Standing Pilates Exercises for Warm Ups

Take your workouts from the mat to vertical with these five standing Pilates exercises. They will help tone your legs, including inner thighs, and engage your core powerhouse muscles. They are good for balance as well. Best of all, standing Pilates exercises make a perfect transition for taking your Pilates from the mat into daily life.


Standing Pilates Footwork Parallel

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

  • Stand upright with your feet and legs parallel. Legs are straight. Knees are not locked. Engage your abdominal muscles and lengthen your spine. Let the top of your head reach for the sky and your sit bones point to the earth. Relax your shoulders.​
  • Bend your knees as if your sit bones are going to go straight to your heels.
  • Keep your pelvis level and lift your heels slightly.
  • Keep your heels lifted and press into the balls of your feet to straighten your legs
  • Lower your heels to the floor without sinking your body.
  • Repeat 3 times. Then do the reverse—lift the heels, stay up and bend the knees, press the heels to the floor, straighten the legs.

You should feel this exercise in your calves quads, inner thighs, hamstrings, and glutes. It is fine to face a wall or the back of a chair and use your fingertips for balance as shown.


Standing Wide Knee Bends

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

  • Stand with your legs together and rotate them outward at the hip so that the toes are 30 to 45 degrees open.
  • Your hands can be at your hips, or your arms can be stretched in front of you (our models are using some tension from an exercise band which you can do too)
  • Keep your turnout and step your legs out a little past shoulder width.
  • Continue to rotate your legs outward but don't move your feet. Let the outward rotation continue as you bend your knees keeping them in line with your feet. Don't let the knees go past the toes.
  • Resist as you return to straight legs.
  • Repeat 5 to 8 times

This exercise works the whole thigh and the hips (learn about the deep six hip muscles), and is known for being a good inner thigh exercise, so put your mind there.


Wall Roll Down

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

This is a Pilates favorite for warm ups. It is a great way to transition into a Pilates workout from a busy day. The rolling and unrolling of the spine is a Pilates signature move.

  • Stand against a wall with your feet about 10 inches away.
  • Let your shoulder blades slide down your back as you bring your arms up just inside your peripheral vision.
  • Lengthen your spine, lift your abs, and lead with the top of your head as your curl over.
  • Keep your legs straight, knees soft, as you curve your spine in a roll, vertebra by vertebra, down toward the floor. The arms go along with the ears.
  • Go as far as you feel comfortable.
  • Initiate the return with your low abdominals, just above your pubic bone.
  • Roll up sequentially until your head floats up on top.
  • Repeat 3 to 5 times.

Standing Pilates Lunge

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

The lunge is a balance and thigh toning challenge, as well as a nice hip opening stretch.

  • Stand tall with your legs parallel
  • Bend your right knee deeply and step the left foot straight back. Keep your pelvis square to the front.
    Your hands can rest on top of your thigh for support.
  • Check your balance and that your chest is lifted
  • Straighten your back leg by lifting from under the buttock—not jamming the knee.
  • To increase the hip opening stretch, lift out of your hips as you bring the crest of your hipbone up and back. This is different than just leaning backward as many do.
  • Hold up to 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.

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.