Try This 20-Minute Pilates Workout Next Time You're Feeling Stressed

Next time you're feeling stressed, try this 20-minute Pilates routine. (Image: Valorie Darling)

Whether you're starting your week, ending it or you're stuck in the middle of it, stress can take a toll on your energy levels. But this fast-paced Pilates workout will get your heart rate up and relieve all that stress while toning and sculpting your entire body.

The whole routine takes less than 30 minutes, and you'll be happy you squeezed it in. So unroll your mat or find a carpeted area and get your stress-busting workout on!

Warm Up: Plié

The plié is a great warm-up exercise for Pilates (Image: Valorie Darling)
  1. Stand with your feet just wider than hip-distance and your arms down by your sides.
  2. Bend your knees and lower into a plié squat while you sweep your arms up and over your head.
  3. Straighten your legs as you sweep your arms back down.
  4. Repeat for 20 reps.

1. Arm Reaches

Arm reaches are a great upper-body Pilates exercise. (Image: Valorie Darling)
  1. Stand with your heels together, toes apart and hands on your hips.
  2. Lunge in one direction while reaching that same arm up toward the sky.
  3. Pulse twice with your arm as you deepen the lunge.
  4. Switch sides and repeat for 10 reps.

2. Plié Squats

Keep your legs wide during plié squats. (Image: Valorie Darling)
  1. Stand with your feet wider than hip-distance and your arms out to the sides.
  2. Lower into a deep squat.
  3. Lift one heel up, then pulse your body down.
  4. Switch legs, bringing the other heel up.
  5. Repeat for 20 reps.

3. Frogs

Frogs are a move that will target your core. (Image: Valorie Darling)
  1. Lie on your back with your knees pulled in toward your chest and your head curled up. Your hands should be stacked behind your head and neck.
  2. Flex your feet and press your heels together with the toes facing out.
  3. Extend your legs to a 45-degree angle.
  4. Bend your legs back in, pulling in your abs.
  5. Repeat for 10 reps.

4. Full Roll-Up

The full roll-up is a classic Pilates move. (Image: Valorie Darling)
  1. Lie flat on your back with heels together and feet flexed.
  2. Reach your arms up toward the sky, then round your back, rolling up and reaching for your toes.
  3. Roll back down to lie flat, focusing on a deep abdominal connection.
  4. Repeat for 15 reps.

5. Hovering Single-Leg Circles

Hovering single-leg circles are a total-body Pilates exercise. (Image: Valorie Darling)
  1. Lie on your back with knees in toward the chest, your head and chest curled up and your hands behind your head.
  2. Extend both legs straight up, then lower your left leg down to a 45-degree angle.
  3. Move your left leg in a circle — toward the ceiling, across your body, down, around and back up (make the circles only as wide as your hips).
  4. Do six reps, then switch direction for six more.
  5. Switch legs and repeat six circles in both directions.

6. Jumping Rolling Like a Ball

This exercise involves a little tuck and roll. (Image: Valorie Darling)
  1. Have a seat on the mat, bend your knees into a tight ball and hold on to the back of your thighs.
  2. Bow your head down so you're looking at your abs.
  3. Rock backward just to your shoulder blades, not your neck or head.
  4. Rock back up to the start position and use your momentum to stand and jump straight up.
  5. Lower back down to a seated position and repeat.
  6. Continue for 10 reps.

7. Single-Leg Stretch

Single-leg stretch is a simple stretching movement. (Image: Valorie Darling)
  1. Lie on your back, then pull one leg in toward your chest and hold on to the shin.
  2. Extend your other leg out to a 45-degree angle.
  3. Give the bent knee a gentle pull and contract your abs.
  4. Switch legs and draw the other leg in. That's one rep.
  5. Repeat for 15 reps.

8. Scissors

Scissors are another leg lift variation. (Image: Valorie Darling)
  1. Lying on your back, curl up your head and chest and extend both legs upward.
  2. Grab one ankle (or back of the leg) and lower the other leg to 45 degrees.
  3. Pull in the leg you are holding with two gentle pulses, contracting your core muscles on each pulse.
  4. Switch legs. That's one rep.
  5. Repeat for 15 reps.

