When you're trying to lose weight, the number on the scale is only a small part of the equation. You also want to exude confidence, stand taller and look and feel your best. That's where Pilates shines. These low-impact movements encourage a slow burn that will help torch fat and develop strong, lean muscles.
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Along with a nutrient-dense, reduced-calorie diet, Pilates can help boost your weight-loss efforts. Though the exact amount of calories burned will depend on your weight, intensity and fitness level, you can expect to burn between 4 and 7.5 calories per minute, according to research from IDEA Health and Fitness Association.
It offers a host of other non-scale benefits as well. "Pilates establishes a concrete mind-body connection that awakens muscles in ways you've never felt before, by incorporating control, precision and breath into your movements," says Lacy Looney, a Pilates instructor at Hot Pilates in Los Angeles. "Creating these deep connections will help you move efficiently during exercise to get more out of your workout."
Read more: Does Pilates Help You Lose Weight?
At-Home Pilates Workout to Boost Your Weight Loss
If you're ready to burn fat while also developing core strength, postural alignment and a toned physique, Looney's 20-minute, at-home Pilates workout will take your weight-loss workouts to the next level. All you need is a mat! (A pair of light dumbbells is optional.)
Move 1: Hundred
- Lie flat on your back with arms by your sides, legs lifted and knees bent to a 90-degree angle. Squeeze your heels together.
- Curl your chin toward your chest, lifting your head neck until you reach the shoulders, and push your legs out as high as you can keep your lower back on the mat.
- Pump your arms up and down about two inches as you stretch your arms from your shoulders.
- Inhale for five counts and exhale for five counts until you reach 100.
- As you breath and work your arms, squeeze your glutes, pull your belly button to spine and draw the tips of your shoulder blades down and back.
Reps: 1 round of 100
Move 2: Single-Leg Stretch
- Lie flat on your back with arms by your sides, legs lifted and knees bent to a 90-degree angle.
- Peel head, neck and shoulders off the ground just enough to look between your legs.
- Grab your right ankle with your right hand and your right knee with your left hand, pulling the knee toward your chest while the left leg straightens out about 45 degrees from the hip.
- Alternate legs back and forth with control — you have to produce the movement and create the feeling of "push" and "pull" from the core as you inhale and exhale with every rep.
- While legs are working, concentrate on pushing from the glutes and pulling your ribs into the mat.
Move 3: Roll Ups
- Lie on your back with your legs together, feet flexed and arms straight above your shoulders (perpendicular to the floor).
- Squeeze your butt, pull your ribs into the mat, draw the tips of your shoulder blades into the spine.
- Exhale as you peel the spine off the ground, starting at the crown of the head and round forward until reaching the tips of your fingers to your toes.
- Inhale as the spine curls into a C shape, drawing the ribs up and away from the hips.
- Exhale while rolling down the exact same way you lifted into the position.
Reps: 5 to 8
Focus on lifting the ribs up and away from your hips as you round forward and keep your fingertips right at the toes — don't reach past the toes and collapse toward your thighs.
The Workout: Part 1
Do: each of the following moves for 30 seconds, resting for 15 seconds afterward.
Move 1: Straight Jump Into Double Prisoner Squat
- Start standing with a soft bend in your knees and hands lightly behind your head to keep length in the spine.
- Jump your feet out and land with a wide base, toes slightly turned out.
- Squat twice, knees tracking with hips. Gaze forward to keep lift and length of spine.
- Jump back to standing, landing lightly on the balls of your feet with knees slightly bent.
Move 2: Standing Oblique Crunch
- Stand with knees slightly bent, feet hip-width apart and hands behind your head.
- Shift your weight to the left leg and crunch to the right side and bring your right knee up toward your elbow.
- Lower your right leg and return to the standing.
- Alternate side to side.
Move 3: Weighted Jumping Jack
- Stand with knees slightly bent, feet hip-width apart and weights in hands by your shoulders, elbows bent.
- Jump your feet wide as your arms push the weights to the ceiling. Focus on keeping core engaged and breathing to control the movement.
- Return to starting position: elbows drawn toward ribs, weights stop at shoulder level and feet return to hip-width apart.
Move 4: Seal Jack
- Stand with knees slightly bent, feet hip-width apart and arms straight out from your shoulders.
- Jump your feet wide as your arms open to the side.
- While jumping, focus on looking forward as core stays engaged. Keep a strong back by drawing your shoulders down from ears and reaching your chest forward to keep length in spine.
- Jump back to the start.
Move 5: Squat Jack
- Stand with feet close together and hands behind your head. Push hips back into a half-squat position.
- Jump your feet to the sides, while maintaining squat position.
- Quickly jump your feet back to the starting position.
Read more: 10 Beginner Pilates Exercises You Can Do at Home
The Workout: Part 2
Do: each of the following moves for the given number of reps and repeat the circuit three times through.
Move 1: Double-Leg Stretch
- Lie flat on your back with arms by your sides, legs lifted and knees bent to a 90-degree angle. Pull your heels together and keep them together, but keep knees open to hip width.
- Grab your knees without lifting your shoulder blades off the ground.
- Tilt your chin toward your chest and keep your gaze forward (not looking toward the ceiling).
- Inhale and reach your arms and legs out from torso — aim for a 45-degree angle with the legs and reach arms to the ears (never let your arms reach further than your ears or you could injure your neck).
- Exhale and pull your knees back to your hips as you wrap your arms around the sides and grab your legs.
Move 2: Double Straight-Leg Stretch
- Lie down and bring both legs straight together over the hips, heels pressing together and legs externally rotated.
- With hands lightly placed at nape of the neck to support head, curl the chin to your chest to lift your head, neck and shoulders off the ground.
- Inhale and count to four as your legs lower toward the floor as far as they can go while staying straight, pressing your back ribs into the floor. Bring your legs up immediately if you feel your spine lift or knees bend during the exercise.
- Exhale and reach legs longer as they lift above the hips back to the starting position.
Move 3: Criss Cross
- From Double Straight-Leg Stretch, keep your hands behind your head to support the neck in lifted position and bend your knees back to a table top with shins parallel to the floor and feet pointed.
- Twisting through the ribs, reach your right armpit (sounds strange, but try it!) across the body toward the left knee as the right leg reaches from the hip at 45-degree angle.
- Rotate spine back to center as your right leg reaches back to the hip, back into the starting position.
- Twisting through the ribs and keeping elbows wide, reach your left armpit across the body toward the right knee as the left leg reaches from the hip at 45-degree angle.
- Alternate side to side, slowly and with control, without dropping shoulders, neck, head or legs toward the ground.
Finisher: Reverse Lunge Series
- Stand at the front of your mat with feet hip-distance apart, weight in your heels and arms (can use light weights) by your sides.
- Keep your right foot planted, knee tracking with the ankle, and step back with your left foot and plant ball of the left foot into floor.
- Stand tall, stacking shoulders, ribs and hips, and engage your core to find balance.
- Bend both knees, keeping left knee tracking with left hip and right knee stacked over ankle.
- After 10 reps, lengthen the left leg and hinge from the hip — leaning the torso over right leg, maintaining length of the spine and neck. Draw your elbows toward the ceiling and reach arms from the shoulders while holding the lunge.
- Do another 10 reps here before switching legs.
Check out more of our 20-minute workouts here — we’ve got something for everyone.