The Best No-Equipment Pilates Moves To Strengthen Your Core

Photographed by James Farrell.
Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
Does Pilates kind of seem like an only-for-Goop-readers fitness trend to you? If so, please consider rethinking this. In reality, Pilates is anything but a trend — it’s been around in some form for more than 100 years — and was originally designed as a form of physical therapy, not as a way to get “longer, leaner” muscles (#eyeroll #nothowmuscleswork). Sure, Pilates is a very challenging workout, but you might actually want to think of it as a form of foundation-building for movement. Basically, it’ll help ensure that everything you do — from other exercise to walking around to picking up and putting down everyday objects — is done safely, efficiently, and effectively. If you’ve ever tried to pick up a heavy suitcase without bracing your core first, you know what we mean. “Pilates works to build core and overall strength, flexibility, and balance,” says Angilique Campbell, a New York City-based Pilates instructor. “Professional dancers and NFL and NBA players do Pilates, as do new moms, seniors, and people recovering from knee surgery. This method is truly appropriate for everybody, regardless of age and level of fitness.”

And while one-on-one Pilates sessions with a trainer (which tend to involve traditional equipment such as towers, reformers, and chairs) are great, you don’t have to have any special gear to get an amazing Pilates workout. In fact, all you really need is a clear space on the floor and a yoga mat (or two, if you like some extra cushioning).

Pilates makes you stronger, more flexible, and is basically free. That’s why we’re so excited to bring you some of the best Pilates moves out there, in this story, that we’ll be adding to regularly throughout the year. Consider it your guide to gradually incorporating Pilates into your routine.

Campbell, who suggested these moves and doubles as our fitness model here, recommends doing Pilates two to three days per week, and balancing your fitness routine with cardiovascular exercise (e.g. running, swimming) and strength training (e.g. weightlifting). Each of the moves should be performed for about 8 to 12 repetitions, except for the "Hundred." (Don’t worry, we’ll get to that.)