Pilates For Beginners (How To Do Pilates)

If you have ever wondered what exactly Pilates was and why this fitness regime has gained (and it continues to gain) recent upsurge in popularity, it might probably be because a part of you wants to give this fitness regime a go. You might have been on the look out on how to do Pilates……well, look no further, you are at the right place.

The basic knowledge you’ve been yearning to gain on Pilates are broken down in simple terms for ease of understanding. I Guess you are itching to get started……itch no further!

What Is Pilates?

Before looking at how to do Pilates……. Let’s take a moment to understand what Pilates actually is.

Pilates (pronounced puh-lah-teez and not pie-lates), is a form of exercise named after its developer, German-born Joseph Pilates, whiles living in the UK. He believed mental and physical health were closely related and he called his method “contrology”. Joseph Pilates presented his “contrology” as an art of controlled movements, which should look and feel like a workout when properly carried out.

Pilates is basically a form of low-impact exercise that seeks to strengthen the body by placing more emphasis on breathing, alignment, improving balance, coordination and developing a strong core. A person’s stability is highly dependent on the core (often referred to as the “powerhouse” of the human body). The core consists of the muscles of the abdomen, obliques, lower back, hips and butt, just to mention a few.

Pilates concentrates on flexibility, balance and posture as it emphasizes on correct form instead of going for the burn as mostly done in other exercise regimes. Being a low-impact exercise, the likelihood of injury is way less compared to other forms of exercise.

The mind-body inter-relation is an area well focused by Pilates, as your mind constantly needs to be aware of your breathing and body movements. The movements performed during Pilates exercises require physical control, mental focus, and special breathing that is supposed to help your body and mind work effectively together. These exercises require you to virtually engage your whole body.

Pilates classes can be carried out on either a mat (slightly thicker than a standard yoga mat) or a machine called a reformer. A reformer is a machine with a sliding platform complete with springs, foot bar and pulleys that provide adequate resistance during exercises.



With Pilates, the range of difficulty of exercises can be modified to suit your ability and experience. Be you an experienced practitioner or beginner, there is always an appropriate intensity for you!

Can I Do Pilates?

YES you can!…..with a little caveat.

Majority of Pilates classes are based on up to nine principles. These principles are, concentration, control, center, breathing flow, precision, postural alignment, relaxation and stamina.

As stated earlier, Pilates exercises can be modified to suit your ability, be it providing a physically challenging workout or a comfortable strength training program for a beginner. Be you a beginner or an elite athlete, Pilates has something to offer people of all ages, fitness and levels of ability.

Despite Pilates being a very safe low-impact form of exercise, it is recommended you consult a health professional if you have any health concerns or an injury prior to commencing.

Health conditions that might prevent you from practicing Pilates include:

  • Severe osteoporosis ( A health condition that weakens bones, making them fragile and more likely to break).
  • Unstable blood pressure.
  • Risk of blood clots.

Time To Know How To Do Pilates

Just like any form of exercise, its always essential to prepare yourself for the exercise. The following points need to be considered prior to starting a Pilates exercise:

  • Ensure you in the appropriate training gear. The ideal clothes for Pilates must be of stretchy and breathable fabrics. This gives great comfort and helps you in moving freely.
  • Ensure you have an exercise mat and enough space. The space must be open and on a hard surface. If you can lie on your back and extend your arms and legs out 90 degrees to the sides; stand up and stretch your arms to the ceiling without touching the ceiling, then the space is enough.

Learning The Prone Pilates Movements

Learn the swan. To begin all prone moves, you must be lying on the ground with your forehead resting comfortably on the ground. To do the swan: –

  1. Your hands must be place under your shoulders as though you were about to push yourself up with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. With your pubic bone pressed into the ground, lift your upper-body off the ground with your palms.
  3. Whiles you are bent at the lower back, inhale, exhale and lower yourself back down. The tops of your feet must be kept flat on the ground during this exercise.
  4. Repeat the exercise a number of times. Lift your upper-body higher on each repetition.

