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Pilates Warm-Up Exercises

Do These 7 Pilates Moves Before Your Next Workout

This safe and effective Pilates warm-up will prepare your body for exercise.

By Kristin McGee & Team PelotonUpdated March 8, 2024


Warming up before any workout is critical for preventing injury and getting the most out of your session ahead. Whether you’re doing a full Pilates class or have another workout on the docket for that day, a Pilates warm-up can be an effective and novel way to prime your muscles to move.

Why Do a Pilates Warm-Up?

“Pilates helps with flexibility, postural alignment, and core strength,” says Kristin McGee, a Peloton Pilates and yoga instructor. This makes it ideal for incorporating into warm-ups. “Pilates mat work is mainly done lying down on your back, connecting to your deep core muscles and focusing on strengthening your powerhouse, including the transverse abdominal muscles, diaphragm, rotators, and pelvic floor,” says Kristin. These muscles are frequently used in most workouts, so it makes sense that Pilates warm-up exercises would help prepare your body for your workout ahead.

Pilates was created by Joseph Pilates, a German-born boxer and self-defense instructor. During World War I, Pilates was interned in a prison camp in England, where he developed a method to keep himself and fellow soldiers fit—the roots of modern-day Pilates. Because of this, Pilates combines stretching, strength training, and cardiovascular activity into a single workout. The six core principles of the Pilates practice—centering, concentration, control, precision, breath, and flow—can all help your body get locked in for your workout to give your all, whether it’s on the Peloton Bike, Peloton Tread, or on the mat.

With a Pilates warm-up, you’ll open up your body’s range of motion while stabilizing the muscles that keep you upright on the Bike, striding on the Tread, and steady on the mat. Tap into a Peloton Pilates class on the Peloton App before your next big workout, or tack on these seven Pilates warm-up exercises that Kristin recommends to enhance your cycling, running, strength training, or yoga practice. 

Kristin McGee doing criss crosses, a pilates mat exercise

1. Criss Cross

This exercise activates muscles that help with flexion and rotational movement. 

  1. Lie on your back with your hands behind your head, elbows wide, and knees bent in a tabletop position. 

  2. Lift your head and neck up and rotate your torso to bring your right elbow towards your left knee as you extend your right leg out in front of you to forty-five degrees. Switch to the other side. 

  3. Alternate crossing right and left, keeping your elbows wide and spine neutral. Try inhaling as you twist to one side, then exhaling to the other side. 

  4. Aim for 10 to 12 reps. 

Muscles worked: Deep core, obliques

img-2-Do These 4 Pilates Moves Before Your Next Workout

2. Side Kneeling Leg Lift

Kristin loves this move for targeting the outer hips and glutes, which need to be strong to stabilize the pelvis and power through runs, rides, and squats

  1. Start on your knees and lean to the right side, placing your right hand on the mat for support, torso facing forward. 

  2. Lift the left leg off the ground and extend your leg straight. 

  3. Raise your left leg up to hip height, keeping your toes pointing forward. 

  4. Keep your abs and lats engaged and use your outer hip and glute muscles to lower and lift the extended leg. Switch sides.

  5. Try 10 to 12 reps on each side. 

Muscles worked: Abdominals, latissimus dorsi, outer hips, glutes

Anna Greenbeg doing a teaser, a pilates mat exercise

3. Teaser

Teaser is an incredible way to strengthen deep abdominal muscles that help cyclists, runners, and yogis maintain strong form and prevent injuries. 

  1. Lie on your back with your arms overhead, legs stretched out in front of you. 

  2. Inhale and raise your arms, upper body, and legs in unison off the floor, creating a V-shape (bend the knees softly if you need to modify).

  3. Exhale as you lower back down to the mat. 

  4. Try three to five reps. 

Muscles worked: Transverse abdominis, pelvic floor

Pilates Leg Pull Front

4. Leg Pull Front

Planks are awesome for strengthening the entire core as well as the arms. Adding a leg lift really fires up the glutes, and you learn to keep the core active and truly isolate the backside in this move.

  1. Get in a plank pose, legs straight, back flat, and arms extended below your shoulders. 

  2. Lift your right leg off the floor to just above hip height without displacing the pelvis or dropping the opposite hip. 

  3. Rock forward and back on your left toes, keeping your body in a long, straight line. 

  4. Lower the right leg and repeat on the opposite side. 

  5. Repeat three to five times. 

Muscles worked: Triceps, abdominals, glutes, hamstrings

Roll-Up, Kristin McGee GIF | The Output by Peloton

5. Roll Up

This classic Pilates move fires up your core while also activating your hip flexors—great before a run or other cardio activity.

  1. Lie on the floor, legs straight, arms stretched out over your head.

  2. Inhale and lift your arms, head, and neck off the floor.

  3. Lower your chin toward your chest, engage your abs, and begin to roll up to a seated position, one vertebrae at a time.

  4. Keep your arms raised overhead, then extend them forward and past your toes as you reach forward with your torso.

  5. Exhale, round your back, and slowly roll back down to the floor.

  6. Repeat five times.

Muscles worked: Transverse abdominis, hip flexors

Pilates Roll Over

6. Roll Over

Warm up your entire spine and increase your flexibility with this easy move. You’ll build core strength while also activating your hamstrings and glutes.

  1. Lie on your back, bend your knees, and bring them to your chest.

  2. Place your arms against your sides and press them into the mat for support, palms facing down.

  3. Raise your legs straight into the air keeping your feet together, toes pointed.

  4. Engage your core and hike your legs over your head, allowing your hips to come off the floor. Keep reaching with your legs until your toes touch the floor behind your head.

  5. Open your legs about a foot apart. Flex your feet and roll back down to the start, keeping your legs straight.

  6. Once legs are directly overhead again, bring your feet together, point your toes, and repeat.

  7. Do three to five reps.

Muscles worked: Abdominals, glutes, hamstrings, lower back

Pilates Corkscrew

7. Corkscrew

This move engages your obliques to stabilize your body while teaching you muscle control.

  1. Lie on your back, legs outstretched, and arms against your sides. Press your arms into the mat for stability, palms facing down.

  2. Lift your legs off the floor and raise them directly above you.

  3. Engage your abs and lift your hips off the floor, so that you are balancing on your upper back and shoulder blades. 

  4. Keeping hips and torso steady, let your legs drop to the left at about 30 degrees. 

  5. Roll down your spine so that your back is flat on the floor as you rotate legs clockwise to 6 o’clock (keep feet about two feet off the floor). 

  6. Roll back up on your upper spine as legs rotate over to 9 o’clock and back to 12 o’clock, making a full circle above your body.

  7. Make three circles clockwise, then three counterclockwise.

Muscles worked: Transverse abdominis, obliques, glutes, quadriceps


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