20-Minute Pilates Bodyweight Workout

Work your muscles from head to toe, from your living room floor.

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Popular Pilates. And for good reason. It boasts a bevy of benefits. Pilates workouts can help increase strength, flexibility, posture, and balance.1 Pilates particularly works the core muscles, making it a fab ab workout. Furthermore, according to small studies Pilates may also aid weight loss, improve low back pain, and have a positive effect on mood.2345

Pilates is a form of resistance training that comes in many guises. It can require just your body weight or utilize specialist equipment such as reformers and other such devices.

Pilates Full-Body Workout

This workout should take no more than 20-minutes to complete and works all of your major muscles.

In addition to following the exercise instructions below, to get the most from this workout:

  • Focus on the muscles you are using. You should feel it in the target muscles (shown for each exercise).
  • Breathe “deep and wide” and try and expand your ribcage sideways while bracing your core and pelvic floor. Don’t hold your breath! 
  • Keep your joints properly aligned.
  • Maintain good posture throughout.
  • Stay relaxed – no clenching your jaw, shoulders or fists.

Strengthen and lengthen your muscles with this low-impact simple full body workout. No equipment required. Perform the exercises in the order listed.

1 Scissor Arms

Target muscles: Arms and shoulders 

How to perform:

  • Lie on your back with your legs bent, feet hip-width apart and flat on the floor.
  • Raise your arms so they are straight and perpendicular to the floor.
  • Exhale and lower one arm over your head and the other arm to the floor near your hip.
  • Inhale and lift your arms to vertical and then exhale and reverse direction.
  • Do 20-repetitions.  

Tip: Do not arch your lower back or lift your ribs off the floor as you move.


2 Shoulder Bridge

Target muscles: Hips and thighs 

How to perform:

  • Lie on your back with your legs bent and feet flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart.
  • Inhale and press your feet into the ground. Lift your hips off the floor and up toward the ceiling. Your knees, hips and shoulders should form a straight line.
  • Exhale and return your butt to the floor.
  • Do 15-repetitions.

Variation: You can also squeeze a folded towel between your knees to further engage your core. 


3 Pilates Hundreds

Target muscles: Core and thighs 

How to perform:

  • Lie on your back and raise your legs so your thighs are perpendicular to the floor and your knees are bent to 45-degrees. Extend your arms so your hands are either side of your hips around 12-inches off the ground.
  • Lift your head and shoulders off the floor. Inhale and press your arms down as though trying to compress springs for five beats. Exhale and press for a further five beats.
  • Continue alternating inhalations and exhalations until you have completed 100 beats.

Variation: Fully straighten your legs for a more demanding workout. 


4 Swimming (aka Bird Dog)

Target muscles: Glutes, lower back, upper back, shoulders 

How to perform:

  • Kneel on all fours so your shoulders are directly over your hands and your hips are directly over your knees. Lengthen your neck, tuck your chin in and brace your core.
  • Inhale and extend your left leg and right arm until they are parallel to the floor. Exhale and lower them back to the starting position.
  • Inhale and raise your right leg and left arm.
  • Continue alternating until you have completed 10-repetitiions on each side. 

5 Clams

Target muscles: Hips, glutes, outer thighs 

How to perform:

  • Lie on your side with your head resting on your outstretched arm and both knees bent so your feet are together and directly in line with your hips.
  • Exhale and open your hips by lifting your top leg up and out but while keeping your feet together.
  • Inhale as you lower your leg and repeat.
  • Do 15-repetitions on each side. 

Variation: You place an elastic exercise band (e.g. theraband) around your knees to increase the resistance and difficulty.


6 Pilates Push-Ups

Target muscles: Chest, arms, shoulders, core 

How to perform:

  • Lie on your front with your hands under your shoulders, your elbows tucked into your ribs, legs straight and neck long. Brace your core and inhale.
  • Exhale and push yourself off the floor keeping your core tight and body straight.
  • Inhale and bend your arms until your chest is around six-inches above the floor. Hold this “hover” for a slow count of three.
  • Push back up and exhale. Perform five to ten repetitions.

Variation: Bend your legs and keep your knees on the floor for an easier workout. 


7 Plank to Side Plank

Target muscles: Core, thighs 

How to perform:

  • With your arms straight (bent arm variation illustrated), place your hands on the floor under your shoulders and extend your legs so you are in a sort of push-up position.
  • Brace your core, lengthen your neck and hold for 20 to 40-seconds. Keep breathing the whole time.
  • Next, shift your weight onto your left hand and turn your hips so you are balancing on one hand only. Hold this position for 20 to 40-seconds.
  • Finally, rotate your hips to the opposite side, rest on your right hand and finish off with another hold of 20 to 40-seconds.

Variation: If keeping the supporting arm straight causes discomfort of the wrist or is too difficult, bend your arm and support your weight on your forearm (as illustrated above). If the twists prove too challenging, focus on the first position and only add the rotations when you feel you are able. 


8 Shell Stretch

Target muscles: Lower back stretch

How to perform:

  • Kneel down, push your butt down to your heels and lay your chest on your thighs. Rest your head on the floor in front of your knees and place your arms by your sides next to your legs.
  • Breathe deeply and allow your spine to lengthen and relax.
  • Hold for ten deep nasal breathes and then slowly stand up. 

Needing nothing more than an exercise mat or folded towel, its 100-percent equipment free and can be performed anywhere and anytime!

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