Sculpt and Strengthen: 4 Pilates Exercises for an Effective At-Home Workout

Take your at-home workout to the next level with these muscle-sculpting moves

For some, the end of summer means most workouts will return to indoor spaces. Maybe you enjoy going for a run outside when the weather is warm, but dislike having to bundle up just to get a workout in as the temperatures begin to dip.

Just because you’ll have fewer opportunities for exercising outside, doesn’t mean your relationship with fitness has to disappear. In fact, one of the most simple and effective ways that you can exercise indoors, and in the comfort of your own home, is with Pilates.

According to Andrea Speir, an expert Pilates instructor and co-founder of The Pilates Fix, Pilates is not only an exceptional workout for strengthening and sculpting your muscles, but it also offers incredible rehabilitative elements. Plus, it provides a killer core workout.

“Pilates is a full body workout, with an emphasis on the core,” says Speir. “No matter what the movement is, the abdominals are always being challenged and worked.”

Speir says that Pilates exercises build muscle while also elongating and lengthening them.

“The end result is that it safely rehabilitates old or current injuries, which is why it is always found being used in physical therapy offices,” she said. “And it shapes the body to look like a fitness supermodel, which is why it is cherished by Hollywood stars.”

To help add some excitement and intensity to your fitness routine as you transition back to working out inside more often, Speir put together a strategically ordered series of four classic Pilates moves that she says will leave you feeling strong, tall and invigorated.

 - 4 Pilates Exercises for an Effective At-Home Workout-

 1. The Hundred

Duration: 10 deep breathes

How To:
1. Bring your knees into your chest.
2. Curl your head and chest up, then reach your legs out to a 45 degree angle and reach your arms long by your sides.
3. Begin to pump your arms vigorously up and down (range is about 10 inches).
4. Inhale for 5 counts, exhale for 5 counts. Repeat 10 times.

Tips: Deeply scoop the abdominals in for the entire exercise so the lower back doesn’t arch and build tension. By curling the head and neck up to gaze into the navel, you help the abdominals activate and alleviate any possible strain on the neck.

Modifications: If you feel the exercise in your head, neck or back, lower your head and bring your legs to a tabletop position (legs together with knees bent, knee over hip bone and shins parallel to the floor).

Target: This exercise is a great way to begin your workout because it instantly warms up the body and gets you ready to safely move and strengthen your muscles. It challenges the abdominals and is a nice burst of cardiovascular movement.

2. The Roll-Up

Duration: 10 repetitions

How To:
1. Lie flat on the mat with the legs together and feet flexed.
2. Reach your arms up to the ceiling.
3. Deepen your abdominals and begin to round up to seated position, reaching for your toes.
4. Roll back to the mat and repeat.

Tips: Before you begin the exercise, feel your shoulders draw down to the mat. Work to keep your shoulders in the proper place throughout the exercise, so they aren’t reaching and pulling off your back. Additionally, roll through each disk in your spine and control the movement from the abdominals, not with momentum.

Modifications: This is a very challenging abdominal exercise, so you may wish to begin practicing this movement by holding on lightly behind slightly bent knees.

Target: This move flattens, tightens and tones the entire midsection, while at the same time giving the spine and hamstrings a nice stretch.

3. Single-Leg Teaser

Duration: 5 repetitions each side

How To:
1. Lie flat on your back with your knees bent and feet together.
2. Extend one leg out to a high diagonal, keeping your knees together.
3. Reach your fingers for your toes and begin to round your body up, coming to a seated position.
4. Lower down only to the shoulder tips, and come back up. After repeating 5 times on one side, change legs.

Tips: As you roll up and down, deepen the abdominals so you roll through each disc in the spine and don't jolt or use momentum to get up.

Modifications: If you feel that this is too challenging for your abs at your current fitness level, hold on lightly behind your thighs for a little extra help. This is preferable to whipping your body up.

Target: This is one of my all-time favorite moves for the abdominals. It works to tone and flatten the entire midsection and is incredibly effective. The best part of this exercise is that because of the placement of the feet and knees, it is pretty much impossible to be set up in improper form or let bigger muscles take over. That’s part of what makes this exercise so hard- no cheating!

4. Rolling Like a Ball

Duration: 10 repetitions

How To:
1. Slide yourself to the front of your mat and sit with your knees bent.
2. Reach down and lightly take a hold of the outside of the ankles and lift your feet up to hover right above the mat.
3. Curl your head and chest down to look at your abdominals, so you are in a tight ball position.
4. Rock back to your shoulder tips, maintaining this form and rock back up to the starting position.
5. Place your feet down on the mat and come to standing, squeezing and engaging the glutes.
6. Bend your knees and lower back to the mat with control, and repeat.

Tips: Make sure to only roll to the shoulder tips. You never want to roll back onto your head or neck for safety reasons. The abdominals are key on this move—the more you deepen in the more easily you control the motion.

Modifications: The standing part of this exercise can be taken out if you are having difficulty achieving your optimal amount of balance and control.

Target: This exercise works balance, abdominals and the backside!

All photos courtesy of Andrea Speir.

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