If you've never done Pilates before, know that it can benefit every single type of athlete out there (yes—even if you prefer more "hard-core" workouts). "If you are someone who likes HIIT workouts, Pilates is a great recovery day workout," says Rebecca Lubart, founder of Dynamic Body Pilates. That's because it's low impact and gentle on the body as it boosts your posture, strength, and flexibility. "The way in which Pilates strengthens your body results is not just being stronger, but being more open and flexible. You'll feel invigorated, refreshed, and worked-out without feeling 'dead' afterwards," she says, adding that it can be done every day without necessarily needing a rest day.
Though classical Pilates studios tend to use equipment like the Reformer, mat Pilates can be done with smaller workout tools or nothing at all. "Pilates can be done with and without special equipment," says Lubart. "With remote sessions, we can use props like foam rollers, Therabands, and other tools. It can be done with no props, though often the props can enhance the results." The main difference with at-home Pilates workouts without the major pieces of equipment lies in the resistance factor. "On the equipment, the spring can add an assistive or resistant component, but that's where we get clever in using props to create a similar challenge," says Lubart. Keep scrolling to learn expert-approved Pilates pointers, plus how to get started with the workout at home.
What to know about Pilates workouts
Because doing Pilates at home is a bit different than in a class setting, there are certain things to know before going from zero to hundreds (hundreds are a classic Pilates exercise... LOL).
1. Your core is going to get activated: If there's one thing that you hear about Pilates time and time again, it's the fact that the fitness modality is all about your core. "One of the ways Pilates is so effective is that typically your core is engaged in every exercise," says Lubart. So even if the move that you're doing feels as though it's focusing on your glutes or your legs, know that there's a 99.9 percent chance that your core muscles are being activated in some way or another as well.
2. There's a special method to breathing in Pilates: Like yoga has yogic breath, Pilates has its own suggested way of breathing. "You shouldn't be breathing into your belly in Pilates," says Lubart. "You should breathe into the backs and sides of your ribs instead." Her tip for doing this properly? Begin by placing your hands on your ribs, fingers in front, and thumbs wrapped to the back of your ribs. Take a gentle breathe as you try to fill the backs and sides of your ribs ("This isn't a huge breath!") and on the exhale, soften your breastbone and front ribs down towards the floor. "Let your ribs soften down and together," she says.
3. Consider investing in Pilates props: At-home Pilates equipment that you can get to upgrade your workout include a Theraband, and foam roller, as Lubart mentioned, along with a light set of dumbbells, an inflatable ball, and a Pilates ring. And a mat, if you don't have one already.
4. Mat Pilates is more challenging than you think: Don't be fooled—mat Pilates is not the easy way to get your Pilates in. As Lubart pointed out, the large pieces of Pilates equipment found in studios offer an assistive component... and because of this, mat exercises can be much harder. "Mat work can be the hardest if you have limitations, because you don’t have any equipment to assist you," says Sarah James, founder of Pilates by Sarah James. "It forces you to connect to your core with no help—which rocks. Most of my clients have been saying that they're feeling their abs more when focusing on a mat class."
5. Look for modifications: When you're starting out, it can be challenging to go directly into a full side plank or a seated forward stretch with straight legs. "Most Pilates exercises can be modified until you have the strength to do the exercise as it is fully intended to be done," says James, who recommends searching for beginner Pilates videos that offer modifications.
Try these Pilates for beginners at-home workouts for yourself
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