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Best Pilates Exercises For Beginners (That You Can Do At Home!)

Written by Shelby Torrese

These pilates exercises are everything beginners need to get started, keep it going, and get your health goals into high gear!

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As a longtime yogi, I thought my first pilates class would be a piece of cake. Anyone who’s survived their first-time pilates class is laughing at me right now. It was hands down, the BEST butt-kicking workout I’ve done in a long time.

I realized that pilates exercises are so great because they target muscles we forget exist, or don’t normally use in other exercise classes or workout styles. The best part? Doing pilates at home is just as effective and sweat-worthy as an in-studio class would be. Plus, doing pilates at home is a great way to learn all of the pilates exercises for beginners. That way, if you do ever want to hop into a studio, you’ll be prepared!

Best Pilates Exercises For Beginners (That You Can Do At Home!)

What Is Pilates? 

Pilates is a style of exercise that was founded and started by Joseph Pilates. [1] Its claim to fame is helping men and women build strength without bulking, tone and flatten abs, and create overall body awareness. Like ballet, pilates exercises also encourage good posture, on and off the mat.

Pilates vs yoga

Before getting into the battle of pilates vs yoga, let’s go over some similarities. They both help to improve flexibility, agility and range of motion, and they both have been said to help alleviate back pain. Still, the two styles are very different. When it comes down to pilates vs yoga, no one is better than the other, they just offer different things. The main thing that separates pilates exercises from yoga exercises is the use of machines, weights and other props. Yoga is often done in a relatively fluid sequence, whereas pilates is more of a bootcamp style where you may have pauses between exercises.

Types Of Pilates

There are endless styles and spin-offs of traditional pilates, but the three main types of pilates are classical, mat, and reformer pilates.

  • Classical Pilates—This is the original type of pilates that Joseph Pilates created. It focuses on posterior pelvic tilts and is the most structured in terms of class flow.
  • Mat Pilates—Mat pilates is done on a mat instead of a machine and places additional focus on the core.
  • Reformer Pilates—This style is done on a reformer machine which helps to add resistance to the pilates exercises performed.
Pilates Exercises

Benefits Of Pilates

Pilates’ use of lengthening and stabilizing exercises helps to improve:

  • Flexibility
  • Mobility
  • Core Strength

Best Pilates Exercises For Beginners

Pilates ab exercises

Doing pilates at home may seem ineffective, but just you wait! These pilates exercises for beginners that focus on the core are going to rock your world. All you need for these pilates exercises is a mat or a comfortable, flat area to lay on.

Single leg circles

This is one of those pilates exercises that looks easy, but is a total killer. 

Lie on your back with your arms by your side. Lift one leg to 90º and start to make small circles in a clockwise direction. Do 25 circles, then switch direction. Then switch sides and repeat three times.

Best Pilates Exercises For Beginners

Crunch hug

Start on your back again, but this time with your arms overhead. Lift your arms and legs up off of the ground as you inhale, then crunch into a ball and give yourself a squeeze as you exhale. Extend out long again, without letting your legs and arms touch the ground, and repeat. Do this 10 times and complete three sets.


This popular ab exercise is done in almost every pilates style, and is perfect for pilates at home because it doesn’t require any equipment.

Lie on your back with your arms by your side and lift both legs to 90º, then lower them to about 45º or until you feel your core engage. Lift your head and shoulders up off of the ground and begin to pump your arms up and down. Inhale for five counts, and exhale for five counts. Repeat 10 times and complete three sets.

Pilates Arm Exercises

Doing pilates exercises for beginners before jumping into the advanced work is so important for form. Improper form can be the difference between seeing results in three weeks and, well, not seeing results at all! These pilates at home arm exercises are going to make you feel so strong, you’ll wonder what took you so long to do them!

Arm circles

Ok these are hands-down my favorite pilates exercises, because you can do them in the kitchen waiting for water to boil, outside when watching the kids, and of course, in peace and quiet while perfecting your pilates exercises for beginners!

Stand tall with your legs a little wider than your hips, and lift your arms out to a T in line with your shoulders. Start to circle your arms clockwise in small circles, then switch to counter-clockwise. Then circle your arms clockwise in medium circles, and switch again to counter-clockwise. Finally, circle your arms clockwise in large circles, and reverse to counter-clockwise. Do each set of circles 10 times in each direction and complete three sets.

Serving tray

Warning: If you’re a mom, this exercise may be triggering. 🤣

Stand tall with your feet together and palms facing forward. Glue your elbows to your sides and then lift your hands to 90º as if holding a serving tray. Extend your arms out in front of you, but keep your hands at the same level (don’t extend your arms out so that your hands end up in line with your shoulders). Repeat 20 times and complete three sets.

Pilates Exercises For Beginners

Prayer pulse

You can do this exercise seated against a flat wall if it helps, or you can do it standing. Bring your elbows out in front of you to touch, then press your palms and forearms together as if in a prayer position. Start with your elbows at shoulder height and then lift up about three inches. Lower back to shoulder height and repeat. Do 20 pulses and repeat three times.

Pilates Leg Exercises

Pilates at home leg exercises are what convinced me that pilates is the real deal. I never thought pilates exercises for beginners would get my legs as toned as they are, but goodness, are they lookin’ summer ready!

Side leg raise

This is one of those pilates exercises that you will likely do in whatever style of pilates you do, it’s a classic!

Lie on your side with your head rested on your lower arm, and your top arm on the ground in front of you to help you balance. Lift your top leg and slowly release it back down. Repeat 10 times on each side and complete three sets.

Double leg raise

Repeat the exact same exercise as your side leg raise, but this time raise both of your legs at the same time. You will not be able to raise your legs nearly as high as when you did a single leg raise, so don’t worry if you’re only getting up off the ground a few inches. Repeat 10 times on each side for three sets.

Bridge raises

Lie on your back and plant your feet on the ground, hips-width distance. Tuck your pelvis so that your lower back is flat on the ground, and then squeeze your glutes as you lift your hips high. Hold at the top of your bridge for a second as you squeeze your glutes even tighter, and then release. Repeat 10 times and complete three sets.

Best Pilates Exercises For Beginners

I know that at-home workouts can be difficult to get motivated for. To keep me on my A-game, and to get the most out of my at-home workouts, I always rely on a great pre- and post-workout supplement. My favorites are Jump Start and Repair & Recover. If you’ve been nervous or confused about taking workout supplements, these are a great place to start! They don’t contain any weird ingredients, no added sugars, and they won’t make you feel jittery or bloated. Trust me, these have changed my body and my life! Bonus–they taste amazing. To learn more about pre- and post-workout supplements can boost your results, check out this blog post

If you still feel like you need an extra boost, visit the SkinnyFit community Facebook page for all of the girl power workout hype you need! The group is full of amazing and inspiring women looking for the same encouragement that you may be needing. We’re all in this together!

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About The Author

Shelby Torrese

Nutrition, Movement & Meditation Coach

Shelby Torrese is a wellness enthusiast (and matcha fanatic!) from Miami, FL. She attributes her love of movement to her mom, a personal trainer, and her love of food to her dad, a farmer. She studied creative writing in college while getting her yoga certification, and went on to pursue fitness and nutrition in grad school. Her go-to advice is, “Balance,” and she is a firm believer that the ocean can cure just about everything.

  • Yoga Alliance Registered Yoga Teacher
  • NASM Certified Nutrition Coach
  • M.S. in Human Performance


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