Going Basic: 12 Classic Pilates Exercises

Find out more about core moves in this favored workout.

Pilates can be intimidating to newcomers. But there’s nothing to fear. It’s easy to learn classic moves in Pilates and soon you’ll be sweating away with the pros.

Kim Kilway, who has been certified in Pilates and Gyrotonics for more than 20 years, teaches Pilates at The Houstonian Club in Houston, Texas. She shares her information on the top core moves for beginners, along with why they're best and what they do for the body.

Going Basic: 12 Classic Pilates Exercises

According to Kilway, “Pilates teaches you to move from the center, like a dancer, firing up your core and supporting the rest of your body. It will give you a flat belly and the stability and mobility results of a strong core.”

Here are several of her favorite exercises for beginners:

One Leg Circle - clockwise and counterclockwise. Strengthens your abdominals, quads and hip flexors. Stretches your hamstrings, hip extensors and IT band.

Single Straight Leg Stretch - like a scissor, reach, pulse and release. Strengthens your abdominals and stretches your hamstrings and hip flexors.

The Saw - its rewards are plentiful. It strengthens your rectus abdominal, external and internal obliques, and stretches your adductors and hamstrings.

Going Basic: 12 Classic Pilates Exercises

Shannon Barbadian, co-founder of Defy Gravity, a premier Pilates and indoor
cycling studio in Corona del Mar, Calif., shares her favorite two moves for beginners:


 - Lay on your back, feet on the floor, knees are bent. Lift your hips to 
the ceiling and lower hips back to the floor. You are looking to be in 
control when doing both motions.

 It's easy to do and it's good for
 everyone. It targets many body parts at once - the gluteus, the deep
 abdominals, the hamstrings, and it stretches out the quads.

 Extra bonus - rise up on your toes like you're wearing high heels and
 now you're working those calves too.

Planks - Facing the floor on your elbows, with either your toes or knees on the 
floor. Hold the plank for 10 seconds, rest and repeat eight to 10 times.

 Plank is fantastic for the core. It's also a great workout for the back 
and when adding the leg lift, the hamstring and butt get in on the act.
 These are not easy, but can be accomplished by a beginner.

 Extra bonus - increase the work, increase the results. On your toes and 
forearms, bend your knees to the floor and return to plank position. Repeat
 12 times.

 And keep going. Get in plank position, lift one leg at a time off the 
floor without moving the pelvis.

Stephanie Mansour, owner of Step it Up with Steph in Chicago, Ill., shared her best beginner exercise:

Pelvic Tilting - Lie on the ground, feet as wide as your 
hips, and inhale as you fill your stomach. Exhale, engage your low abs
 as if you were zipping into a tight pair of pants, pressing your back onto 
the ground. You will now be in a tilted position.
 From here, place the hands behind the head, and slowly pulse up with
your head and shoulder blades off of the ground. Repeat 20 times.

Next, release your head onto the floor and lift the legs up towards the ceiling. Exhale and pull your belly button in and press your lower back into the ground. Lower the legs down just a couple of inches, being sure to keep the back pressing into the ground, and then bring the legs back up to starting position. Repeat 10 times.

Tandy Gutierrez
, founder of in Brooklyn, N.Y., shares her suggestions: 

Lower Lifts - Lower Lifts are brilliant because they finally create
 genuine strength and flattening in the stubborn area between your belly
 button and your pubic bone. As you learn to connect your lower body with the strength and power of your core, this move literally knits the upper and
 lower halves of your body together and gets results. Pilates is all about correct form and if you do this one correctly,
 your body will truly transform.

The Hundred - It trains your 
transversus abdominals to cinch and knit in tight like your own personal
 corset. It acts like shrinkwrap on the body. The transversus cannot
 typically be actively engaged and requires something to set it off 
balance in order for it to kick in. This uses your own arm pumping to
 get your transversus to kick on and stay on from the beginning of the
 workout. It pumps blood and also acts as an efficient warm up. Like Pilates 
in general it's a sneaky multi-tasker that you will not find in any other
 movement format.

Going Basic: 12 Classic Pilates Exercises

Sarah Hippert, instructor at Reformation Fitness in Washington, D.C., shares her tips:

Front support (plank) with one leg lifted - you move the lifted leg out to
 the side for 10 repetitions then make a box shape (out to the side, up,
 back in, and down, for 10, then reverse for 10. A beginner could always
 place the knee of the supporting leg down. This exercise is total body -
 makes the quads, hamstrings, inner/outer thighs, hip flexors burn as well
 as the length of the rectus abdominus and shoulders.

Bent Knee Teaser - hold for 10 seconds then let the torso come down and
 back up (a beginner can hold the hamstrings for support) and repeat 5
 times. This obviously requires the powerhouse connection - transverse
 abdominus - deep abdominal engagement.

Corkscrew - laying on back with legs up in the air - either head neck and shoulders are lifted with hands supporting behind the nape of the neck or
 hands can make a diamond shape underneath the sacrum. While keeping the 
torso completely still and the hips grounded, the legs make small circles, 
alternating directions, staying within the frame of the body. It's not about the 
range of motion or pace of the movement - it's about keeping the torso 
still, the hips grounded and maintaining the powerhouse connection, with
 glutes and inner things engaged as well.

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