Pilates Workouts The Traditional Order of Pilates Mat Exercises Learn the classical Pilates workout 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 01, 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 Though one will find tremendous variation in the way Pilates exercises are presented today, there is an original traditional order to the Pilates mat exercises as developed by Joseph Pilates. Below are samples of the exercises of a classical Pilates mat workout, including a fundamental warm-up. The exercises in the traditional program create a challenging workout, especially for the abdominals. Many instructors and classes will precede this classical program with some warm-up exercises. Each exercise notes modification reminders to assist those who are beginning to develop their core strength or have physical challenges. Pilates Mat Exercises Verywell / Ben Goldstein Below are the mat Pilates exercises you will learn about including: The hundredRoll-upRoll-overOne-leg circleRolling like a ballSingle leg stretchDouble leg stretchSpine stretchOpen leg rocker The Hundred 1:40 Watch Now: How to Do the Classic Pilates Hundred Like a Pro The hundred helps build core strength, stamina, and coordination. To do this exercise you must fully engage the abdominal muscles as you practice a dynamic breathing pattern. Modifications for the hundred include working with the legs higher, or slightly bent, and leaving the head down. The Roll Up 1:56 How to Do a Modified Roll Up The roll up is a great challenge for the abdominal muscles and a wonderful articulation for the spine. Well-executed roll ups activate the abs better than regular sit-ups and are much better than crunches for creating a flat stomach. Supported roll back and chest lift are good training exercises for the roll-up. The Roll Over 1:45 How to Do a Perfect Pilates Roll Over The roll over is one of those exercises that Joseph Pilates saw as stimulating the spine. It does involve a lot of spinal articulation and the only way to control that is to use your abdominal muscles. Remember, roll over goes only as far as the shoulders. It does not roll up onto the neck. One Leg Circle 1:24 Watch Now: How to Do a Single Leg Circle The one leg circle challenges core stability as one must keep the entire trunk—including the hips—still as one leg circles independently. Modify this move by having the non-working leg bent with the foot flat on the floor. The knee of the working leg can also be slightly bent. Rolling Like a Ball 1:00 Watch Now: How to Nail Rolling Like a Ball The first of the rolling exercises, 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. Modifications for rolling like a ball include holding the thighs behind the knees and opening the legs further out from the body. Do not do rolling exercises if you have back or neck problems. Neck Pain and Upper Back Soreness in Pilates Single Leg Stretch 1:01 Watch Now: Build Ab Strength With a Single Leg Stretch Single leg stretch is often cited as an exercise that helps target the lower abs. But there is no such muscle as "the lower ab." This exercise works the entire core. It requires strength and stamina as one maintains an upper body curve and keeps the torso stable while switching the leg and arm positions. Modify single leg stretch by leaving your head down or working with your legs higher. All About the Abdominal Muscles Double Leg Stretch 1:11 Watch Now: How to Do the Core-Strengthening Double-Leg Stretch Going for even more abdominal strength and endurance, we follow single leg stretch with double leg stretch. This move is a graphic way to experience working from the center of the body as the arms and legs reach away and return together. How to Use Your Abs Properly in Pilates Spine Stretch 1:21 Watch Now: Lengthen Your Spine with the Spine Stretch Spine stretch is a Pilates mat exercise that feels really good. Though it is still a flexion exercise done with the abs lifted, the emphasis has changed to stretching the spine. Spine stretch can also be a stretch for the hamstrings as well as a moment to center oneself before moving on to more challenging exercises. Spine stretch rarely needs much modification, but those with tight hamstrings may want to sit on a small lift or have the knees slightly bent. Spine stretch can also be done with the arms lower, fingertips along the floor. Open Leg Rocker 1:04 Watch Now: Strengthen Your Core with the Open Leg Rocker Open leg rocker is a deep abdominal control exercise. The rolling has to come from deep within the core, not from momentum. Throwing your head back to get going, or jerking yourself up by pulling on the legs, are not part of it. For some, rolling exercises are very hard, and for some, they are not healthful for the back. Open leg balance is an alternative to open leg rocker. Pilates Exercises to Relieve Your Back Pain 6 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. Pilates JH. Return to Life through Contrology,. Boston,; 1960. Shah S. Pilates exercises. Int J Physiother Res. 2013;1(4):196-203. Bueno Silva G, Minussi Morgan M, de Carvalho W, et al. Electromyographic activity of rectus abdominis muscles during dynamic Pilates abdominal exercises. J Bodywork Movem Ther. 2015;19(4):629-35. doi:10.1016/j.jbmt.2014.11.010 Pilates JH. Return to Life. 2nd edition. Pilates Method Alliance, Incorporated; 2012. Kim Y, Sim S, Lee D, et al. The effect of various Pilates activities on abdominal muscles thickness. Indian J Sci Tech. 2016;9(46):1-6. doi:10.17485/ijst/2016/v9i46/107165 Stasiu V, Ferreira L, Athaus M, et al. Effect of stretching through the pilates method - controlled, randomized clinical study. Manual Ther Posturol Rehabil J. 2019:1-7. doi:10.17784/mtprehabjournal.2019.17.719 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.