I generally prefer more active workouts like running and Crossfit to slower-paced ones like Yoga, but doing Pilates is a great compliment to high-impact training by increasing flexibility and improving core strength–both of which may improve performance in other forms of exercise. Personally, I can never get enough ab work and I could definitely use a little help with flexibility. I also find that Pilates has just the right balance of activity and relaxation. That being said, here’s a compilation of my top five favorite Pilates mat exercises*:
*Disclaimer: This is simply a list of exercises that I look forward to during a Pilates workout. I would recommend incorporating this list into planned routines that involve the whole body. This is not a comprehensive workout and the exercises are listed in no particular order.
1. Toe Dips
I like this exercise because my hip flexors do not like many abdominal moves (which probably indicates that I need to do them more often.) This exercise, though, strengthens my core without making my hip flexors too angry.
These exercises are great compliments for abdominal work. The back is an often neglected part of the core, and these moves engage the lower back while getting a good stretch through the hamstrings. I love how this exercise embodies the Pilates goal of strength and flexibility all at once.
If I’m being totally honest, this one is just really fun.
This is a great abdominal challenge. I like exercises that I can feel working right away–instant gratification.
5. Anything with the Pilates ring (aka Magic Circle)
A little equipment can add variety to mat exercises. Most can be performed without the ring, but I find that using it helps take the edge off of my hip flexors when used between the thighs and adds a little extra toning to my arms when held between the palms.