Pilates Exercises for Beginners

So, you want to start doing Pilates and you’re looking for some exercises that are suitable for beginners.

Or, perhaps you’ve been doing Pilates for a while but you’re not quite sure if you’re doing it right and want to get back to basics.

Whichever category you fit into, Complete Pilates are here to help you master the fundamentals with their top 5 Pilates exercises for beginners.

These moves might seem simple at first glance, but practise them regularly and you will feel a difference in your body.

Learning to perform these basic moves well will also mean you get more from your Pilates classes and will help you progress quickly and safely to the more advanced movements.

Pilates Exercises for Beginners - A female wearing gym clothes lying on her back with pelvis raised in a straight line from her knees

1. Dead bugs and femur arcs

Lie on your back with your knees bent. Arms stay down by your sides.

Dead bugs: Lift one bent knee until it is up at 90 degrees or, as we call it in Pilates, “table top”. Return the leg to the ground and repeat with the other leg. It can be helpful to press into the foot that remains on the ground to create more stability.

Femur arcs: As a progression, take one leg and then the other up to table top and keep them there. Now allow one bent leg to move in an arc away from you – but only to the point of the toe touching the floor. Then bring it back to the starting position.

Important things to remember: Keep your lower abdominals engaged and watch for any arching of your back as you move your legs towards the ground. It is also important to keep your pelvis still as you move your legs.

Works: Deep lower abdominals and pelvic stability.

2. Bridging

Again, start this exercise on your back with your knees bent.

Then, start the movement by sending your tailbone to the back of your knees. At the same time, create a sense of reaching your knees away from you – this should help you to open up at the front of your hips.

Come to where your shoulder blades are still on the mat. Make sure your neck and

shoulders stay relaxed. From here, pause for a moment before slowly lowering your spine down chest to pelvis until you are back in the starting position.

Important this to remember: Don’t come up from your chest. Instead, focus on keeping your chest area soft and relaxed.

Works: Hamstrings and glutes. This movement also help to make your spine more mobile.

3. Chest lift

Starting on your back with your knees bent. Then, interweave your fingers to make a basket and use it to cradle the back of your head.

Now, on an exhale, lift your head until your gaze is between your legs. Your chest melts as you do so and your head stays heavy in your hands. It is important to keep in mind that this movement should come from your top spine and from engaging your abdominals, not from craning your neck.

Pause for a minute here and then slowly lower the head back down.

Important to remember: Let your abdominals drop down. You don’t have to over-recruit them to stay up in this position. This is as much about moving the spine as it is abdominals.

Work: Abdominals and improves spine mobility in this direction.

4. Side lying legs

Lie on one side with your head resting on your arm. The other arm can be bent with your hand on the ground in front to support you.

Bend your knees and make sure they are stacked one on top of the other. Now, extend the top leg.

Leg circles: Lift the top leg to hip height and draw small circles on the space beneath you. Do them one way and then the other.

Leg lifts: Lift and lower the top leg.

Important to remember: Keep the front of your hips pointing forward to keep the pelvis still at all times. It also helps to focus on reaching through the foot of the leg that is moving.

Works: Glutes.

5. Quadruped

Come onto all fours with your knees stacked under your hips and your hands under shoulders. Press away from the earth so as to keep your chest lifted between your shoulder blades.

Leg variation: Let one leg slide out from under you and reach up towards ceiling. Keep hips

level as you do so and imagine your hamstring reaching towards sky. Bend your knee and return and then repeat on the other side.

Arm variation: Let one arm reach out as if shaking hands with an invisible person in front of you. Imagine the arm moves from your armpit so you don’t lose the space between your ear and shoulder.

Things to remember: Head looks down and neck stays long at all times. Try and keep your spine in neutral whilst you do this and keep chest lifted and your pelvis level.

Works: It improves coordination, overall strength and pelvic stability. It also promotes good movement strategies in the lower and upper body.

Pilates exercises for beginners (that everyone should try)

Remember, basic doesn’t mean easy.

Perform 5-10 repetitions of each of these exercises in a circuit and you will see – and feel! –  just how challenging Pilates can be.