7 Foundational Pilates Exercises to Practice Daily

I just completed day 2 and 3 of the Pilates for Beginner Series on Pilatesology.com and am learning so much already! I found this program due to my desire to really dive deep into the basics of pilates after practicing for over a year. It is really helping me establish a good foundation. It is also a great refresher for techniques I’ve been told along the way but have forgotten. I am trying to retain as much information as possible, so am sharing my notes and review of the program as I go. Below are 7 foundational pilates exercises to practice daily at home that I learned from day 2 of the Pilates for Beginner Series, along with some notes that I took from the class. Mastering these will provide a solid foundation for more advanced pilates moves. I plan to take Dorothee’s suggestion on practicing these daily.

Link to my notes and review of Day 1: New Beginnings : My Pilates and Yoga Journey

Link to the series: https://pilatesology.com/programs/pilates-for-beginners/

Pilates For Beginners Series Day 2 : Foundation Pilates

This class is instructed by Dorothee Vandewalle and is 15 minutes. I did not realize until today that there are multiple instructors teaching the classes throughout the series. Dorothee suggests doing these exercises every day. I feel like it’s a very realistic suggestion since these exercises do not take long!

Exercise 1: The one hundred

For beginners, it’s suggested to perform the one hundred with bent knees in table top position. Chin should be lifted towards the chest. Lift as high as needed to keep the back down towards the map and powerhouse active. Keep arms long and pump very vigorously and evenly while breathing in for 5 pumps and out for 5 pumps. Gaze should be down toward the chest, not forward. I never knew this prior to seeing this video, but this keeps the neck long! The more advanced version is to straighten your legs, however if the back arches, bend the knees. For an even more advance movement, bring the straight legs lower towards the mat.

Exercise 2: Roll down

She demonstrated this with the student’s feet in the straps and bent knees, but I performed this at home with no strap and started with bent knees. Bending the knees while grasping behind the knees with your hands is the easiest variation. Arms are used to help guide you down and back up. Tuck as much as possible, creating a C Curve. Make sure to go in a straight line down the spine. At the end of the movement, relax forward. I noticed that this was different from what was demonstrated in Day 1, where we ended the movement by sitting straight up. I assume it depends on if you are working more on flexibility or posture. For the advanced version, perform the same movement but with the legs straight. Arms should be straight ahead. When you lay down, taking the arms way up before bringing them overhead will help to release the shoulders. Dorothee shows an even more advanced progression where a bar is held with the hands. This keeps the hands even and forces the powerhouse to be used even more.

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Exercise 3: Leg circles

This exercise strengthens the hips and improves alignment. The working leg should be straight with toe pointed. Movement starts by circling the straight leg down, around and up. It’s important that the hip does not come up on the way up. Once reps are completed, reverse the movement. Once all reps are complete, give the leg a stretch towards the face, making sure to keep the hips down. Then hug knee to the chest for another stretch. For the advanced version, the non working leg can be straight instead of bent.

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Exercise 4: Rolling like a ball

To start, roll up to where you are sitting upright and bring heels close to your bottom with knees hugged in. First try balancing with your feet off the ground and knees hugged in close towards the ears. Spine is in a C Curve position. Arms should be tight and used to help balance. Chin should be tucked. The balancing alone is already a challenge. The next step is to roll backward, keeping the same position, then roll back up and find your balance. I remember trying this exercise for the first time and failing miserably. The goal is to use your powerhouse to control the movement rather than using too much momentum. It’s a lot harder than it looks!

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Exercise 5: Single leg stretch

This is part of the stomach series, working the core. When the right leg is bent, the right hand is on the right ankle and left hand on the right knee, and vice versa. The motion is a pull, pull, and change, keeping the legs centered as the switch is made. Make sure you are holding on to the ankles rather than the shins.

Exercise 6: Double leg stretch

This is a continuation of the stomach series where arms and legs are stretched in opposite directions while continuing to keep neck up and long. When bringing the legs and arms back in, make sure to hug at the ankles, not the shins. The advanced version of this is circling the arms down when bringing the legs in for the hug. Focus on making the stretch as long and low as possible.

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Exercise 7: Spine stretch

This exercise starts sitting up with legs stretched out in front of you. Hip bones are tucked under and hands are down by the sides, using them to press into the floor to lift your spine as straight as possible. On the breath out, round down with your chin tucked, bringing the gaze to between the thighs. This provides a really deep stretch that I felt down the back as well as in the hamstrings. For a deeper stretch, perform with arms straight out on front of you and stretch down as far as you can, still rounding deeply with the C curve in the spine.

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~Esther Kim