from the core powerhouse. If this move feels too hard, just do one leg at a time. Another option is to keep the knees slightly bent instead of extending the legs fully.

To do the double-leg stretch:

  1. Bring both knees to your chest and hold onto your ankles, stretching your lower back.
  2. Pull in the abdomen.
  3. Exhale, and extend your arms and legs as far as you can, holding them in the air as shown.
  4. Hold the position for 10 long, deep breaths and then release.
  5. Do 10 repetitions.

Single-Leg Circles

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

The single-leg circle challenges your core strength and pelvic stability. It also strengthens the quads and hamstrings and promotes a healthy hip joint. If you can't extend the leg fully straight towards the ceiling, just extend it as far as you can.

To do this exercise:

  1. Raise your right leg straight up.
  2. Lengthen the left leg away from you.
  3. If you can, hold the toes with both hands. If you cannot hold your toes, hold onto your calf or thigh and reach your heel to the ceiling.
  4. Hold this position for 10 counts.
  5. Release your hands and place your arms and hands long by your sides.
  6. Make 10 small circles in each direction with your extended leg.
  7. Repeat on the other side.

Pelvic Curl

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

The pelvic curl is another exercise usually done on the reformer, but it can be done on a bed as well. Although the movement is very slight, this move is good for building strength in the lower back and core.

To do the pelvic curl:

  1. Bend your knees and place your feet on the bed hip-distance apart.
  2. Curl your pelvis towards your ribs, squeeze your buttocks, and lift your lower body.
  3. Hold for a count of five seconds.
  4. Slowly lower your back down to a count of five seconds, imprinting the spine into the mattress.
  5. Do 10 repetitions.

Hip-Opening Exercise

young girl doing hip opener stretch
C. Mitchinson

This hip-opening exercise, also called the frog, can be done while lying down or sitting. Either way, hip openers help keep your spine and hips flexible and in alignment.

To do it:

  • Bring the soles of your feet together as close to your torso as you can.
  • Let your knees open up as fully as is comfortable.
  • Rest while keeping your knees open and breathe deeply.
3 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.
  1. Geremia J, Iskiewicz M, Marschner R, Lehnen T, Lehnen A. Effect of a physical training program using the Pilates method on flexibility in elderly subjects. AGE. 2015;37(119). doi:10.1007/s11357-015-9856-z

  2. Notarnicola A, Fischetti F, Maccagnano G, Comes R, Tafuri S, Moretti B. Daily pilates exercise or inactivity for patients with low back pain: a clinical prospective observational study. Eur J Phys Rehabil Med. 2014;50(1):59-66.

  3. Chinnavan E, Gopaladhas S, Kaikondan P. Effectiveness of Pilates training in improving hamstring flexibility of football players. Bangladesh J Med Sci. 2015;14(3). doi:10.3329/bjms.v14i3.16322