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Pilates Exercises

10 Core Strengthening Pilates Moves

Grab hold of these 10 core strengthening exercises to set yourself up for success in this new decade!


The 100s begin lying supine on your back, arms long by the hips, head and chest lifted, and the legs extended out to a forty-five-degree angle.  The arms pump rapidly by the sides of the body while the breath is a quick five-pulse inhale followed by a five-pulse exhale and is repeated for 10 sets.  Aside from the arms, the entire body stays still.  This exercise warms up the abdominals, promotes breath control for the core, and creates a stability challenge. 


Shoulder Bridge is an exercise that opens up the hips and strengthens the posterior areas of the core by activating the glutes. It begins supine on your back with arms straight by your side, head down, and the knees bent with the feet hip distance apart. The motion begins by lifting the hips off of the mat and then returning back down to the mat. There are countless variations with hip rolls, hip hinges, and single leg kicks, but they all promote more flexible hips, stronger glutes, and a balance challenge to keep the pelvis parallel and steady. It’s a token exercise found commonly in any core strengthening repertoire.

Single Leg Circle

One leg circle is done lying supine on your back with one leg straight on the mat and the other up into the air to the sky. The motion is a leg circle through the hip socket from the floating leg and the challenge is to do it without moving any part of the spine or opposite base leg. This challenges the core by stabilizing while the leg is mobilizing and also supplies space for the hip joint that tends to get tight and overused. Just like a potted plant that wants to grow, the joints need space to move to increase strength and flexibility.

Rolling like a Ball

Rolling like a Ball is a classical exercise that begins by coming seated with the feet lifted off the ground and the body curled into a ball while balancing on your sit bones. The arms are wrapped around the legs, and the body begins to roll back to the mat and back up to seated. This is all done while not letting the feet touch or losing the curled position of the spine. This exercise weeds out unwarranted tension throughout the back body while challenging the abs to maintain stability.

Criss Cross

Criss Cross is done lying on your back, supine. The legs are scissor kicking while the hands are behind the head, the chest is lifted, and the upper body is twisting in opposition of the legs. Rotation is a key element to any healthy spine and conditioning the obliques is paramount to achieving this.


The Rollover is done lying supine, legs start out to the forty-five-degree angle, and arms and hands are firm on the ground by the sides. The legs begin to move over the head ending with the knees a few inches away from the nose and then returns to the forty-five-degree angle in its most basic motion of the exercise. Coordination elements can be classically added to improve mind body connection. Mobility of the spine is essential to achieving a strong core. Allowing more space through the spine promotes more space to improve strength.

Side Bend

Side Bends begins with one hand under the shoulder, the legs positioned in a side seated stance, and the other arm resting on the top knee. The motion begins by pressing the bottom hand into the ground and lifting the hips up and reaching the top arm over the head leaving the entire body in a raised side bend position. Lateral flexion prevents unwarranted strain and builds pliability to everyday motions and trials. Always implementing this motion into any fitness workout is necessary to a well-rounded challenge.


Swimming is an exercise that begins by lying prone on the mat with the arms and legs extended straight out away from each other. The motion begins by lifting the chest off the ground and lifting one arm and opposite leg and switching in a slow or rapid pace. This variation concentrates on stability of the core allowing the legs and arms to move while controlling the work with the strength of the abdominals, glutes, and muscles surrounding the ribs and shoulder blades. This is an absolute must for any Pilates practitioner!


The Swan is an exercise done lying prone on your abs with the arms out to the side like goal posts and hands on the ground by the ears. Legs are extended back as you push into your hands lifting your head and chest into a swan like position. The key takeaway is to ensure that the motion remains in the back of the neck and upper back to protect the lumbar. Doing spinal extension opposes most of our everyday motions and returns balance to the spine. The anterior side of the body gets so tight that it needs room to move more efficiently while strengthening the core muscles in the back.


The Teaser is an advanced exercise where the body begins lying supine with arms straight overhead and legs straight out in opposition. As the legs lift, the arms, head, and spine lift simultaneously resulting in a V-sit position. Then the body slowly controls the motion back to start position. Perfecting this exercise and ensuring that the motion is done with the breath, abs, and glutes versus the low back, quads, and hip flexors is key to mastering Pilates foundations and a strong core.

Make 2020 your year and take on the new decade strong with a strong powerhouse and flexible spine. Taking care of your core allows for improvements in your mind, body, and everyday life!

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