Warm Up Exercises for Pilates Mat Workouts

Awareness of the quality of your presence in your body is an essential part of Pilates workout preparation. These five simple exercises build on the Pilates fundamentals. They will help you align and center yourself as you move toward a more challenging workout. Pilates is a method of training the body and mind to work together to create an efficient, integrated, movement experience—both on the workout mat and as you move through daily life.


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Imprinting may be the most basic Pilates exercise there is, yet it also can be one of the most profound. Imprinting is deeply relaxing and centering. It is wonderful for stress reduction, and as a way to center yourself before beginning any exercise routine.

  1. Lie on your back with your arms by your sides, knees bent and feet flat on the floor in the neutral spine position.
  2. Sequentially relax your shoulders, jaw, throat, rib cage, abdominal muscles, spine, hips, and legs. Breathe deeply as you relax.
  3. Visualize your spine lengthening and sinking down to the mat, lightly imprinting evenly against its surface.
  4. Do imprinting for at least three to five breaths.

Arm Reach and Pull

Arm Reach and Pull


Whether you are doing a Pilates mat or equipment workout, you are going to be working to keep your shoulder area stable throughout. The arm reach and pull exercise is wonderful for helping you establish the placement of your arms and shoulders.

  1. Standing, bring your arms up so that they are parallel to the floor and straight out from your shoulders, keeping your shoulders down.
  2. Inhale and reach your arms forward a few inches, opening your shoulder blades.
  3. Exhale and return your shoulders to the neutral position. Your arms are still extended.
  4. Inhale and pull your arms back and shoulder blades together.
  5. Exhale and return your shoulders to neutral.
  6. Repeat this exercise three to five times.

Pelvic Curl

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Pelvic curl is often used in Pilates classes as a gentle warm-up for the spine and abdominal muscles. You can also use pelvic curl to check your alignment. Focus on awareness of the center line and balance between two sides of the body.

  1. Begin sequential breathing
  2. Exhale. Engage the abdominal muscles and pull your belly button down toward your spine. Let that action continue so that the abs press the lower spine into the floor.
  3. Inhale. Press down through your feet and begin to curl your tailbone up towards the ceiling. Sequentially raise your hips, lower spine, and middle spine, keeping your legs parallel. You will come to rest with a straight line from your hips to your shoulders.
  4. Exhale. Roll your spine back down to the floor beginning with the upper back, vertebrae by vertebrae, until the lower spine settles to the floor.
  5. Inhale. Release to neutral spine.
  6. Repeat three to five times.

Swan Prep

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

When you do swan prep as a warmup you will start very small. It's just about getting the spine ready to do some back extension (back bending) types of exercises, getting the abs engaged for support and coordinating with the breath.

  1. Lie on the mat face down.
  2. Keep your arms close to your body as you bend your elbows to bring your hands under your shoulders.
  3. Engage your abdominal muscles, lifting your belly button up away from the mat.
  4. Inhale. Lengthen your spine you press your forearms and hands into the mat.
  5. Exhale: Keep your abs lifted as you release and lengthen your spine, returning your torso to the mat sequentially.
  6. Repeat three to five times.

Wall Roll Down

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

The wall roll down stretches and stimulates the spine, and gets your abs warmed up. It is an excellent exercise to use as a transition from the floor to standing or standing to the floor. Here we use the wall to help establish good alignment. You can use this exercise as a quick tuneup at home or at the office.

  1. Stand tall against a wall and walk only your feet 6 to 10 inches away from the wall.
  2. Pull your abdominals in.
  3. Raise your arms straight up over your head.
  4. Nod your head and begin to slowly roll your spine down and away from the wall. Keep your abs scooped.
  5. Roll down as far as you can go without letting your hips leave the wall.
  6. Begin your return up the wall by initiating the roll up with your lower abs and continuing vertebra by vertebra.
  7. Return to your starting position.

Start Your Workout

Now that you are warmed up, you can start your workout. As you do, you will see that many Pilates exercises build on the moves you have just done.

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.