When a woman’s got the kind of life that involves 4 a.m. call times and late nights at the Oscars or Met Gala, she’d be forgiven for sometimes forgoing her hour-long fitness class in favor of a 5-minute sweat sesh.
Those are the kind of students Pilates guru Erika Bloom works with all the time—her client base is so exclusive, she can’t even name names—so she’s kind of become an expert in the art of the ultra-personalized flash workout.
Her favorite sequence is as efficient as it gets, hitting all angles of the body for a head-to-toe burn.
“Our celebrity and socialite clients are either traveling a lot or they’ve just got a little time between filming,” says the in-demand instructor, who presides over private studios in New York City, the Hamptons, Connecticut, Turks & Caicos, and in September, Los Angeles. “I like the idea of [giving them] five moves that they can do [quickly] because it’s really good to have something that fits into any kind of schedule.” (Also true when your calendar’s packed with mermaid baths and women’s circles, rather than red carpets.)
Her favorite sequence is as efficient as it gets, hitting all angles of the body—legs, arms, abs, hips, and back—for a head-to-toe burn. And don’t consider for moment that these moves are any less challenging just because there’s no equipment required. “People think the reformer makes it harder, but it actually makes things easier because it provides support,” she explains. “Body weight is enough for most of these muscles.”
Complete the following five-minute circuit six times per day, and you may find you’re standing taller, walking more gracefully, and feeling extra confident in your little black swimsuit—even if you don’t have paparazzi trailing you down the beach.
Keep reading for the 5-minute mat Pilates sequence that Erika Bloom’s celebrity clients can’t live without.
“This is probably my favorite exercise—it’s key to having a flat stomach,” raves Bloom. “[Trainers] so often address the core by doing crunches, but that shortens your torso, creating a bulky tummy.” Not only does this move promote a more elongated midsection, but it’s also helpful for lower-back pain—a winner on all fronts.
10–15 reps per leg
1. Begin with a neutral pelvis. (This is the position where the natural “S” curve of the spine is maintained by keeping your tailbone heavy while leaving a little space between your lower back and the mat.) Then, bring your legs up to 90-degree angles, knees over your hips—AKA tabletop.
2. Exhale to extend your right leg out to a 45-degree angle as you pull your belly button back toward your spine and up as if you were trying to connect it to your rib cage.
3. Inhale to draw the leg back to tabletop.
4. On the next exhale, repeat with the left leg. Maintain a stable pelvis and an engaged core throughout.
Bridge with leg lift
One of the lesser-known benefits of Pilates is that it can actually alter your gait. That’s why Bloom utilizes exercises like this one, which specifically help give her clients more “grace and ease” while sashaying in front of a camera. How? “With proper bridging you find the inner, upper hamstring, which can totally change the way you stand and walk,” she explains.
8–10 reps per leg
1. Begin on your back with your knees bent, feet flat, heels in line with your sitz bones (about two-fists distance apart).
2. Press into your feet to lift your hips up into a bridge, maintaining a neutral spine.
3. Extend your right leg straight. Reach it up toward the ceiling as high as you can while keeping your pelvis and spine completely still. Lower it back down as low as you can while maintaining a stable, neutral position.
4. Lift the leg for eight repetitions and then return the foot to the mat. Exhale and roll down from the bridge back to your mat, articulating through your spine one vertebra at a time.
5. Repeat with the other leg.
This hardcore move creates mega-definition in the waistline—heads up, crop top fans—but that’s not even the full extent of its power. “The side-plank twist’s cool because it also works the hip and shoulder,” Bloom points out. “It’s super full-body.”
15 reps per side
1. Lie on your right side with your right forearm against the mat at a 90-degree angle, elbow under your shoulder. Reach your left arm up to the ceiling.
2. Float up to a side plank. Focus on pressing up from your hip and side waist while maintaining a wide collarbone.
3. Thread your left arm behind you through the space below your torso and the mat to twist. Reverse the movement to return to your starting position. Repeat on the other side.
“This exercise is a necessity for my celebrities,” proclaims Bloom. “They’re so often wearing strapless gowns, and they want to know the one exercise they should do right before they put the dress on.” The T-lift hits the upper arms, shoulders, and upper back in one go, helping to open the chest and improve posture.
1. Lie face down with your arms stretched out, in line with your shoulders like a letter “T.”
2. Float your arms up about two inches as you raise your head, neck, and shoulders a few inches off your mat and into a small arch.
3. Reach your arms back toward your hips as you slightly increase the arch.
4. Return the arms to the T, then lower your torso and arms down to return to the starting position.
You knew you wouldn’t get out of this routine without planking, right? “Front body, back body, side body, legs, arms—this exercise hits everything all in one, and in a way that really does change the shape of the body,” Bloom says. “Here, the muscles are learning how to lift and support the skeleton, which can directly translate into better posture.”
10-15 reps per leg
1. Begin in a plank.
2. Lift your left leg a few inches off the mat as you point your foot.
3. Flex your foot and return it to plank. Maintain a stable pelvis and a long reach from head to toe. Repeat with the opposite leg.
Originally published July 18, 2017, updated July 26, 2018.
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