Home Training Plans Top 10 Pilates Exercises: Everyday Workout Routine

Top 10 Pilates Exercises: Everyday Workout Routine

by Steve Theunissen
Top 10 Pilates Exercises

Pilates was created in the early part of the 20th century by Joseph Pilates as a means of gaming complete control over one’s body. Pilates was inspired by the martial arts, with its emphasis on slow, controlled movement performed with thoughtful awareness. In this article, we detail the 10 top pilates exercises, along with a complete 20 minutes pilates workout program to allow you to get the most out of them. [1]

Guiding Principles of Pilates

There are 8 guiding principles that underpin every Pilates exercise:

  • Concentration
  • Relaxation
  • Alignment
  • Breathing
  • Centering
  • Coordination
  • Flowing movements [2]
  • Stamina

When performing pilates exercises, you need to be thoughtfully aware of what you are doing. You also should relax both the mind and body, align your soft tissue into their natural neutral zones and center your body around core stability. Most Pilates exercises are performed for a low number of reps. That is because the focus is on quality rather than quantity. [3]

What You Need

For your at home Pilates workout, you need the following equipment:

  • A padded non-slip mat
  • A folded towel
  • A plump pillow

The area in which you do your Pilates workout should be warm, comfortable and clutter-free. Wear clothes that allow for a full range of motion through your limbs and that do not restrict your blood flow. It is best to perform your Pilates exercises barefoot. [4]

10 Best Pilates Exercises for Beginners

These basic stretch moves, poses, and positions can be done at home with absolutely no equipment. In addition to these descriptions, you can check online videos to perfect your form.

Arm Circles


Lie faceup on your exercise mat with your knees bent and feet together. Place your arms at your sides. Breathe in as you raise both arms above your chest and then reach them overhead towards the mat. Then breathe in as you circle your arms out at the side and down towards the body. As your arms return to the starting position, turn your palms to the mat. 


Keep the pelvis and spine stable. Do not over elevate the shoulders. Avoid locking your elbows as you raise your arms overhead. 

Oblique Curl Ups


Lie faceup on your exercise mat with your knees bent and feet together. Clasp both hands behind your head. Breathe in as you nod your head and curl up the body, rotating your head and torso to the right and directing the left side of your rib cage towards your right hip. Breathe out as you slowly roll back down to the center with control.


Keep your pelvis grounded and curl up as far as this can be maintained. Do not pull on your head and neck.

Hip Rolls


Lie faceup on your exercise mat with your knees bent and feet together. Reach your arms out on the mat slightly lower than shoulder height with the palms facing upward. Breathe in and, keeping the thighs together, rotate your pelvis and legs to the right from a string center. Breathe out as you return the pelvis and legs back to the starting point. Repeat on the other side. This exercise is perfect for Pilates workout beginners.


Roll the pelvis and legs directly to the side. Control the movement of your legs, not just letting them drop. 

Table Top


Position yourself down on all fours in a kneeling position. Breathe in and lengthen your spine. Now breathe out as you slide one leg out behind you, directly in line with your hip. Lengthen and lift the leg to hip height. Simultaneously lift the opposite arm forward to shoulder height. Breathe out and lower the lengthened leg and arm to the mat. Repeat with the opposite limbs. 


Keep your core tight throughout the movement. Avoid over elevating the shoulder. Make sure that the movements of your arms and legs are coordinated. 



Lie on your stomach with your head down and feet together. Your arms should be at your sides with palms facing the ceiling. The base of your big toes should be touching. Breathe in as you lift your head, neck, chest and upper spine off the mat. Lengthen your arms and lift them slightly as you come up. At the same time, draw your legs together. 


Breathe in as you hold this lengthened position. Then breathe out as you lower back down to the mat. 

Bow and Arrow – Seated


Sit upright on the mat with your knees bent. Keep your legs together as you reach your arms out in front of you, slightly lower than shoulder height and shoulder-width apart. Your palms should be facing down. Breathe in to lengthen your body then breathe out as you bend your left elbow, drawing the arm toward your body and the left hand toward your left shoulder. At the same time, rotate your head, neck, and upper spine to the left. 