Learn the swim move: –

  1. Whiles on the ground, stretch your arms straight in front of you.
  2. With your pubic bone pressed into the ground, lift your head, neck and chest off the ground.
  3. Whiles squeezing your glutes, lift your right arm and left leg. This equates to one stroke. Return your arm and leg to the ground and left your left arm and right leg. That is two strokes done.
  4. Repeat strokes 20 times.

Learn the ‘T‘:-

  1. With your feet pressed together, place your arms on the ground.
  2. With your hip flat on the ground, raise your neck, head and chest off the ground.
  3. Face your palms downwards, slightly raise your arms off the ground and extend them out perpendicular to your body.
  4. Ensure your arms are straight, sweep your outstretched arms backwards and raise your chest a little higher.
  5. Return to the starting position and repeat exercise for at least 5 more times.

Learning The Supine Pilates Movements

Learn the bridge:- Supine position means lying on your back.

  1. Whiles lying on your back, place your arms on the ground beside you and bend your knees.
  2. Ensure your feet are flat on the floor and hip-width apart.
  3. Ensure your weight is spread evenly into your shoulders, arms and feet whiles lifting hips into the air.
  4. Ensure your hips are raised to the extent where your body forms a straight line between your knees and shoulders.
  5. Inhale and exhale 3 times whiles holding this position.
  6. Gently lower your hip back to the floor and repeat exercise for at least 5 times.

Learn leg circles:-

  1. With your arms and legs straight, place your arms at a 45-degree angle from your body.
  2. Raise your right leg straight up towards the ceiling whiles your left leg remains on the floor.
  3. Rotate your right leg as though you are tracing a volley-ball size circle in the air for at least 5 times.
  4. Reverse the direction of the circle for at least 5 more times and gently place your right leg back on the floor.
  5. Switch legs and repeat exercise with your left leg. It is essential that your hips remain stable during this exercise.

Learn the abdominal criss-cross:-

  1. With knees pulled to your chest, raise your head and place your hands behind it.
  2. Fully extend your right leg and gently twist your body so your right elbow moves towards your bent left knee.
  3. Swap legs, as in, bend your right knee, pulling it back towards your chest and straighten out your left leg.
  4. Gently twist your body so your left elbow moves towards your bent right knee. Repeat leg swaps for at least 5 times.

Learn the one hundred:-

  1. Relax and place your hands, knees and feet flat on the ground whiles facing up the ceiling.
  2. With your arms straight at your sides, lift your head, neck and shoulders slightly off the ground to a 45-degree angle.
  3. Raise your legs up towards the ceiling and lower them half-way. Do not let your feet touch the ground.
  4. Pump your arms up and down as your inhale for 5 seconds and exhale for 5 seconds.
  5. Whiles holding the position, repeat this breathing pattern 10 times for a total of 100 arm pumps.

Learning The Plank Positions

Learn the basic plank:-

  1. Get on your hands and knees with your wrist and elbows under your shoulders.
  2. Lift your body off the floor and shift your weight to your hands and balls of your feet.
  3. Ensure you keep your body in a straight line with your knees and shins off the floor.
  4. Your body’s weight is supported by only your bent arm and balls of your feet.
  5. Hold the position for at least 10 seconds. Hold for longer if you can.

Learn how to kick like a donkey:-

  1. Get down on your hand and knees, and lift your right leg back towards the ceiling.
  2. Lower your raised leg, bend your knees and return leg to its original position. Repeat for 4 at least more times.
  3. Return to original position and repeat the exercise with your left leg.

Learn the inverted plank:-

  1. Sit on the floor and stretch out your legs in front of you.
  2. With your hands on either side of your body, point your fingertips towards your legs.
  3. Lift your bum and legs off the floor with your feet still on the floor. Ensure toes are pointed out and legs are straight.

Learning The Sitting Positions For Pilates

Learn to stretch your spine:-

  1. Whiles seated on the floor, point your feet and toes towards the ceiling. Ensure your legs are just over a hip-width apart.
  2. Stretch your arms shoulder-width wide in front of you.
  3. Bow your head forward and stretch your arms towards your toe.
  4. Slowly inhale and slowly straighten out your back as you exhale.
  5. Repeat exercise for at least 4 more times.


