What are the Different Types of Pilates Mat Exercises?

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  • Written By: M. J. Memon
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 23 February 2020
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Pilates mat exercises are performed on a mat without equipment. There are a wide variety of mat exercises, such as the hundred, leg circles, and the roll up. Pilates mat exercises typically require proper positioning and breathing. The beginner Pilates exerciser should learn the moves from an instructor or exercise tape.

The hundred warms up the body while strengthening the core muscles and teaching proper form and breathing. The hundred is usually performed with the exerciser lying on his or her back, arms parallel to the line of the body, abdominals engaged, and head raised. Leg position depends on the exerciser; beginners may keep their feet flat on the floor. The arms are then pumped up and down in the air while the exerciser breathes in and out.

Other beginning Pilates mat exercises include leg circles, the roll up, and rolling like a ball. Leg circles are done with the exerciser lying supine, arms by the side of the body, and one leg raised high in the air. With the abdominals pulled in, the raised leg is moved in small circles accompanied by a predetermined breathing pattern. Leg circles do work the leg muscles, but their primary target is the abdominals.


The roll up begins with the exerciser lying with back flat on a mat with arms pointed opposite of the feet. Abdominals are engaged, and the arms are then brought up and over the head to point forward towards the feet. The upper body is then very slowly lifted up to a sitting position and then very slowly lowered back to the ground.

Other types of Pilates are done with equipment such as weighted balls, bands, or a stability ball. These apparatuses are typically used to provide resistance training to the exerciser. A common piece of equipment is the Pilates reformer, a machine that comes in various styles to help the user work on alignment, strength and flexibility.

Pilates mat exercises require correct positioning and proper execution. Correct positioning involves drawing the stomach muscles towards the spine and having a neutral pelvis. Failure to position correctly greatly lessens the effectiveness of the exercise and can lead to injury.

Once the exerciser has mastered beginners' Pilates mat exercises, he or she can move on to intermediate or advanced Pilates mat exercises. There are also many Pilates routines that incorporate other disciplines such as yoga or ballet. Other types of Pilates include variations on traditional Pilates mat exercises.


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