Pilates 101: Best Pilates Exercises for Beginners

If your fitness goal is long, lean, sculpted muscles, Pilates is the perfect solution. Try the best Pilates exercises for beginners.

If your new fitness goal is long, lean, sculpted muscles, Pilates exercises for beginners are the perfect solution.

Joseph Pilates, a German gymnast, originally developed this exercise method as a rehabilitative tool. He believed that good posture and breathing led to good health. While Pilates focuses on core stability, building abdominal strength (good for toned abs), and breathing techniques, frequent Pilates workouts also emphasize the arms, hips, and thighs.

We could go on and on about how Pilates can change your life, but here are a few of the reasons why it’s so important to us. You can read the rest in our Pilates warm-up exercises article.

How Pilates Can Help You Live Your Best Life

group of people doing pilates workout in gym

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  • It is a full-body workout. You will see and feel positive results after a few sessions. We love that. You might not sweat as much as in your Zumba class, but you will work every muscle in your body.
  • It will help you get long and lean muscles. Many A-list celebrities say that Pilates is a major component in their workout routine. Are we going to trust them and their red carpet looks? Yes, we will!
  • It will work your core stability. Many Pilates exercises focus on core stability, meaning that they target smaller and deeper back and stomach muscles. Get ready to watch your posture get better day after day.
  • It will help you relieve stress. If you’re looking for an exercise that will engage your body and make you feel great about yourself afterward, Pilates is for you. If you choose to practice it in a gym, having people around you can help.
  • It’s a gentle workout. Even pregnant women can do Pilates workouts because it helps them get in shape quicker after childbirth. Contact your physician beforehand to make sure you can practice it, and always give a heads-up to the trainer before the class.
  • It doesn’t need much equipment. Apart from a few pieces of equipment, you will only need your high spirits and determination!

Now that you know how your body will change with Pilates, here are the things you need to know and prepare for before your Pilates workout.

How to Get Ready for Pilates

pilates exercises for beginners what to expect

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Gear Up

If you are a yoga aficionado, you might already have this equipment, but if you’re just starting out your workout journey, here is what you need to have:

  • A yoga mat that provides enough cushion for your spine to relax on. You can choose from these best yoga mats that are excellent for the job.
  • Yoga pants that don’t have back pockets. Many Pilates exercises for beginners and pros alike require you to lay down on your back. Having back pockets can mess with your spine’s alignment, which is the total opposite of why we’re doing all of this.
  • An exercise ball will take your workout to the next level. Incorporating one of these best exercise balls can be a real game changer and help you with various exercises.
  • A reformer, if you are interested in trying out Pilates reformer stretches.

Focus on Your Breathing.

As you will see in many of the Pilates exercises for beginners, you will notice that almost all exercises focus on breathing correctly. You need to inhale and exhale intentionally as you work out. Otherwise, you might end up bracing your core and engaging the wrong muscles.

Be Present

Don’t take your Pilates exercises as a workout session only; consider it as a time to refresh yourself, clear up your mind, and be mindful of your body.

To do so, make sure you are in a quiet and distraction-free environment. If you have children in the house, how about engaging them in kid yoga to get them moving and busy too?

If you have pets, make sure they are fed and outside of the room.

If you receive never-ending notifications and emails on your phone, it may be time to either turn all your notifications off or switch your phone to airplane mode.

Have Enough Room Around You

You don’t need to hit the gym every time you want to practice Pilates. You can do it in the comfort of your own home with the help of a few YouTube channels.

Just remember to leave enough space to stretch your arms and legs.

Be Gentle and Patient

Pilates is not a hard-on workout. It is the opposite of what you will find in a CrossFit gym. Don’t expect it to bulk you up. Instead, it will help you have lean, flexible, and strong muscles.

So, you don’t need to be aggressive during your workout. Be gentle and take your time to do each exercise.

Now that you know how to start your workout off the right foot, here are the five best five Pilates exercises for beginners.

N.B: There are risks involved with any type of exercise program. Always consult your physician before engaging in exercises, especially if you have a medical condition, are unsure about your physical well-being, or are a male above 45 years old or female above 50 years old.

5.) Leg Circles

Get trimmer, slimmer thighs and toned abs with this double-duty move. The name pretty much says it all. Make sure that you don’t arch your back and keep your lower abs tight and engaged.

