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5 Pilates Exercises to Start Your Day

7 min read

Mornings.

We all struggle with them. Snuggled up under the cozy blankets and pillows. Fighting the temptation to snooze for just five more minutes.

Starting the day can be a real challenge.

That’s why it’s so important we all have our own strategies to help us get ready, morning routines that bat away the morning blues and leave us feeling energized and prepared for the day ahead.

With its mood-boosting properties and focus on the stretching and realignment of the body, a morning Pilates routine can be astronomically helpful in this process.

If you’re completely new to Pilates, a gentle morning routine can be a brilliant way to ease yourself into the exercise. We recommend first learning about the basics, educating yourself on the essentials and history of the exercise, before you decide to make it a part of your daily routine.

However, it matters what Pilates exercises you do. Some exercises that will significantly help one person start their day will be less effective for another, according to factors like their professional occupation, physical output, and emotional state.

That’s why we’ve assembled a list of five Pilates exercises that will help everyone, no matter what they experience in a day or do for a living. Be it sitting at a desk typing away at work like blogs (shoutout to me), going to school, working as a homemaker, or doing intensive manual labor.

Arm Circles

The first exercise to start your day is a Pilates exercise for arms. Arm circles are truly a staple of any morning Pilates routine, for two important reasons.

One, they are a move so simple you can do them even if your feeling groggy or sleep-deprived, and two there’s no need to crack out weights or a resistance band, making them financially very inclusive.

All you need to do is stand in a V stance, and draw small circles from your shoulders as you move your arms from facing towards the ceiling to down towards your side. While it seems basic, this move helps tone your arms, shoulders, biceps, forearms, and triceps, areas of the body we all use regardless of profession.

This Pilates exercise for arms also helps you be mindful of your posture, as you need to keep your back straight while performing it to reap the full benefits. Posture is critical to our self-esteem and the healthy development of our spine, not to mention proper posture projects confidence and self-assurance.

This is beneficial not only on a physical level, for office workers, homemakers, and physical laborers, because it also helps you start your day by helping you project a confident, self-assured persona wherever you may be.

To intensify this exercise, reverse the directions of the circles on your second go and add weights to increase the resistance.

The Torso Twist

Known as the 9-5, the Torso Twist is number two in our list of Pilates exercises to start your day as it’s amazing at rotating your spine and realigning your body.

You do it by lying on your back with your knees bent and your arms extended out to the sides, dropping both knees to one side of your body. Like a clock, you twist your torso, moving on an imagined clock around your body from 9 am to 3 pm.

Make sure you keep your posture defined in a sitting position, as only if done with proper form will this move help stretch your spine, realign your body, and alleviate pressure on the back. Similar to arm circles, the torso twist helps reduce strain on the posture, spine, and back, an area many of us suffer from later in life due to unhealthy posture formed in work or school environments.

But what it also does is strengthen your core and abs, especially if you increase the difficulty by leaning back further into the exercise. Core strength is critical as it impacts your overall physical capabilities, beneficial especially for those in roles that require intense athletic ability, working in sports, and even musical theatre.

The torso twist is the best exercise out of this list if you’re considering taking your morning Pilates routine from the mat to the Pilates reformer, as the reformer can provide additional stability and challenge.

If you’re still on the hunt for the reformer for this, there are plenty of stackable and inexpensive Pilates reformers on our site that will suit your home.

Ball Roll

Pilates exercise routines, especially when designed for the morning, always need a move that challenges the limits of your balance and flexibility.

While there is an extensive range of Pilates balance exercises, we think one, in particular, is best for a morning routine- the ball roll.

The ball roll challenges your flexibility and balance without being too overwhelming and intensive for someone who’s just woken up. It massages the spine, works the abdominals and legs while testing your capacity to keep your body under control.

You do this by sitting on the bed or floor with your knees bent and spine rounded into a C curve, then you rock back until the bottom of your shoulder blades touch the bed or the floor, and then exhale and pull the navel to the spine to come back up to your starting position.

