5 Exercises For Pilates Beginners

“Pilates develops the body uniformly, corrects wrong postures, restores physical vitality, invigorates the mind and elevates the spirit.” — Joseph Pilates Ready to give Pilates a go? You won't regret it! Try these five easy and progressive Pilates exercises.
Decathlon Ireland
June 2, 2021

"In 10 sessions you'll feel the difference, in 20 you'll see the difference and in 30 you'll have a new body!” — Joseph Pilates

You'll start to feel the effects after just a few sessions: more focus, better posture and improved body awareness… You'll also gradually get more sculpted and toned muscles and a stronger core and back.

With a little bit of patience and discipline, your body will become more flexible, more toned and stronger.

To help you start off on the right foot, you may also want to read our article “All about Pilates” to learn about the Pilates basics so you can make the most of your workouts.

Let's get started!

BEFORE STARTING, LEARN TO BREATHE THE PILATES WAY: Lateral Thoracic Breathing

photo #1


Keep your ab muscles engaged while breathing throughout your session—in other words, keep those abs tight!

  • Place one hand on your ribs and the other on your stomach.
  • Inhale deeply through the nose as you expand your rib cage, keeping your navel in towards your spine (feel your ribs spread under your fingers).
  • Engage your pelvic floor by imagining that you are trying to stop urinating midstream.
  • Exhale through the mouth, as if you were trying to fog up a mirror with your breath (feel your stomach hug in towards your spine).
  • Repeat for several breaths.


Pointer: Close your eyes to focus on the sensations.

photo #2

WARM-UP (one minute)

  • Come to an all-fours position. Your hands should be under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.
  • Lengthen your spine from your tailbone to the crown of your head.
  • Inhale and tip your hips up to arch your back, bringing your gaze to the ceiling.
  • Exhale and tip your hips in the opposite direction to round your back.
  • Repeat this movement several times before gradually bringing your spine back into a neutral position (neither rounded nor arched).
  • Sit back on your heels, stomach on your thighs and arms stretched out in front of you in child's pose (photo below).
  • Feel the stretch in your back.
  • Sit in an upright position on your heels.



child's pose photo
CHILD'S POSE IN PHOTOS

EXERCISE 1: MARCHING STRENGTHENS YOUR HIP FLEXORS AND ABDOMINAL MUSCLES

Starting position

  • Lie on your back, knees bent and feet hip-width apart, arms along your body with your palms face down on the ground.
  • Your back should be fairly flat on the ground. Arching your back during the movements can lead to pain.

The exercise

  • Exhale and engage your core (navel in towards your spine).
  • Inhale, then exhale as you raise your left leg to 90°.
  • Inhale, then exhale and raise the right leg to 90°, keeping your lower belly engaged.
  • Inhale as you lower your right toes to the ground and exhale and you bring your leg back up.
  • Inhale and lower your left toes to the ground, exhaling as you bring your leg back up.


Note: Move slowly to control your movements and keep your core engaged.


How many reps?

Between 5 and 10

MARCHING IN PHOTOS

EXERCISE 2: THE HUNDRED TONES THE ABDOMINAL WALL AND ACTIVATES THE UPPER BODY

The name of this classic Pilates exercise comes from its breathing cycle: you inhale for five counts and exhale for five counts, repeating ten times (10 x 10 = 100).


Starting position

  • Lie on your back, arms next to your body


The exercise

  • Inhale and lengthen your body.
  • As you exhale, engage your pelvic floor and hug your navel to your spine, then lift your upper back (head and bust up to the tips of your shoulder blades).
  • Keep your arms straight, parallel to the floor, and move them up and down as though you were trying to create a splash of water by tapping the surface with your hands.
  • Do five quick taps as you inhale to a count of five, repeating five quick taps again as you exhale.

Note: For beginners, start doing the exercise first with your feet on the ground. Gradually work your way up by raising your legs off the ground, first with your knees bent to 90°, then with your legs straight at a 45° angle to the floor.


How many reps?

10 breathing cycles repeated 10 times

photo hundred
THE HUNDRED IN PHOTOS

EXERCISE 3: HIP RAISES STRENGTHENS YOUR GLUTES, HAMSTRINGS AND BACK

Starting position

  • Lie on your back, legs bent, feet hip-width apart.
  • Keep your shoulders and shoulder blades down your back.
  • Engage your perineum.
  • Your arms should be along your body, palms up towards the ceiling.





The exercise

  • Inhale before you begin the movement (core engaged!).
  • On your exhale, gently raise your hips towards the ceiling, pressing your heels into your mat and gradually rolling up, one vertebra at a time.
  • Keep your knees, hips and shoulders aligned.
  • Inhale as you gently roll back down.
  • Exhale and repeat.

Note: This is an excellent exercise to relieve back tension!


How many reps?

Between 10 and 15 breaths

HIP RAISES IN PHOTOS

EXERCISE 4: PRESS-UPS STRENGTHEN THE ENTIRE UPPER BODY

Starting position

  • Inhale before you begin the movement (core engaged!).
  • Come to an all-fours position.
  • Align your knees with your hips.
  • Bring your hands just wider than shoulder-width apart, chest level.
  • Place your hands parallel to your body, tips of your fingers facing forward.
  • Keep your back in a neutral position (neither arched nor rounded).

The exercise

  • On your inhale, bring your head towards the ground as you bend your elbows: keep your elbows tucked in (practically touching your ribs) as you lower down to work your triceps.

  • As you exhale, press your hands into the ground to come back up to the starting position.
  • Inhale and repeat.

Note: Do the exercise slowly, controlling the movement and remembering to keep your core engaged. For beginners, do the exercise on all fours, bringing your chest down towards the mat. Gradually work up to extending your knees further back, before finally doing the exercise with your legs stretched out behind you in a plank position (body straight and aligned).


How many reps?

Between 5 and 10 reps

MARCHING IN PHOTOS

EXERCISE 5: SIDE LEG RAISES WORK YOUR OBLIQUES AND SCULPT YOUR WAIST

Starting position

  • Lie on your right side, right arm stretched out and palm towards the floor, head on your right arm. Keep your legs straight and together, slightly in front of you.
  • Place your left hand on the floor in front of you at chest level.
  • Your shoulders and hips should be stacked.
  • Your body should be completely aligned.

The exercise

  • Exhale and engage your core.
  • Raise your left leg (not too high, but enough to feel the movement at your waist). Your entire body should be engaged and strong, from head to toes.
  • Inhale and lower your leg, without completely resting it on the other leg.
  • Repeat from your next exhale.

Note: Start with one hand on the ground to help you balance, before eventually progressing to do the exercise with your hand along your body or at your waist while keeping your balance! This will work your deep ab muscles even more.


How many reps?
Between 5 and 10 on each side

photo side leg raises
SIDE LEG RAISES IN PHOTOS

YOU'RE ALMOST THERE!

Relax for a few moments in child's pose (5 to 10 breaths). You can also bring your arms alongside your body for maximum relaxation.

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