Pilates-Based Exercises You Can Do Anywhere, No Equipment Required!

Pilates-Based Exercises You Can Do Anywhere, No Equipment Required!

October 4, 2023

Limited Space? No Problem!

By Carrie Jacobsen, Group Exercise Instructor/Personal Trainer

Crunch Hoboken

 Well, that time of year is upon us once again. The long and lazy days of summer come to an end, and the renewal of the fall season begins. For me personally, the end of summer is somewhat bittersweet. I’m always a little sad to see the summer go initially – but as the humid temps change to crisp and cooler mornings, I start to get excited for all things warm and cozy coming my way. Yes, my favorite hoodie, Ugg boots, and pumpkin spice lattes are included!

 This seasonal transition also represents a fresh new start for us, as the kids finally return to school (hurray!), we get more time to focus on ourselves, and we get our fitness back on track. If you’ve been letting your workouts slide during the relaxed months of summer, don’t worry! Pilates-based movements are a perfect low-impact way to ease your body back into movement since they help to develop core strength, stability, flexibility, and better posture with minimal risk of injury.


An additional benefit is that they can be done just about anywhere, with little or no equipment. If you’re looking for an all-in-one workout that you can do in a small apartment or dorm, here it is! Listed below are some of my favorite Pilates-based exercises, along with modifications. 

woman stretching

  1. Chest Lift/Ab Scoop

This move is a great way to start since it’s a gentle way to warm up your body and prepare your abs for the more challenging exercises to follow.

 Target muscles: Abdominals, especially the six-pack or rectus abdominis.

  • Start by lying on your back with your knees bent and feet on your mat or floor.
  • Use your abs to lift your chest and shoulders from your mat while “scooping” (drawing in) your navel toward your spine.
  • Pull your abs way down into a deep scoop as you use them to control a slow, smooth curl to lift your chest and shoulders from the mat.
  • Slowly roll back down. Perform 6-8 reps.

 To modify: place hands behind your head if your neck is sensitive. Be careful to not use your hands to pull your head up; focus on using your abs to perform the movement instead.

  1. Roll Up/Roll Down

Target muscles: strengthen the abs and stretch the hamstrings and back.

 Roll up to a seated position, and then back down with as much precision and control as possible. Try not to use momentum or allow your legs to lift off your mat.

 To modify: keep your knees bent throughout the exercise, and place hands on your thighs to assist with roll-up if needed until you build up more strength.


  • Start by lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  • Roll up to a seated position; use hands to “creep up” along thighs for assistance, if needed.
  • Once seated in an upright position, fully extend your legs in front of you, but a slight bend in your knees is fine if your hamstrings feel a little tight.
  • Scoop abs in toward your spine as you stretch your torso forward over your toes, creating opposition.
  • Keep your legs extended as you slowly roll back down to your starting position with precision and control, vertebrae by vertebrae.
  1. Rolling Like A Ball

Target Muscles: strengthens abs and promotes spinal mobility.

 This is a great way to get your blood flowing. This exercise is one of my faves because it feels like a massage for the spine. It also helps to warm up the body and prepare it for more challenging exercises.

  • Start by sitting upright on your mat with knees bent.
  • Lift your legs up.
  • Wrap your arms around your knees to form a ball.
  • Let yourself rock backward.
  • Keep your chin tucked in.
  • Roll forward to return to the seated position.
  • Continue to roll back and then up again. Use your abs to initiate and control the movement; try to resist using momentum.
  • Repeat 10 times.
  1. The Saw

Target Muscles: stretches hamstrings and inner thighs, works obliques, and promotes back mobility.

  • Start by sitting as tall as possible on your mat, legs extended in front of you, about mat distance apart. If your hamstrings feel tight, modify by keeping a slight bend in your knees.
  • Keep your hips anchored and level as you twist to the side.
  • Use opposition when reaching forward so that you also reach back at the same time.
  1. Single Leg Stretch

Target Muscles: strengthens the entire core, especially the abs, and stretches legs.

