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The No-Equipment 15-Minute Pilates Workout for Beginners

April 12, 2014

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While yoga has been practiced for centuries in some cultures, Pilates is a relative newcomer to the fitness circuit. Named after creator Joseph Pilates, the system was designed in the early 1900s to offer resistance training and muscle toning for optimal health. It first caught on with ballet dancers as a way to stretch and warm up muscles, and then gained in popularity among people looking for low-impact, effective, and functional exercise. Through simple modifications to each exercise, you can make your Pilates workout as easy or as challenging as you like.

The health benefits of Pilates cannot be overstated. Some of the major ones include:

  • Flexibility and Strength: Pilates workouts are centered around deep stretching of muscles, leading to significant improvements in flexibility. At the same time, precise counter-movements and muscular contractions build strength in your muscles.
  • Mind-Body Connection: Pilates focuses equally on exercising your muscles and getting comfortable with your body. Through focused breathing and high-quality motion, you will become more aware of your body and better able to control your movements. Better still, this connection promotes mindfulness and has proven effective in stress reduction.
  • Balance: Many typical workouts are focused on specific body parts, leaving out entire muscle groups. This creates a combination of very weak and very strong muscles, which often leads to injuries and is a primary cause of chronic pain. Alternatively, Pilates offers benefits for the whole body, conditioning muscles in a holistic, balanced way.

While many people enjoy being part of a fitness community that comes with gym memberships or regular classes, time and expense can get in the way of a consistent exercise regimen. This 15-minute routine makes it simple to incorporate your workout into the rest of your day, and it proves you don’t need a fitness class to stay fit.

Head Lift

Begin your Pilates workout by lying on your stomach in a completely relaxed position, your arms by your sides. Focus on your core muscles, drawing your belly in towards your spine, and then slowly raise your head and chest up as you inhale. Hold this pose for several counts, before lowering your head and chest during an exhaled breath. Remember that both raising and lowering your head and chest requires the same level of controlled movement. Repeat this 10 times.

Pelvic Lift

Roll onto your back and place your feet flat on the floor, knees bent. Focus on your core muscles, drawing your belly in towards your spine, then tip your pelvis up as you inhale. Continue this upward movement by slowly rolling each of your vertebrae off of the mat, keeping your arms flat on the floor. When you have lifted your back all the way to your shoulders, hold the pose for a moment, then exhale as you roll each vertebrae back down. Repeat this 10 times.

Kneeling Rear Leg Raise

Come to all fours, then lower down onto your forearms. Imagine your body as a table, with your back flat and your weight resting evenly on elbows and knees. Making sure your elbows are directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips, take a moment to focus on your core muscles. Draw your belly in towards your spine and hold it there, then extend your left leg with toes pointed. Slowly, as you breathe in, raise your left leg as high as you can. As you exhale, bring your leg back down. Repeat this 10 times, then switch to your right leg. As you become more advanced, you can begin to raise the opposite arm as you lift each leg.

Do this whole routine twice through, maintaining focus on your breath and alignment with each movement.

These three Pilates staples make it easy to incorporate exercise into a healthy lifestyle. As you gain confidence, you can add additional exercises for a more challenging and varied routine.

Which Pilates exercises have you tried? Tell us in the comments below!