Mat Moves: 4 Equipment-free Pilates Moves to Strengthen and Sculpt

Posted on March 21, 2019

Looking to change up your at-home workout routine? At Ellie, we’re a huge fan of mat-based Pilates -- it’s easy to do at home, doesn’t require props, and your body reaps the benefits in so many ways. It’s perfect for building core strength, improving mobility, stamina, flexibility and joint health, all from just using your own breath and body weight.

All you need to get started is a mat (obviously), comfortable clothing (like your favorite Ellie tank, sports bra and leggings, of course), a positive attitude and the willingness to work hard! Here are 4 beginner-level exercises from fitness expert Elise Joan.

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1. The Hundred

    To begin, lie on your back with your legs elevated at a 45 degree angle. Curl up off your shoulder blades with your palms down and your hands reaching forward. Exhale 100 times, fully contracting the abdominal muscles each time. Lie down and rest for 30 seconds to one minute, then repeat.

    To modify this exercise: Work with your legs higher or slightly bent, with your head and shoulder blades down and relaxed on the mat.

    2. The Roll Up

      Sit up tall on your mat with your legs stretched out straight in front of you and your arms stretched overhead. Contract your abs. One vertebrae at a time, begin to roll all the way down to your back, with your arms reached up and back behind you. Then, beginning with your head and moving down to your shoulder blades, start to roll back up to your original seated position, being sure to articulate your spine as you do so. Repeat 5-10 times.

      To modify this exercise: Try it with your knees bent instead of straight out in front of you.

      3. The Leg Circles

        Lie on your back and lift one leg 90 degrees in the air so it’s stacked over your hip. Keeping your low back supported by the mat, start making small circles with your leg, moving to bigger circles if your mobility lets you (don’t worry if you keep them small). Circle your leg 10-20 times, then switch directions and circle it 10-20 times. Switch legs and repeat the exercise.

        To modify this exercise: Try it with less range of motion (we all have to start somewhere, and that’s totally okay).

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        4. The Forearm Plank

        Get into the traditional plank position, making sure to elongate your spine and activate your core. Lower down to your forearms. For a more advanced plank, place your palms straight ahead of you. For a little more support, make fists. Make sure your shoulders are stacked above your elbows, and then move away from your ears to relax your trapezius muscle (in between your shoulder blades). Press back energetically through your heels, lengthening the back of your body, and hold for 5-10 breaths. Rest for 30 seconds to one minute, then repeat.

        To modify this exercise: Change up the position of your plank by lowering to your knees. You can also lengthen the duration between rests to give your body a little extra time to get ready for the next round.

        If you’re looking to achieve a lean, toned body, then Pilates is a great workout to incorporate into your weekly routine. So get up, grab your yoga mat (and some grippy socks in the March Ellie 5-item box) and try these 4 exercises out for yourself. We’d love to see your moves, so tag us if you do! #LoveEllie @EllieActivewear

        Shout-out to @elisejoanfitness for the great beginner-level Pilates exercises.