What is Pilates?

Pilates was created in the early 20th century by Joseph Pilates in order to enhance the body’s potential. It was originally called “contrology” and aimed to reduce imbalances as you work alongside your breathing to carry out the moves.

Pilates is a fantastic way to improve posture, strengthen and stretch your body. It is often associated with specialist Pilates studios or the gym but you can easily do Pilates at home, with minimal equipment regardless of your age or fitness ability.

Pilates focuses on correct technique and engagement to make the small movements of the Pilates exercises really count.

Our trained Pilates instructor has put together this full body, simple mat-based Pilates routine, suitable for all fitness levels for you to have a go at in the comfort of your own home.

All you need is an exercise mat or somewhere comfortable to perform the exercises, there is no specialist equipment or weights for this workout, just your own bodyweight and a drink to stay hydrated.

Important! Before starting this workout…

This workout has been designed to be suitable for beginners but may not be suitable for everyone. If you’re pregnant or postpartum, recovering from injury or suffering from back pain this workout will not be suitable.

In such a case, it would be advisable to work directly with our fully qualified physios or attend an online or in-person Pilates class so that the instructors can tailor the moves to your needs and provide modifications.

You should always consult your doctor before starting any new exercise programme.

Our home Pilates routine

Breathing and core activation

Before you begin each move you need to activate your core and focus on your breathing. You can do this by lying on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Place your hands on your abdomen and inhale through your nose, allowing your hands to slide apart as you breathe into your abdomen. As you exhale, feel your hands slide towards each other, pull your belly button back towards your spine and engage and lift your pelvic floor. You are now ready to begin!

The workout

  1. Roll down x 5 reps
  2. Dynamic plank x5 reps per leg
  3. Superman x5 reps per side
  4. Side lying clam shells x10 reps per leg
  5. Table top toe taps x8-10 reps per leg
  6. The swan x 5-10 reps
  7. The hundred 1 set of 100 reps
  8. Roll like a ball x10 reps

A breakdown of each of these moves can be found below.

  1. Roll down (5 reps)

Roll down

We always like to start our classes with a roll down to help mobilise the spine as well as activating lots of core muscles such as the glutes and abs.

Start with your feet hip width apart and raise your arms above your head as you inhale. As you exhale, roll down, keeping your knees soft and maintaining your core then use your abs and glutes to help bring you back to standing again, finishing by bringing your shoulder blades back and down towards your bottom. Repeat 5 times.

  1. Dynamic plank (5 reps on each leg)

Dynamic plank

This move really works on building that core strength as well as strengthening your wrists and your glutes and stretching your hamstrings and calves down the backs of your legs.

You start in a plank position before bringing your left knee to your elbow, pushing through your arms and keeping your core engaged.

You then need to activate your shoulders and glutes to push back and kick up into a three legged dog position. Repeat this five times on your left leg before you switch legs and do 5 on your right leg.

  1. Superman (5 reps on each side)


A core move for any home Pilates workout, the superman targets both the lower and upper body as well as the care.

Start on all fours on your exercise mat, ensuring that your wrists are in line with your shoulders and your knees in line with your hips. Extend your right leg out straight behind you whilst, at the same time extending your left arm forwards in front of you. Bring the extended arm and leg back to the starting position before repeating with the other arm and leg. Do this 10 times, 5 times per side.

It is very important for your balance that you maintain good posture and keep your pelvis neutral (hips in line) through this move.

  1. Side lying clam shells (10 reps per leg)

Side lying clam shells

The next exercise in our Pilates routine focuses on core and glute activation and is one that can really make you feel the burn!

Lying on your side on your mat with your arm outstretched under your head, bring your legs one on top of the other, your hips stacked. Suck your belly button back towards your spine and engage your pelvic floor to activate your core then squeeze through your glutes to take your knees apart then slowly back together. Repeat this 10 times per leg.

  1. Table top toe taps (10 reps)

Table top toe taps

Lying on your back engage your core and ensure your lower back has good contact with the floor. Lift your legs up so that your knees are in line with your hips and your feet are off the floor. Tap alternate toes to the floor being sure you maintain good abdominal engagement.

If you can, repeat this 5-10 times per leg, if you lose your core engagement or feel your lower back lifting from the mat then stop and re-engage before carrying on.

  1. The Swan (5-10 reps)

The swan

This Pilates exercise is a variation on a dorsal raise and really targets and strengthens the back muscles but again is a great full body exercise. Be sure to really focus on your form for this one.

Start by lying face down on your mat, engage through your lower back and glutes to lift your chest off the floor. Have your arms extended by your ears before squeezing your elbows back in line with your shoulder blades. Repeat 5-10 times.

  1. The Hundred (1 set of 100)

The Hundred

The hundred is a core Pilates exercise that is great for warming up the core and the shoulders.

Lying on your back lift your knees and feet off the floor, crunch up lifting your head and upper back off the floor and engage your core. Extend your legs to where the ceiling and wall meet in front of you and extend your arms, keeping them off the floor.

Move your arms up and down as you take 5 short breaths in and 5 short breaths out, aiming to beat your arms a total of 100 times. Avoid straining your neck by maintaining good form, be sure to bring your legs into table top if you require an easier modification.

  1. Roll like a ball (5-10 reps)

Roll like a ball

This is a great move to finish a workout as it gives a nice stretch through your back whilst still working those core muscles.

In a seated position, hug your knees in to your chest, holding on to your shins. Round through the spine, tucking your chin to your chest, draw your shoulders down and engage your core.

As you inhale roll backwards onto your back and shoulders, lifting your bottom off the mat. As you exhale really engage the core and roll back to the starting position, keeping your feet off the mat if you want to add an extra challenge and more balance. Repeat 10 times.

Where can you find more at home Pilates workouts?

If you’ve enjoyed this free home Pilates workout and range of Pilates exercises then why not sign up to our anytime Pilates membership to have access to our full range of physio-led Pilates workouts.

We also offer Pilates classes online and in-person in several studios around South-East Cornwall. We hope to see you at a Mike Redshaw online Pilates session soon!