Breathe in as you straighten your left elbow. Now breathe out as you rotate the spine back, keeping the right arm straight, and return to the starting position. 

Repeat this exercise on the other side.


Keep your pelvis still throughout. Your weight should also remain evenly balanced throughout. Keep your core and abs tight through the entire exercise. The arms should only move as the spine moves. 



Lie on your left side, with your shoulders, hips, and ankles on top of each other. Position your left outstretched arm under your head. Put your right hand in front of your body. Bend your knees and have your feet together. 

Breathe in and then out as you bring the top knee up, keeping your feet together. Initiate this action from the hip joint. Breathe in as you return to the start position.


Keep your pelvis stable throughout. Do not put too much weight on the top arm. Keep your chest open and look directly ahead throughout the movement.

Pilates Squats


Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hands at your sides with palms facing into your thighs. Breathe in as you allow your pelvis to tilt forward slightly and bend your knees and raise your arms to shoulder height. Only go down as far as a quarter squat. Breathe out as you straighten your legs and return your spine to the upright position. At the same time, lower your arms back to your sides.


Keep your weight balanced evenly on both feet and do not allow them to roll in or out.

Dumb Waiter


Stand with your feet together, maintaining a neutral spine and with your arms at your sides. Bend your elbows to a right angle so that your upper arms are positioned vertically and your forearms are lengthened forward horizontally. Turn your palms toward the ceiling. 

Breathe in as you turn your arms outward from the shoulder joint, reaching the forearms wide. Breathe out as you return the arms back to the starting position.


Keep your forearms parallel to the floor at all times. Make sure that the movement comes from the shoulder joint only. Do not squeeze your shoulder blades together. Keep your chest and the front of your shoulders open as you do this exercise.

Roll Downs – Freestanding


Stand on the floor with your feet together and arms by your sides. Take a breathe in and out and then begin to roll your torso down toward the floor, rounding your spine as you do so. Do not allow your hips to hinge. Reverse the motion, breathing in as you do so.


Keep your core and abs tight throughout the movement. Keep your weight evenly balanced between both feet. 

Bonus: Pilates Workout at Home

Here is a great 20 minute pilates workout that brings all 10 of our top pilates exercises for beginners together. You can do these pilates moves in the privacy of your own home without any equipment and at your own pace. Remember to perform every exercise with focus, control, and full, relaxed movements. This, our best pilates workout for beginners, should take about 30 minutes. Take your time with this pilates workout exercise routine – there is no rush! Rest for around 30 seconds between sets. 

  • Arm Circles – 2 sets of 5 reps
  • Oblique Curl Up – 2 sets of 20 reps (10 to the left and 10 to the right)
  • Hip Rolls – 2 sets of 5 reps on each side
  • Table Top – 2 sets of 5 reps on each side
  • Dart – 2 sets of 10 reps
  • Bow and Arrow – Seated – 2 sets of 5 reps each side
  • Oyster – 2 x 10 reps on each side
  • Pilates Squat – 2 x 10 reps
  • Dumb Waiter – 2 x 10 reps
  • Roll Downs – 2 x 10 reps

Wrap Up

Pilates is a fantastic way to coordinate your mind and body into a strong, unified whole. Add our top 10 Pilates exercises workout routines two or three times each week (don’t do them every day). Combine this at home pilates workout with resistance training and cardio for a complete exercise lifestyle.

Disclaimer: This article is written for general informational purposes ONLY and does not address individual circumstances. The WorkoutPlan doesn’t substitute any professional advice or help, you should always consult with your doctor.


  1. https://www.pilatesfoundation.com/pilates/the-history-of-pilates/
  2. https://complete-pilates.co.uk/pilates-principles/
  3. https://www.pilates-sarasota.com/blog/why-few-reps-pilates/
  4. https://www.canyonranch.com/blog/fitness/the-health-and-body-benefits-of-pilates/

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