Basically, you roll back like a ball.

This is a valuable move for morning Pilates exercise routines because testing your balance and flexibility not only improves those departments but also helps you release a lot of stress and built-up tension you may not be aware of in your body.

The release of this tension increases our focus and awareness and helps us feel legitimately ready for the day. Pilates balance exercises like the ball, true to their name, help us restore balance and harmony to our bodies and our state of mind.

Side Kicks

Side kicks are another of our top five exercises to start your day because they target another essential part of the body we all use no matter our occupation- our legs.

Some of us spend all day on our feet, doing manual labor. Some of us commute and travel long distances. Some of us spend little time on our feet every day at all.

It doesn’t matter- exercising your legs in the morning massively benefits your mobility and health, benefits which become even more crucial if you live an overall sedentary lifestyle.

Side kicks serve to strengthen the outer and inner thigh, quads, gluteus maximus, and even your torso and abdominals without requiring too much movement and energy.

In addition to these benefits, side kicks should be a staple of your morning exercise routine because they are extremely versatile- you can switch them up and keep the exercise interesting every day in a diversity of ways.

Here are just a few of the variants you can experiment with:

  • Front and back kicks, where you flex your foot and do a small pulse kick as far back you can go without moving your pelvis. You need to focus on keeping your core stable. Should be repeated at least 5 times.
  • Side kicks up and down, where you engage your abdominal muscles to kick up towards the ceiling smoothly and then keeping your hip bones stacked slowly lower your leg.
  • Side leg lifts- lying on the mat, use your abdominals to lift both legs off the mat, keeping them completely together all the way from your heels to your thighs, inhale and then lower your legs to the mat using control. Do this exercise six to ten times. You can make it harder by adding magic circles to it, where you rotate your legs.
  • Inner thigh lights- keeping your bottom legs straight, use your inner thigh muscles to raise the bottom of your legs a few inches of the floor, exhale and hold this pose for 5-10 seconds. Repeat five to eight times each side.

Keep in mind that the ribs should stay supported throughout each repetition of this exercise, no matter what variation your doing- if you let them sink into the mat you won’t see the benefits you want to see.

The Swan

The final of our Pilates exercises to start your day, we have the rising swan.

The rising swan exercise in Pilates is similar to the yoga 'Cobra' pose, which is characterized by a snakelike upward stretching notion. It’s designed to be an extremely low impact and relaxing way to stretch your spine and open up your entire body.

Begin with lying flat on your stomach, elbows up and legs together, with your hands gently clasped on the mat. Then, pull your chest gradually off the mat and up, angling forward as you do so.

If your back cracks like a firework, don’t worry- you’re doing it right.

And clearly need it.

After you’ve done it the first time, try again, lifting your upper body higher. If the rising swan becomes painful at any point, immediately stop, straining your back can be a negative consequence of this exercise if performed incorrectly.

Perfect for morning Pilates exercise routines focused on the spine and overall body, the rising swan is especially great for stretching your entire body and relieving tension in areas you may not be aware of, for example, your face.

To truly get the most out of this exercise, time your breathing with the moves, as regulating your breathing has been proven to have a pronounced impact on your emotional and psychological state.

So, arm circles, the torso twist, the ball, the rising swan, and side kicks. Five fantastic Pilates exercises to start your day. These basic and low impact exercises suit everyone, no matter their fitness level, knowledge of Pilates, and profession.

They serve to uplift, rehabilitate and prepare all our bodies for the hardships of daily living, regardless of the extent to which our fitness factors into our job. These Pilates exercises are also ones that can be performed on both a mat and any piece of Pilates equipment.

So if you were thinking of upgrading beyond the mat, but reconsidering it due to your morning routine and these five must-do moves, reconsider no longer, head over to our list of the 11 Best Pilates Reformer Machines.


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