Pilates Exercises for Beginners

Today I would like to introduce some pilates exercises for beginners with pictures. The first step to any pilates exercises is activating your core muscles which includes your abdominal musculature, as well as, your gluteal muscles. Before starting any pilates exercise,  or gym exercise, make sure your core muscles are active and protecting your back. As a chiropractor and trained pilates instructor, I know that to maintain a healthy back your core muscles are important.

Pilates-Exercises-Beginners
Photo by: Ron Sombilon

So read on to start your basic pilates moves today. You can also print the pilates exercises for your convenience.

Activating Your Core

Lie on your back on a flat surface with your arms by your side, knees bent and feet on the ground. Take a deep breath in and as you breathe out pull your belly button towards your spine and lower your ribcage. Your lower back should now be flat against the floor. Don’t forget  to contract your gluteal/bum muscles  simultaneously as you breathe out. It is important that you master this exercise before attempting any further exercises.

As you improve you can incorporate this ‘core activation’ into your daily life.

How to Activate Your Core

Pilates Preparation Exercises

These pilates exercises are simple ways to train yourself to use your core muscle in ordinary movements so make sure you complete them slowly and properly keeping your core active through out.

PILATES HINT: If your lower back lifts off the floor at any point your core is not working and you are putting excess strain on your back!

The starting position for all these pilates exercises are the same as for the core activation explained above.

  1. As you inhale raise your knee to your chest. Slowly exhale lowering your foot towards to floor keeping you knee bent, repeat several times alternating between left and right legs. REMEMBER: it’s your core doing the work, not your leg!
  2. Inhale bringing your knee towards your chest. As you exhale straighten your leg to approximately 45degrees.  Inhale bringing your knee back to your chest and exhale taking your foot to the ground. Repeat several times on alternate legs
  3. Inhale bending your knee to your chest, exhale straightening it to 45 degrees. Inhale as you slowly lower your leg towards the floor making sure your back remains flat against the ground. Exhale and raise your straight leg back to 45 degrees keeping your tail bone down. Inhale bringing your knee back to your chest and exhale taking your foot to the ground.  Repeat several times on alternate legs
  4. Inhale lifting both arms up to the ceiling, exhale scissoring your arms apart lowering one arm down to the floor next to your legs and the other above your head. Repeat several times on alternate arms.
  5. Lie on your stomach with your legs straight and your forehead resting on your hands. Inhale, as you exhale left your upper body off the floor pulling your shoulders down your back. REMEMBER: Keep your core activated the whole time and only lift as far as you can without causing any pain!
  6. Assume same position as in point 1. Inhale lifting both legs simultaneously towards your chest keeping your back flat.  Exhale taking one bent leg towards the floor without touching the floor. Inhale returning your knee to your chest. Repeat several times on alternating legs.
  7. Inhale lifting both legs simultaneously towards your chest keeping your back flat. Exhale straightening one leg to 45degrees. Inhale returning your knee to your chest. Repeat several times on alternating legs.
  8. Inhale lifting both legs simultaneously towards your chest keeping your back flat. Exhale straightening one leg to 45 degrees.  Inhale slowly lowering the straightened leg towards the floor as far as you can without lifting your lower back off the floor. As you exhale lift your leg back to 45 degrees  keeping your tailbone tucked under. Inhale returning your knee to your chest. Repeat several times on alternating legs.
  9. Repeat 6 with your head off the floor and chin tucked into your chest.
  10. Repeat 7 with your head off the floor and chin tucked into your chest.
  11. Repeat 8 with your head off the floor and chin tucked into your chest.
  12. Repeat 9 but move both legs simultaneously towards to floor and back
  13. Repeat 10 but straighten both legs out simultaneously.
  14. Repeat 11 lowering both legs simultaneously this time.

Preparation Pilates Exercises

Pilates Hundreds Exercise

This pilates exercise is possibly the ‘signature’ exercise of pilates and can be adapted for all strengths.

  1. Start lying flat on the ground with your knees bent, feet on the floor and your arms by your side with your palms facing down.
  2. As you inhale pull your knees to your chest, lift your arms slightly off the floor and tuck your chin into your chest keeping your eyes focused on your toes
  3. Exhale slowly while extend your legs in front of you making sure you tighten your bum muscles and keeping your lower back glued to the floor.
  4. Inhale slowly raising and lowering both arms simultaneously. It is important to keep the movement small, keep your arms stretched out along your side and your shoulders relaxed. Count five up and down movements as you inhale and five as you exhale. Repeat this. Begin with only 20 movements gradually increasing them as you become stronger.

Pilates Hundreds Exercise

POSTURE NOTE: Make sure you isolate your arm movements and avoid any leg or head bouncing!

WARNING: If you start to feel any tension in your back, you have lowered your legs too far down. Bend them back into your chest and extend them at a 90 degree angle to the floor. If your hamstrings are too tight keep your knees slightly bent.

PILATES CHALLENGE: The stronger you get, the lower you can hold your legs out till they just above the floor. Try increase arm movements of each breath so eventually you can count ten up and down arm movements as you inhale and ten as you exhale reaching a maximum of 100 movements.

The Roll Up

Imagine yourself being pealed off the ground, one vertebra at a time while you do this pilates exercise

POSITION: Lie flat on your back with your arm stretched above your head, palms facing up, your knees bent with your feet firmly placed on the ground.

ROLL-UP MOVEMENT:

  1. Inhale slowly bringing your arms forwards.
  2. As your arms reach 90 degrees start lifting your head slowly pealing your spine off the ground keeping your arms next to your ears
  3. Exhale as you start ‘rolling’ your body slowly upward. Make sure your core remains tight and your gluteal muscles contracted through out the movement.
  4. Once you in the sitting position straighten your legs and stretch your body forwards towards your toes aiming to touch your forehead to your legs.
  5. Begin to inhale slowly bending your knees and roll back down exhaling half way through the movement.

Beginner Pilates Exercise – The Roll-Up

PILATES CHALLENGE: As you get stronger start with your legs straightened in front of you and your toes pointing forward. Make sure your lower back remains glued to the floor until you peal it off one vertebra at a time!

IF AT ANY POINT YOUR BACK STARTS HURTING, STOP THE PILATES EXERCISES AND CONSULT YOUR CHIROPRACTOR.

I hope you enjoy these basic pilates exercises for beginners. Good movement is a good start to a healthy back and spine.