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5 Standing Pilates Exercises

a Workout Sequence for Warm Ups and Cool Downs

By

Updated June 18, 2014

Take your workouts from the mat to vertical with these 5 standing Pilates exercises. They will help tone your legs, including inner thighs, and engage your core powerhouse muscles. They are good for balance as well. Best of all, standing Pilates exercises make a perfect transition for taking your Pilates from the mat into daily life.

1. Standing Footwork Parallel

standing Pilates footwork
(c)2010, Marguerite Ogle
  • Stand upright with your feet and legs parallel. Legs are straight. Knees are not locked.Engage your abdominal muscles and lengthen your spine. Let the top of your head reach for the sky and your sit bones point to the earth. Relax your shoulders.
  • Bend your knees as if your sit bones are going to go straight to your heels.
  • Keep your pelvis level and lift your heels slightly.
  • Keep your heels lifted and press into the balls of your feet to straighten your legs
  • Lower your heels to the floor without sinking your body.
  • Repeat 3 times. Then do the reverse -- lift the heels, stay up and bend the knees, press the heels to the floor, straighten the legs.
You should feel this exercise in your calves quads, inner thighs, hamstrings and glutes. It is fine to face a wall or the back of a chair and use your fingertips for balance as shown.

2. Standing Wide Knee Bends

leg bends
Courtesy of Bernadette Giorgi

  • Stand with your legs together and rotate them outward at the hip so that the toes are 30 to 45 degrees open.
  • Your hands can be at your hips or your arms can be stretched in front of you (our models are using some tension from an exercise band which you can do too)
  • Keep your turnout and step your legs out a little past shoulder width.
  • Continue to rotate your legs outward but don't move your feet. Let the outward rotation continue as you bend your knees keeping them in line with your feet. Don't let the knees go past the toes.
  • Resist as you return to straight legs.
  • Repeat 5 - 8 times
This exercise works the whole thigh and the hips (learn about the deep six hip muscles), and is known for being a good inner thigh exercise, so put your mind there.

Pilates instructor Bernadette Giorgi is demonstrating here. Read reviews of her DVDs:
Attitude, Ballet and Pilates Fusion
Pilates Circle Challenge

3. Wall Roll Down

(c)2006, Marguerite Ogle
This is a Pilates favorite for warm ups. It is a great way to transition into a Pilates workout from a busy day. The rolling and unrolling of the spine is a Pilates signature move.
  • Stand against a wall with your feet about 10 inches away.
  • Let your shoulderblades slide down your back as you bring your arms up just inside your peripheral vision.
  • Lengthen your spine, lift your abs, and lead with the top of your head as your curl over.
  • Keep your legs straight, knees soft, as you curve your spine in a roll, vertebrae by vertebrae, down toward the floor. The arms go along with the ears.
  • Go as far as you feel comfortable.
  • Initiate the return with your low abdominals, just above your pubic bone.
  • Roll up sequentially until your head floats up on top.
  • Repeat 3 - 5 times.
Learn Pilates rolling and unrolling exercises

4. Standing Lunge

standing lunge exercise
(c)2010, Marguerite Ogle
Here comes a balance and thigh toning challenge, as well as a nice hip opening stretch.
  • Stand tall with your legs parallel
  • Bend your right knee deeply and step the left foot straight back. Keep your pelvis square to the front.
    Your hands can rest on top of your thigh for support.
  • Check your balance and that your chest is lifted
  • Straighten your back leg by lifting from under the buttock -- not jamming the knee.
  • To increase the hip opening stretch, lift out of your hips as you bring the crest of your hipbone up and back. This is different than just leaning backward as many do.
  • Hold up to 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.

5. Rolling Like a Ball - Standing

Marta Hernandez, courtesy of themethodpilates.ca
This exercise will definitely test your balance. It gets even more interesting if you apply the breath and abdominal muscle control you have learned from Pilates rolling like a ball on the mat.
  • Stand tall with legs parallel.
  • Leave your shoulders down as you reach your arms in front of you, chest height, in a slight curve with the elbows high.
  • Send your right leg back and bend your front leg into a small lunge with ball of the back foot on the floor. Open your arms to the side.
  • Now, in one smooth movement: pick up the back leg, bend the knee, point the toe and bring the ankle in next to your standing knee. At the same time, you create a long C-curve with your upper body and return the arms to the shape front.
    This must be supported with the abdominal muscles.
  • Repeat 2 times on each side.

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