How To Do Mat Pilates, At Home
When you need an effective, quiet workout for a small space, mat Pilates is a great option for anyone who wants to begin working out at home. This workout style will help to strengthen your core and ultimately improve your stability for any other form of exercise that you do.
You don’t need any equipment at all — if you have a fitness mat, that will make you more comfortable, but you could even get started using a folded blanket or a thick towel as cushioning.
How to do pilates at home
Pilates doesn’t require a reformer or other complex equipment — by focusing on muscular control, mat pilates exercises allow you to condition both your muscles and nervous system for better control of your movement.
Using only your bodyweight and focusing on the quality of your movement, you can use Pilates to move closer to your fitness goals in any exercise discipline.
Pilates is suitable for you even if you’ve never done it before. As you progress, you can add light dumbbells to increase the intensity of the moves.
Take your time to master the correct form of the exercises below. This will take a lot of mental focus as well as physical discipline, but your efforts will pay off as you build a stronger mind-muscle connection. If this is your first time trying Pilates, try to be patient with yourself and concentrate on engaging each muscle individually during the exercises.
For those of you who love to do high-intensity workouts, pilates might feel more slow-paced, but if you focus on doing the exercises properly, you will definitely feel the burn!
Tips for your first pilates workout
When you try mat Pilates for the first time, here are a few tips to make sure that you are comfortable and to help you maintain the proper form.
Wear clothing you can move easily in
To do Pilates, choose workout clothing that is comfortable and allows you to move freely. Avoid zippers that might press into your skin when lying on your front, back or side to ensure you can complete each exercise free from distraction.
Keep a natural curve in your back
Rather than flattening your back onto your mat or the floor, you should keep a small gap under your lower spine so you can slide your hand between your back and the floor. This helps to maintain the natural curve in your spine.
Ground your feet
You won’t need shoes for a pilates session. Bare feet or grippy socks will enable you to connect firmly with the ground during each movement.
Move with your breath
Pilates requires you to concentrate and to hold positions that may be challenging. When you move into a position, move with your breath. As you hold a more strenuous position, use your breath as a point of focus to help you to hold the position.
Mobilise your neck
Between each exercise, gently rotate your head from side to side so that your neck doesn’t become stiff.
Benefits of pilates
If you want to develop flexibility and strength, and even increase your height a little, pilates is one effective way to activate your core and work towards that effortless grace you aim for in your daily movement.
Pilates strengthens your whole body
The exercises used in pilates strengthen all areas of the body, including the lower back, pelvis and hips. A study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning conducted over 12 weeks showed that doing Pilates twice a week for 60 minutes led to increased abdominal endurance, hamstring flexibility and upper-body muscular endurance.
Effective, low-impact exercise
Pilates-style exercises can be used early in rehabilitation from injury as the exercises are low-impact and can target a very specific area of the body.
Pilates may improve your mood
Pilates can help to improve your overall health and wellness. The exercises require mental focus so you can engage the target areas of your body correctly. You can progress with the exercises as you become more confident, giving you the feeling of accomplishment as your physical strength and muscular control increases.
It’s suitable for any age or fitness level
Pilates exercises can be modified or advanced, so you can benefit from the exercises and increase your strength at any age or fitness level.
It can help reduce your risk of injury
The exercises in Pilates encourage you to isolate and activate muscles individually. This can help to correct imbalances in your body that arise from lifestyle habits by teaching your muscles to activate correctly during movement, reducing the risk of injury resulting from muscular imbalance.
It’s great cross-training for almost any sport
Doing Pilates in combination with other forms of exercise can help to build your resilience to injury. For example, dancers use Pilates as a form of cross-training to improve their mind-body connection and overall wellbeing. It may also be beneficial to those who run by promoting better range of motion at the hip joints, which may improve stride and running technique.
Beginner Mat Pilates exercises to try at home
Here are six basic Pilates exercises you can try at home. Before you begin, take a moment to breathe consciously.
This exercise is similar to a sit up, but you don’t come up as far.
Here’s how to do it.
1. Lie on your back with your knees bent. Your feet should be flat on the mat and arms by your sides.
2. Exhale, curling your chin towards your chest and lifting your shoulders off the mat. Engage your abs as you lift from your chest to hold this position for one breath.
3. Lower slowly back to the floor.
4. Repeat for 5-8 repetitions.
The key to this exercise is your breath! Breathe into your back and lower ribs to make sure that you use your full lung capacity, and be sure to engage your abdominals.
Here’s how to do it:
1. Lie on your back and raise your legs into the ‘tabletop’ position, so that your shins are parallel to the floor and your thighs are at 90 degrees. Inhale.
