How to Get in a Full Pilates Workout—No Reformer Needed

Photos: Heather Dorak
What’s a Pilates junkie to do when she’s on a vacay so exotic, there are no Megaformer studios on the map?

For Heather Dorak, founder of Los Angles' Pilates Platinum, it’s about improvising with a tool found around the world—paper plates.

“I travel a lot, so I’m always looking for creative ways to mimic what I do on the machine,” says Dorak, who teaches the popular Lagree Megaformer method at her four SoCal studios.

“I’ve tried a lot of techniques and toys, but nothing comes close to the simplicity of using paper plates to bring the reformer class to your hotel room.” Or town, should yours not have one.

When she says it’s simple, she’s not kidding—all you need is a pair of standard paper plates,  which act like gliders when you use them on a non-carpeted floor (hotel bathroom, perhaps?), and a few of Dorak’s favorite moves, which she’s shared exclusively with us.

“To really mimic one of our Pilates classes, do every exercise only on the right side and then go back to the beginning and do it on the left,” she suggests, adding that she sometimes runs a 5K before and after doing this sequence for an extra hit of cardio. (That’s one way to earn an extra poolside cocktail.)

“This is a workout that never gets easy and always gives me great satisfaction after completing it,” says Dorak.

Keep scrolling for Heather Dorak’s favorite Pilates Megaformer-inspired moves—with paper plates—in just 15 minutes.

Paper Plate Pilates_Plank1

1. Plank (30 seconds)

Place the plates under your toes and come into a plank position. You can do this exercise either on your hands or on your elbows. Keep shoulders directly over your wrists (or elbows if on your elbows), your abs pulled into your spine, your back flat, and press through your hands or elbows.

Paper Plate Pilates_Bear Twists

2. Bear (1 minute)

Immediately after the 30-second plank is complete, keep your body exactly the same, and use your lower abdominal muscles to slide your feet in towards your hands. (Don’t lift your butt into the air!).

Once your feet cannot come any closer to your hands, push them back out.

Your back should stay as level as possible during the duration of the whole exercise. With control, keep moving your feet in and out for a whole minute.

Take a 30-second rest (if needed).

3. Bear with a Right Twist (1 minute)

Stay in your plank position with the plates under your toes; come up to your hands if you're on your elbows. For this minute, your feet are going to stay next to each other and move as a unit.

Pull your knees towards your belly button as you twist your hips to open to the right. Aim to reach your knees to your right armpit. Once you can’t pull your knees in any further, straighten your legs back into the plank starting position.

Keep in mind that while you're pulling your knees in, you don’t want to pop your butt into the air. Your abs should stay tight and you should remain as low in the plank as possible. Keep pulling the knees in and out for the whole minute.

4. Bear with a Left Twist (1 minute)

Perform the same exercise as the previous minute, but this time pull your knees to the left and open your hips to the left.

Take a 30-second rest (if needed).

Paper Plate Pilates_Pike

5. Plank to Pike (1 minute)

Stay in your plank position with the plates under your toes, either on the hands or the elbows. Your back should be flat and your abdominals pulled in tight. Keeping your legs nice and straight, concentrate on using your abdominals to pull your butt up into the air as if you are folding in half.

Keep your shoulders relaxed and don’t let your thighs take over—try to just use your lower abdominals. As soon as you cannot lift your butt up anymore, return back into plank position in a slow and controlled manner. Keep it up for the whole minute.

Take a 30-second rest (if needed)

Paper Plate Pilates_Army Crawl1

6. Army Crawl (1 minute)

Stay in your plank position with the plates under your toes, and come down to the elbows. Your back should be flat and your abdominals pulled in tight. Keeping your legs nice and straight, move in a forward direction by lifting one elbow up and forward, then the other elbow up and forward.

Your hips are going to want to naturally sway back and forth as you move your elbows, but try and keep them as level as possible.

Move forward three times with your elbows (alternating the elbows every time), then move three times back with each elbow (alternating the elbows every time). Keep this up for the whole minute.

Paper Plate Pilates_Reverse Plank

7. Reverse Plank (1 minute)

Begin sitting on your butt with your legs straight out in front of you, plates under your heels. Place your hands right next to your hips with your palms on the ground. Keeping your abdominals pulled into your spine and your butt flexed, lift your butt off of the ground until the front of your body is in a straight line. (Think of the opposite of what a plank would look like).

If your neck feels good, you can drop your head back. Hold here for the whole minute. Having the plates under your heels will create more of a challenge.

Paper Plate Pilates_Spo

8. Spoon (1 minute)

With the paper plates under your heels, begin in the same position as with reverse plank—sitting on your butt with your legs straight out in front of you and your arms by your sides. This time, use your abdominals to lift your butt off of the ground, keeping your chest up.

Pull your abdominals back as far as you can, causing your butt to move behind you and your feet closer to your hands. You can try putting your hands on a platform if you need more height to get your butt off of the ground. Again, as soon as your butt can’t go back any farther, push it back forward and into starting position.

If needed, you can lower your butt back down to the ground each time; for more of a challenge, keep it lifted.

Take a 30-second rest.

Paper Plate Pilates_Low Bridge

9. Low Bridge Hold (30 seconds)

Start by laying on your back, legs straight out and plates under your heels. Keeping your hands by your sides with your palms on the ground, lift your butt a few inches off of the ground and squeeze it. Keep the work in your butt and hamstrings and out of your arms and much as possible. Hold for the full 30 seconds.

Paper Plate Pilates_Bridge Hold

10. Bridge Hold (30 seconds)

Bring your butt back to the ground. Bend your legs so that your feet are under your knees. Squeeze your butt and lift your butt into the air; hold for 30 seconds.

11. Reverse Curl (1 minute)

Now, take your bridge hold and turn it into the low bridge hold. This happens by straightening your legs out as far as they can with your butt still lifted off of the ground. Keep moving your legs in and out from the bridge hold position to the bridge low hold position.

You should feel a lot of this movement in your hamstrings. It’s okay if your butt touches the ground; just know that you’ve gone a bit too far. End in a bridge hold position.

12. Bridge Pulse (30 seconds) 

From the bridge hold position, pulse your hips up and down. Your hips should only move about an inch up and an inch down. Keep this up for 30 seconds. Then lower back down and rest.

Photos: Heather Dorak

13. Side Lunge Left (1 minute)

In a standing position, place a paper plate underneath your left foot. Your hands can be wherever is comfortable.

With your feet hip-distance apart, lower your butt back and down, so that your knees are as close to 90 degrees as possible with your chest lifted.  Keep your right leg stationary in a 90-degree position with your body weight pressing through the right heel, then slide your left foot out to the side. Once your left leg is straight, stay here for a moment before sliding your left foot back forward to meet the right foot.

Keep this up for a minute.

14. Side Lunge Right (1 minute)

Perform the exact same movement, but now with the plate under your right foot.

For more workouts that you can do anywhere, check out our very own collection of 5-minute Sweat Series videos, or this super-fun partner HIIT challenge.

Tags: Pilates

Loading More Posts...