This Beginner-Friendly Pilates Plank Series Works Your Body From Every Angle

Photo: Stocksy/Mihajlo Ckovric
Looks can be deceiving when it comes to Pilates. Doing a workout—which generally involves lying down on a mat—may seem easier than, say, a HIIT sesh. But just wait. There’s a very high likelihood that the classic moves, from teasers to swan dives, will leave you dripping with sweat.

That’s why doing a Pilates workout for beginners at home can be beneficial: You'll be able to fire up all the muscles needed to master the foundational exercises before jumping into a more advanced class.

Every beginner Pilates workout is going to look a little different. Some focus on perfecting your form. Others teach you how to master Pilates breathing so you can develop a stronger mind-body connection and better engage your muscles.

Experts In This Article

Something you may not have tried yet, however, is a plank Pilates series that works every angle of your body, allowing you to build a strong foundation for more challenging exercises.

“Front, side, and back—we’re going to get all around,” says Brian Spencer, a Pilates instructor at East River Pilates, in a plank Pilates workout that’s part of this month’s Well+Good Trainer of the Month Club series.

Why this workout is perfect for beginners

This plank Pilatesseries eases you into the different styles of planks you’ll find yourself in during a Pilates class—no long, unmodified holds included.

The workout is short and sweet, too: According to Spencer, the 15-minute time frame gives your body time to warm up and gently ease into the movements before you reach the more challenging exercises at the end.

Because the focus is on planks, you’ll be activating multiple muscle groups at once: abs, arms, shoulders, back, hamstrings, and glutes. So yes, basically your entire body will be feeling it.

Getting to know (and, in time, mastering) these exercises won’t just prepare you for harder Pilates classes—you’ll also build up the base level of strength required for other types of workouts as well.

Try this 15-minute Pilates workout, which features front, side, and back planks for the ultimate beginner warm-up.

What to expect during this at-home Pilates workout for beginners

This plank Pilates series starts with some gentle stretching to warm up the spine, including downward-facing dog, then goes into a straight-arm plank. One thing you’ll quickly notice is that this isn’t the type of workout where you’re required to hold the plank for long periods—it's more of a flow. You can also level up the planks with the progressions Spencer provides.

Straight-arm plank

If you’re looking for a challenge, Spencer recommends adding toe touches in as you flow from plank to down dog.

  1. From a downward-facing dog, lift your heels as high as possible and roll your spine forward pulling your shoulders over your wrists to come into a high plank.
  2. Press down into your hands, keeping your arms straight and your back in one line from head to hips to heels.
  3. Engage your core by drawing your belly button back toward your spine. From there, rock your feet forward and backward.
  4. Return to downward dog and repeat three more times.

Modified side plank with leg raises

Next, comes the side planks. “Side planking involves so many muscles. If you're like 'side-planking is my nemesis,’ that's the reason,” says Spencer. “It's a huge full-body movement; there's a lot of stuff that goes behind a strong side plank.” That's why before diving right into a full version, he eases in with side bends and then modified side planks on the knees with leg raises.

If you’re looking for a challenge, add a full side plank after completing the modified version on each side.

  1. Start kneeling on the mat. Extend your left leg straight out to the side.
  2. Lean over to the right and lower your right hand to the mat below your shoulder, extending your left arm straight up toward the ceiling.
  3. Draw your shoulders back and down, flex the left foot, and lift your leg up off the floor (could be just a few inches or all the way to hip height) and then lower it back down. Repeat eight times.
  4. Finish by holding your leg up and completing five small circles in each direction.
  5. Repeat on the opposite side.

Back plank

Spencer wraps up the Pilates plank series with the back plank. "This is basically like when we do little warm-ups on all fours," says Spencer. Only this time, the front of your body is facing the ceiling—not the mat. If you work your way up to a full reverse plank, you're in for a treat: “It's so helpful for strengthening our back bodies and activating the posterior chain, from the head to the toes,” he says.

If you’re looking for a challenge, Spencer adds in hip dips (either with bent knees or with legs fully extended) and leg raises.

  1. Begin in a seated position with your legs bent, feet flat on the floor, and hands on the mat behind your hips with fingers facing away from you.
  2. Lift your hips up until your body creates a straight line from knees to shoulders and open your chest so you're in a reverse tabletop position.
  3. Lower your hips back down to the mat.
  4. Repeat three times.

The workout ends with a feel-good stretch—exactly what you’re going to need after all that planking.

How to add this Pilates workout for beginners at home into your schedule

Aside from this plank series being a great Pilates workout for beginners at home, it can also be done as a warm-up for any type of workout. You’re activating and stretching every muscle in your body as you move through the front, side, and back planks. But if you’re in a rush and only have a small amount of time to devote to your workout, even this entry level option will have you feeling the burn.

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