How to Do Leg Circles

  1. Start by lying on your back with your legs and hands extended along the floor.
  2. Raise your right leg so that it’s perpendicular to the floor.
  3. Inhale as you move your leg across your body to the left, then exhale to open it up to the right side and circle up. Do this for the first set of five reps. Keep your hips as stable as possible. You don’t want them to wiggle too much. Stabilize yourself with your pelvis.
  4. Start the second set of five reps. Exhale to open the leg and circle down, then inhale across the body. Lower your leg back to the floor.
  5. Repeat on the left leg.

How Many Reps Should You Do?

Repeat this exercise five times for each leg.

4.) Breast Stroke

There is no need for a pool with this move. You just need you and your mat. But like the swimming stroke, it strengthens your upper back muscles and increases the mobility in your shoulders.

How to Do Breast Strokes

  1. Lie on your stomach with your hands by your shoulders and your toes anchored to the mat. Your face should be right on the mat, but don’t twist your neck. You can either close your legs or part them slightly.
  2. Lift your upper body a few inches off the floor.
  3. Reach your arms out in front of you, then swing your arms back around behind you. Your upper body should follow the motion of your arms and rise as they go behind you and towards your thighs.
  4. Remember to inhale as you pull your arms behind you and exhale as you get them in front of you.
  5. Repeat.

If your back isn’t strong enough yet, you can modify the pose by staying in the starting position with your upper body supported by your hands directly in front of your chest, then raising and lowering your chest to the ground.

How Many Reps Should You Do?

Repeat the exercise eight to 10 times.

3.) Hip Lift

Target your lower back, hips, glutes, quads, and hamstrings in one simple yet effective exercise. This is one of the Pilates exercises for beginners that requires an exercise ball. The moves are simple to execute but have enormous potential. Concentrate on squeezing your butt and thigh muscles for the entire exercise, and you’ll start to feel the burn after a few reps.

How to Do the Hip Lift

  1. Lie down on your back with your feet squeezed together on top of the exercise ball.
  2. Lift your buttocks a few inches off the ground and leave your arms on the mat straight by your side. Only your feet, arms, shoulders, and head should be touching the floor.
  3. Inhale as you roll the back towards you by bending your knees and bringing them as close to you as possible. Keep your feet on the ball at all times, and keep your buttocks lifted.
  4. Exhale as you roll the ball back into place.
  5. Repeat.

How Many Reps Should You Do?

Repeat the exercise eight to 10 times.

2.) Half Roll Back

Incorporate this move into your next workout to sculpt a strong, tight core. It forces your abdominal muscles to support the weight of your upper body, but the key to this move is to keep your spine in neutral alignment — neither arched back or hunched over.

How to Do the Half Roll Back

  1. Start in a seated position with your knees bent and your hands on the side of your knees. Start with a straight back.
  2. Arch your back forward and tighten your abs.
  3. Lower your upper body halfway toward the floor as you exhale. This is the point where your hands are perfectly straight while your feet are still planted on the mat.
  4. Inhale, keep your back arched, and start getting back to position.
  5. Keep going until your head reaches your knees.
  6. Squeeze on your hands, lift your spine, and get your back straight again.
  7. Repeat.

How Many Reps Should You Do?

Repeat this exercise five times.

1.) The Hundred

This move is easily one of the most well-known Pilates exercises for beginners. It is great as a warm-up move because it helps strengthen your abdominal muscles and focus on breathing correctly. Make sure you pay extra attention during this exercise.

How to Do the Hundred

  1. Lie on your back with your feet extended out and arms by your side.
  2. Bring your legs to a tabletop position. To do this, you need to join your feet together, raise your knees 90° over the mat, and keep your calves parallel to the mat.
  3. Inhale and take your arms over your head.
  4. Exhale as you do the following simultaneously:. Bring your arms down again; only this time they will not touch the ground. Lift your head and shoulders off the mat. Straighten and extend your legs forward at a 45° angle from the mat.
  5. Keep the position and start hovering your hands over the floor and pumping them up and down about six to eight inches. As you do this, take five short breaths in, followed by five short breaths out.
  6. Repeat.

How Many Reps Should You Do?

Do this exercise for 10 cycles of five in, five out (100 breaths) before lowering back down to the starting position.


With the combination of breathing techniques and these toning moves, you’ll have tighter abs and leaner thighs and feel toned all over. Run through all these moves (or others that you find) and put them into your workout two to three times per week for the best results.

 Best Pilates Exercises for Beginners