10 Easy Pilates Exercises That Feel So Good

If you think Pilates sounds too difficult to try or you don’t like the idea of sliding around on a Reformer, no worries. There are plenty of easy Pilates exercises you can do on a mat at home to build up your strength.

Simple, gentle Pilates moves come in handy whether you’re a beginner, you’re having an off day, or don’t feel like running, jumping, or going to the gym. “The beauty of Pilates is that it was designed as a method of rehabilitation and conditioning for the full body,” says Samantha Price, a BASI-certified Pilates Instructor at SweatHB. That means it’s stretchy, low impact, and it comes in varying degrees of difficulty, so you can build up as you go. “If you’re recovering from an injury or simply looking to work out on a low-energy day, Pilates is a great option,” she tells Bustle.

Some Pilates moves are inherently simple and gentle, while the tougher ones can be modified by using props, bands, or other tools like a Pilates circle, says Price. There are also different class levels to pick from, so if you’re going to hit one up IRL or stream a workout on YouTube, make sure you go easy. “A class labeled foundation, restorative, or beginner would be perfect for a lazy day workout,” she says. But don’t discount the class just because it’s on the gentler side: “Working at a lower level and slower pace also allows you to focus on the mechanics of each movement to ensure that you are getting the most out of the workout.”

Keep scrolling for 10 easy Pilates exercises that’ll help you fit in some gentle movement.


Pelvic Curl To Bridge

According to Price, this exercise is a great way to work on spinal articulation while also firing up your core and hamstrings. Her tip? “Focusing on control and isolation will help to improve range of movement and strength.”

– Lie on your back with your legs bent, feet planted hip-width apart, and arms at your sides.

– Exhale and pull your belly in towards your spine to engage your abs.

– Allow your pelvis to tilt up off the floor.

– Continue that slow movement, lifting the spine one vertebrae at a time until you are in a high bridge position.

– Create a long line from your knees to your shoulders.

– Inhale and pause at the top.

– With your next exhale reverse that movement back down one vertebra at a time.

– Moving with your breath, repeat this exercise 8 to 10 times.


Spine Twist

This move is easy because you get to control how far you challenge yourself, says Price. The further you twist, the harder it is. “Start with a small range, and as you become more comfortable with the movement and are able to keep the upper body stable, add more,” she says.

– Lie on your back with your arms outstretched and resting on the floor in a T position, palms facing up.

– Bend your knees 90 degrees.

– Keep your knees pressed together.

– Inhale as you lower your legs to one side as far as you can without letting your opposite shoulder lift off the ground.

– Exhale, use your abs to pull your legs back up to the starting position.

– With the next inhale, drop your knees to the other side and exhale to return.

– Take your legs to each side 5 times.


Rolling Like A Ball

Rolling around on your mat like a ball is a great way to massage your spine and give yourself a hug, says Pilates instructor Lesley Logan. It’s easy, and it happens to work your thighs, glutes, abs, and upper back muscles as an added bonus.

– Sit up and bring your knees in towards your chest.

– Hug your heels together and keep your knees slightly apart.

– Place one hand on each ankle or behind each thigh.

– Pull your shoulders down your back.

– Round your head in and look down at your stomach.

– Inhale and roll back onto your shoulders.

– Exhale and roll up to balance at the top.

– Roll back and repeat 5 to 8 times.


Swan Prep

This move strengthens your entire backside, including your glutes, hamstrings, erector spinae, and lats, Logan says. It also opens the front of your body, which feels great if you hunch over a desk all day.

– Lie on your stomach.

– Place your hands underneath your forehead.

– Stretch your legs long and behind you.

– Reach your tailbone long and relax your shoulders down your back.

– Leaving your legs down, lift your hands and elbows with your head and chest.

– Hold, then lower down.

– Repeat 5 to 8 times.


Runner’s Lunge

A classic runner’s lunge helps loosen tight hip flexors, says Tanysha Renee, a certified personal trainer and Tonal coach. “We’re always seated in front of the computer or TV, so getting in something to open up the hips is a great movement,” she tells Bustle.

– Get into a low lunge position with your front foot planted and your back leg extended behind you.

– Keep your back knee on the floor and your toes tucked.

– Place your hands on the floor inside the front leg, shoulder-width apart.

– Lift your back knee slowly to straighten your back leg.

– Hold, then relax your knee back down to the floor.

– Switch legs and repeat as needed.


Downward Dog

“Like the runner’s lunge, downward dog works to counteract the effects of spending all day seated — specifically by addressing the back of the body and posterior chain,” Renee says. “You’re getting this extension of the body that helps with posture in the long run.”

– Place your hands on the mat, shoulder-width apart.

– Step your feet back behind you, toes tucked.

– Drive your hips up towards the ceiling to create a triangle with your body.

– Gently pump your legs and slowly lower your heels to the mat.


Standing Side Bend

This simple move might bring you back to middle school gym class, Renee says, but you get that full extension in the sides of your back and torso.

– Stand tall.

– Reach your arms up overhead, palms facing each other. Alternatively, you can keep one hand on your hip.

– Bend from the hip as you reach your arms to the right.

– Use your core to return to center.

– Repeat on the opposite side.


Superhero Hold

Don’t feel like getting up? Renee suggests a superhero hold, aka an isometric posture that challenges your back muscles.

– Lie face down on your mat.

– Extend your arms upward and out about 45 degrees from your head.

– Extend your legs about hip distance apart.

– Imagine strings from the ceiling lifting all four limbs off the floor while you balance on your pelvis and low belly.

– Keep your back and glutes engaged.

– Hold for 5 seconds and release.


Standing Roll Down

According to Jacqueline Hinton, a certified Pilates instructor, simple exercises like this one might help you feel more energized to do a bit more with your workout.

– Stand with your feet hip-width apart.

– Inhale, then as you exhale roll down one vertebra at a time.

– Let your head and arms hang like a ragdoll.

– Take another inhale.

– Pull your belly muscles into your spine and roll up one vertebra at a time.

– Repeat 10 times.



Hinton says this easy, seated move opens your sides and it’s a great stretch for the hips.

– Sit on your mat with one leg bent in front of you with your shin parallel to the front of your mat.

– Keep the other leg bent back with your shin parallel to the side of your mat.

– To modify, sit with your legs criss-crossed or out in front of you.

– Reach up and over to one side, then the other.

– Repeat 10 times on each side.

Studies referenced:

Byrnes, K. (2018). Is Pilates an effective rehabilitation tool? A systematic review. J Bodyw Mov Ther. doi: 10.1016/j.jbmt.2017.04.008.


Samantha Price, BASI-certified Pilates Instructor at SweatHB

Lesley Logan, online Pilates instructor

Tanysha Renee, certified personal trainer, Tonal coach

Jacqueline Hinton, certified Pilates instructor

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