9. Lower Lift

Lower lift will fire up your core. (Image: Valorie Darling)

As you perform this move, make sure to really contract your abs the entire time, so your lower core muscles are working and the back doesn't arch and take over.

  1. Lie on your back with legs together, extended to the ceiling. Your head and chest are curled up with hands behind your head for support.
  2. Lower your legs to a 45-degree angle.
  3. Lift your legs back up toward the ceiling.
  4. Repeat for 15 reps.

10. Criss-Cross

The criss-cross is an abdominal-focused exercise. (Image: Valorie Darling)
  1. Pull your knees into your chest and curl up your head and chest, keeping your hands behind your head. Extend one leg out to 45 degrees.
  2. Twist your upper body toward the bent knee, keeping your hips anchored to the ground.
  3. Pulse up two times.
  4. Switch to other side and repeat. That's one rep.
  5. Repeat for 15 reps.

11. Spine Stretch Forward

The forward spine stretch will loosen some tension from your back. (Image: Valorie Darling)
  1. Sit up tall with your legs extended out to the corners of your mat.
  2. Reach your arms out in front of your body, parallel to the floor.
  3. Inhale and sit tall. Exhale as you round your body forward and reach toward your toes.
  4. Inhale and pull in your abdominals as you roll back up.
  5. Exhale and sit tall.
  6. Repeat for 5 reps.

12. Open-Leg Rocker

Proper form for the open-leg rocker exercise is tricky to master. (Image: Valorie Darling)

This is a hard one — your legs stay extended the entire time. It's all about the core on this exercise!

  1. Sit toward front of the mat.
  2. Bend your knees in and grab your ankles.
  3. Then, while balancing on your sit bones, slowly extend your legs straight up; they should be no wider than hip-distance apart.
  4. Draw your abdominals in deeply.
  5. Rock back to shoulder tips, not onto your neck or head.
  6. Rock back up to the start position.
  7. Repeat for 10 reps

13. Switch Jumps

Switch jumps are a higher intensity Pilates move. (Image: Valorie Darling)

As you try this exercise, keep the hips low and core engaged. If you're looking for more of a challenge, do one rep with both legs jumping forward at the same time.

  1. Step one leg forward into a low, deep lunge, keeping your hands as flat on the mat as possible.
  2. Your back leg is straight.
  3. Bend knees slightly to gain momentum.
  4. Jump and switch legs in midair, landing with the other foot in front and repeating on that side.
  5. Do 20 reps.

14. Kneeling Side Legs

This exercise will help target the obliques. (Image: Valorie Darling)

This exercise is fantastic for tightening the outer thighs, butt and side body. Try to keep your core engaged and your extended leg parallel to your mat the entire time.

  1. Start kneeling in the center of your mat.
  2. Place one hand down flat on the mat to one side, directly under your shoulder and the other hand behind your head.
  3. Lift the outside leg up parallel to the mat.
  4. Sweep your leg forward and then backward.
  5. Repeat for 10 reps.

15. Mermaid

The mermaid exercise is great for opening your side-body. (Image: Valorie Darling)
  1. Sit with knees bent to your right and stacked.
  2. Place your right hand on the ground to your side and place your left hand on your left ankle.
  3. Lift your spine and reach your left arm up and over your head to the right.
  4. Then, lift your body back up, reaching straight up. That's one rep.
  5. Do eight reps, then switch sides. That's one set.
  6. Repeat for 2 sets, 8 reps per side.

16. Classic Push-Ups

Bring it back with a classic push-up. (Image: Valorie Darling)
  1. Stand with your heels together and rise up on the toes, reaching your arms toward the sky.
  2. Fold over at the hips, reaching for the floor, and walk out to a plank position.
  3. Do three push-ups.
  4. Round your back up and walk your hands back in toward your feet.
  5. Roll up to standing. That's one rep.
  6. Repeat for 10 reps.
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