2. Exhale and contract your abdominals. Stretch out your legs to a raised position that you can hold without shaking or pulling your lower spine off the mat. A lower position, like 45 degrees, will be more challenging to hold than a higher position. Extend your arms straight and low, with palms facing down a few inches off the floor.
3. Hold this position, taking five short breathes in and five short breaths out. As you hold this position, pump your arms up and down through a small range of motion, keeping your shoulders and neck relaxed throughout. Use your abdominals to hold your body still as you breathe and pump your arms.
4. Aim for a cycle of ten full breaths, with each breath made up of five short in breaths and five short out breaths, breathing into your back and sides.
5. Keep your spine curved as you bring your knees toward your chest. Grasp your knees and roll your upper back and head to the floor. Take a deep breath in and out.
Tip: To help keep your neck and shoulders relaxed throughout, try to imagine holding an egg between your chin and chest as you gaze forward, rather than pointing your chin towards the ceiling.
If you have any neck issues, you can do this exercise with your head on the ground, using your abdominals to hold your legs in the elevated position.
This exercise targets your abdominals and when you do it with correct form, it’s very effective! It can be tempting to rush through the exercise, but be patient and focus on properly articulating your spine and engaging your abs for best results.
Here’s how to do it:
1. Lie on your back with your arms extended behind your head.
2. Engage your core, lift your head and raise your arms toward the ceiling to roll up smoothly.
3. Reach forward towards your toes, drawing your abdominals toward your spine.
4. Slowly roll back down with control, and repeat for five to eight repetitions.
Remember to breathe throughout each roll up, and keep your arms and legs straight to maximise core engagement.
Single leg circle
This classic Pilates exercise increases core strength and pelvic stability, while strengthening the hamstrings and quads.
Here’s how to do it:
1. Lying on your back, engage your core. Pull in your abdominal muscles and anchor your pelvis and shoulders to the ground.
2. Draw one knee to your chest, and extend it towards the ceiling. Inhale.
3. Cross the extended leg up and over your body, towards the opposite shoulder and over the outstretched leg.
4. Exhale and lower the leg in a circle motion. Using control, open the leg to the opposite side and around in a circular movement to return to the starting position.
5. Complete five to eight circles in this direction, then reverse the direction, exhaling as you extend the leg to the side and circling the leg in the opposite direction for the same number of reps.
6. Before switching legs, stretch by climbing your hands towards the ankle on the outstretched leg.
7. Repeat on the opposite leg.
Single leg stretch
This exercise helps you to learn to move from a stable center, and it targets your lower abs. It’s a great exercise to do if you hike, swim, run or cycle as it trains the abdominal muscles to stabilise the trunk as the arms and legs move.
Here’s how to do it:
1. Lie on your back with legs in the tabletop position, knees bent and shins parallel to the floor. Take a few deep breaths.
2. Exhale, brace your abdominals and curl your head and shoulders up to lift your shoulder blades off the ground. As you lift your head and chest up, extend your left leg at a 45 degree angle, keeping the right leg in tabletop position. Hold your right shin with your hands and move with control.
3. Inhale to switch legs, moving your hands to your left shin.
4. Exhale to switch legs again.
5. Repeat, changing legs with your breath for up to 10 repetitions.
TIP: Keep your feet moving in a straight line throughout the movement.
When you’ve done a lot of ab work, a back extension exercise like Pilates swimming can help to restore balance to your body. While you’ll still need to keep your abs, especially the obliques, engaged throughout the exercise, this exercise targets your hamstrings, glutes and lower back.
Here’s how to do it:
1. Lie face down with your legs straight and together.
2. Stretch your arms overhead, parallel with the floor. Ensure your shoulder blades are wrapped down your back.
3. Extend your legs and arms so they lift off the floor, and lengthen your spine to lift your head.
4. Pulse your left arm and right leg through a small range of motion, breathing in for five pulses and out for five pulses.
5. Repeat, alternating between right arm/left leg and left arm/right leg pulses, for two or three full cycles of breath.
Include Pilates in your at-home workout routine to experience the benefits
When you practice Pilates consistently, even just once or twice each week for 20 to 60 minutes, you’ll begin to reap the rewards of better core stability and enhanced overall wellbeing.
No matter what your regular training style is, changing it up with Pilates can help you to build stronger, more integrated movement patterns that will benefit you! The added bonus is that you don’t need any extra equipment to get started.
* Results may vary. Strict adherence to the nutrition and exercise guide are required for best results.