What is Pilates? – (3 Workout Routines to Get Started)

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Just about everyone has heard of Pilates before, but do you know what it is? If not, then there’s no reason to worry, as you’re definitely not alone!

By the time you’re done reading through our guide, you’ll know the ins and outs of the fitness system and some of the best workout routines out there. One thing is for sure: you’re not going to regret starting Pilates, as it is one of the most effective forms of exercise.

What is Pilates?

There was a huge explosion in the popularity of Pilates not too long ago, but it was anything but a fad. This form of exercise was actually founded in the 20th century by Joseph Pilates, offering a huge array of various health benefits.

Some of the most notable are: improved flexibility, improved body composition, overall muscle strength throughout the body, increased balance, postural control, and much more.

The traditional method of doing Pilates requires you to take out a Pilates mat or an exercise mat, performing a particular series of movements which are designed to improve your balance and strength. Similar to yoga, each movement has a name given to it, so you don’t get confused.

While from a spectator’s perspective, the moves may look simple enough, they actually demand quite a bit of control and focus to pull them off properly. For this reason, many beginners find success with online video tutorials, or attending a Pilates class.

Fitness Requirements

You may be worried that you’re just too “out of shape” to take part in Pilates. Chances are, this simply isn’t true. While the practice does require some dedication and practice, it’s not as if you’ll be running a marathon or power lifting. Instead of drenching you in sweat, it’s more so about concentration and focusing on your breathing. That’s not to say you’re not going to feel sore the next day (or 3), however!

If you’re just starting out, you can begin with basic exercises and work your way up to more advanced movements as you gain strength, balance, and flexibility. At this point, it’s crucial to begin developing proper form so you don’t fall into bad habits, which can increase the risk of injury.

Mat Exercises

If you prefer to do your Pilates routines on a mat, then stay tuned because these moves are just for you.

  1. Straight Leg Criss-Cross – If you’re looking to strengthen your abs, this is an excellent move.
    1. Lie flat on your back on your exercise mat. Sucking your abs in, pull your head and shoulders off the mat, simultaneously pulling your legs toward the ceiling.
    2. Take your right elbow, bringing it toward your left leg as you lower your other leg towards your mat. Then, switch to do the same on the other side. These are very similar to bicycles, but without keeping bending your legs.
    3. Repeat for a total of 10 sets (10 on each side).
  2. Footwork Grand Plies – If you want to strengthen and tone your legs in their entirety, it’s hard to find a better exercise than this one.
    1. Find a stable chair or counter to hold your balance with one hand, then stand on your toes with heels together and toes apart.
    2. Move your hips lower to the floor, keeping your spine properly aligned. Ensure you’re not moving your midsection forward. You’ll have to engage your abs to do this. Here a Pilates ring is useful.
    3. Then, move back to your original standing position as you exhale. Keep abs even further engaged.
    4. Perform 3 sets of 10 at a slower pace, or speed things up and do them for 30-60 seconds straight.
  3. One-Leg Shoulder Bridges – Strengthening the rear chain of the body can be difficult, especially when we are always sitting down. This exercise is great for doing exactly that, strengthening and lengthening the glutes, hamstrings, quads, traverse abdominals, and the muscles in your back which keep your posture upright.
    1. Lay on your back on your mat, keeping your knees bent and abs sucked in. Your spine should be neutral, raising your hips off the mat.
    2. When you have them lifted, take one leg off the mat, extending it out so it’s aligned with the rest of your body. Then, return your foot back to the floor, lowering your hips back to the mat slowly.
    3. 12 reps on each leg.

Pilates Reformer

If you aren’t keen on mat work or you prefer to see muscle tone and strength in a shorter period of time, check out the Pilates Reformer. There’s a common misconception that reformers are more difficult to use than mats, but this simply isn’t true. In fact, reformers are great for all physical fitness and experience levels. If you’re a beginner, the machines may even be easier for you to quickly gain experience and strength.

Not only that, but you have a compact space for you to dedicate just to Pilates. These machines are relatively compact, yet very high quality so you can count on having them around for years to come. They’re well-padded and designed to keep your spine in proper alignment so if you’re suffering from an injury, recovering from one, or are dealing with serious muscular imbalances, they are excellent tools to have.


Now that you’ve had the opportunity to go through the best Pilates workout routines, do you now have a better idea of where to start with your fitness journey? We hope that our guide has helped you to start out on the right foot and with a bit more awareness of where you’re headed. Thanks for tuning in, and we’ll see you again soon! Enjoy!


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Ericka Parker

Ericka started her career as a personal trainer over 20 years ago and her goal was to help people become healthy, happy and fit. To do this she would find out their goals and provide the tools and routines to help them reach them. As her career progressed, she added yoga training to her skills to help her clients achieve mindfulness and help with clients mobility. To help more people she started bestwomensworkouts.com to help other people achieve their fitness goals with advice, tips and fitness equipment reviews.
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