Learn the abdominal rolls:

  1. Whiles seated on the floor, raise your arms and stretch them out so they are parallel with your legs.
  2. Lower your head and gently drop yourself backwards as you bend your knees.
  3. When you are about halfway, stop and raise your arms.
  4. Inhale and exhale slowly, lower your arms and drop backwards till your flat on the floor.
  5. Repeat exercise for at least 5 times.

Learn the saw move:-

  1. With your legs hip-width apart, stretch out your arms to your sides.
  2. Inhale slowly, gently twist your body to the left and stretch out to touch your left foot with your right hand.
  3. Exhale whiles bringing your body back to the center.
  4. Gently twist to the right and stretch out to touch your right foot with your left hand.
  5. Alternate between left and right twists for at least 4 more times.

Now Is The Time….

Still contemplating on giving this form of exercise a go?…..

Well, I hope with the help of this article, you now have an idea on how to do Pilates. There are a lot more Pilates moves not covered in this article, but am pretty confident the basics were covered. All comments are warmly welcomed!

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  1. I run a website dedicated for encouraging seniors to do strength training. I did an article on Pilates some time ago because I think it’s a great way to improve your proprioception, muscle control and balance. I think there are more efficient ways for improving strength and muscle mass but Pilates will also accomplish that to a sufficient degree for health reasons if it’s something you like. That’s the most important thing about all exercise after all, you have to like it enough to stick with it. What’s your take on Pilates for older people? I find it can be easier on the joints and back than actual strength training and it teaches core activation very well.

    • I completely support Pilates for seniors. The ability to modify exercise routines to ones ability makes Pilates safe for older people. The benefits to older people are countless. Seniors who practice Pilates still have the ability to increase balance, strength, muscle tone, flexibility, stamina and general well-being at such older ages. It is important you consult a health professional if you have a medical condition prior to giving this form of exercise a go though.

      As you rightly said, you have to like your exercise routine enough to stick with it. It is great to see another avid fan of Pilates. Thanks for visiting my page and hope to see you here again soon.

  2. Great post! I have actually been trying to find something a bit different to do in my workout routine and this is great! Thank you for sharing!

    • Thanks Norman. I am glad you found my post useful. Please do give this form of exercise a go and am sure you won’t regret it.

  3. I am a Yoga fan. I have heard of Pilates but I have never done it. To be honest, it’s the first time I see or read the description of some of its positions. After reading your article and studying the philosophy and the positions I have the impression that the developer of this fitness regime has copied Yoga. Am i wrong?

  4. I always get confused with pilates and yoga. The only thing that I can differentiate these two form each other is that, pilates uses an equipment while yoga’s not.
    Your post explained it clearly.

    I’ve always wanted to try pilates, but since I did Yoga before, and I wasn’t successful, now, I’m quite hesitant of trying it. But with simple steps you provided, I think, I’ll give it a shot at home– if it works– I’ll enroll myself.

    • Hi Mina. Am very glad my post was able to provide you with some helpful info.There is absolutely no harm in practicing both yoga and Pilates. Being a fan of yoga yourself, giving Pilates a try shouldn’t not be as difficult as some might think. It is all about modifying the moves to suit your ability and experience and then increasing the difficulty level as you get more comfortable.

      Deciding to enroll yourself is an absolute brilliant decision. Thanks a lot for the comment!

  5. Hi Daniel,

    Thank you for the article, I found it very interesting and stimulating. I generally do struggle with exercise as my I’m not very strong, but I thought I would give some of the exercises/ positions a go and it was very fun and more challenging than I thought it would be.

    Thanks it was a lot of fun.

    • Hello Zas. Trying out a new form of exercise can sometimes be very challenging no matter how strong you are. It is all about giving it a go and staying within your limits, to start with. The good thing is that, the exercises can always be modified to your specific needs. I am very confident your overall strength will gradually improve with frequent exercise. I am glad you found it fun. Thank you for taking the time to read my post. Your comments are really appreciated.

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