This exercise builds strength and stamina as you work to maintain an upper body curve and keep the torso stable while switching the leg and arm positions.

  • Start by laying down on your back with your knees bent, and hands down by the hips.
  • One at a time, float your legs into “tabletop”, (the position that refers to lifting your feet from the floor with knees aligned over hip joints and shins parallel to the ground).
  • Engage your abs as you curl your shoulders up from your mat.
  • Bring your right knee in towards you as you lengthen your left leg forward.
  • Pull your knees in unison with your breaths.
  • Perform 8-16 reps.

To modify: leave your head down or work with your legs higher.

woman doing glute bridges

  1. Double Leg Stretch

For even more abdominal strength and endurance, we follow single-leg stretch with double-leg stretch. This move is the perfect way to experience working from the center of the body as the arms and legs reach away and return together. 

  • Start by laying down on your back, knees bent, and hands down by the hips.
  • Use your abs to curl your head and shoulders from your mat.
  • Bring your hands just in front of your knees, resting on your shins.
  • Inhale to prepare, then extend your legs forward, as the arms reach up overhead on an exhale.
  • Perform 8-16 reps.

To modify: leave your head on the floor; reach arms and legs straight up toward the ceiling instead of on a diagonal.

  1. Glute Bridge

This move is excellent for promoting spinal mobility and targets your entire lower body.

Target Muscles: strengthens hamstrings, glutes, and the lower back, stretching quads and hip flexors.

  • Lie on your mat with your feet hip-width apart.
  • Keep your feet flat on the floor.
  • Press down into your feet to lift your hips off the floor.
  • Come up until you are in a relatively straight line from your knees to your ribs.
  • Pause at the top.
  • Pull your heels towards your glutes as you come all the way back down again.
  • Perform 8-16 reps.
  1. Plank

Target Muscles: back extensors, abdominals, shoulders, arms

Planks not only work all your abdominal muscles, but they also help with your posture, strengthen your back, and work your quads and glutes. A fantastic full-body exercise to add to your routine!

  • Start on all fours.
  • Position your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Extend your legs back and come onto your toes.
  • Roll your shoulders back.
  • Keep your chest up high.
  • Press into your palms.
  • Make sure your shoulders, hips, and knees are aligned and your pelvis is slightly tilted in.
  • Hold for 15-30 seconds.

woman doing plank

To Modify: perform on elbows; or lower knees.

  1. All Fours (opposite arm/ leg balance reach)

A terrific way to build balance over time while strengthening your entire core!

Target Muscles: strengthens abs, lower back, hamstrings, and glutes, stretching the entire body

  • Start by kneeling on hands and knees; stacking your wrists, elbows, and shoulders; and knees hip-width apart and directly under your hips.
  • Press your shins and the tops of your feet into the mat. If you notice it’s uncomfortable on your feet, place a small blanket under them.
  • Begin by reaching your right leg behind you, pushing your toes/ball of the foot into the floor.
  • Draw your leg back into All-Fours, and switch sides.
  • To challenge your core stability, add the opposite arm forward.
  •  Perform 8-16 reps.
  1. Cat/Cow

A perfect stretch to end your session! It’s also fantastic for alleviating lower back pain or discomfort.

Target Muscles: stretches lower back and strengthens abs when drawing the navel in toward the spine as you round your lower back and curl your tailbone toward the ceiling.

  • Start on all fours.
  • Press down into your arms.
  • Tuck your tailbone under and round your back.
  • Pause at the top and exhale, trying to tuck your tailbone under a little more.
  • Unravel your tailbone, lift your chest and gaze, and arch your back.
  • Allow your stomach to drop towards the mat.
  • Perform 8-10 reps

Crunch’s group fitness classes promote a culture of fun with no judgments. It’s an environment for all types of individuals with various goals. Find a Crunch gym near you to try our free trial membership, or join Crunch now. Your goals are made to be crushed. With Crunch, you’ll have the tools, resources, and support to make it

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