This is the best Pilates workout you can do, period, according to a top coach

Search for the sweat session is at its higher ever.

A Pilates workout from coach Lottie Murphy
(Image credit: Ben Todd)

So, you're keen to try a Pilates workout and join the likes of Halle Berry, Reese Witherspoon, Hailey Bieber, and even Harry Styles? (Yep, it's reported to be their favourite sweat session). 

It's long been huge in Australia but has since rocketed in popularity in both America and the UK, too. 

First invented in the 1920's, the low-impact activity is now a firm favourite for a number of reasons - it boosts strength and muscle mass, works both body and mind, plus promises to injury-proof your body, too, according to expert Amanda Baracho of X-Pilates.

Sound good? We think so, too. In each session, you focus on precise, controlled movements and focus on six key components: concentration, control, centre, flow, precision and breathing. 

If you're not sure where to start - keep scrolling. Pilates coach Lottie Murphy has shared her go-to Pilates workout (and the one she reckons combines all the best movements for a strong and sculpted body). 

Keep scrolling for her 16-minute Pilates workout of choice - "a great taster but still challenging enough to allow you to understand the fundamentals of Pilates," she explains.

Don't miss our guides to weight training, Barre exercises, and the best fitness apps, while you're at it, and if you're keen to shop kit before your session, scroll our guides to the best gym wear and best gym trainers, here. 

Pilates workout: this is the best session for at home or in the gym 

The below 16-minute workout focuses on working your hips, lower abdominals, obliques, and glutes, and promises to help mobilise your spine and boost your stability, too.

It's an essential class, meaning it's accessible for beginners but also useful for any of you who've tried Pilates before and are looking for a session that'll take you through the best moves.  

Start by sitting on the front of your mat and taking a few grounding breaths. Then, work through the following - all you need to do is play Murphy's video below to follow along in real-time.

She reckons it's one of the most effective Pilates workouts you can try. Ready to give it a go? 

1. Pelvic Curls

How to: Start on your mat and walk your feet in a little bit closer towards you. Starting with some pelvic curls by standing into the feet, breathing in, and placing your arms alongside your body. 

As you exhale, press your lower back into the mat and start to pull your glutes upwards. Make sure your knees, hips and shoulders form a long diagonal line. Inhale at the top and then exhale, trying to increase your mobility in your spine as you return your hips and glutes to the mat. 

Working from the top to tail of your spine, move up again, staying at the top with your hips raised. Again, roll down and repeat. 

How long: Aim for 12 lifts.

2. Toe Taps

How to: Bring your legs up into a tabletop position. As you exhale, tap your right foot on the mat, inhale and then bring it back. Exhale and then tap the left toe. Inhale, and bring it back to your original position.

You should be able to put your hands on your pelvis here, or maybe place one hand under the lower back if it's more comfortable for you.

Aim for a nice and light touch of the toe when you tap it - try not to put any weight through it.

How long: Aim for 12 taps on each leg.

3. Single Leg Stretches

How to: Holding that tabletop position, bring your arms all the way back and then lace the hands behind your head, elbows just in your peripheral vision. Exhale as you come off the mat, and inhale as you come down.

Mobilising the other end of your spine off the mat, try to keep that tabletop position with the legs as you come down, and keep your ribs knitting towards your hips.

Hold your position in place - you should have a little space between the chin and the chest (around the size of a small lemon). Picture yourself holding on to that fruit - then, exhale as you stretch the right leg forwards, and inhale as you bring it back. Exhale, left leg forwards. Inhale, back.

How long: Aim for 12 rounds on each side.

4. Oblique Curl

How to: Bring the legs back up to tabletop position, hands back behind your head, curl up, this time keeping the knees as still as possible next to each other. Then, rotate towards the right, looking past your right thigh. Inhale and centre, exhale and rotate left, alternating with each inhale and exhale. 

How long: Aim for 12 rounds on each side.

5. Single Leg Stretch with Oblique Rotation

How to: Adding the last two positions together (single leg stretch and rotation), raise your legs back up to a tabletop position. With your hands behind your head, curl forwards and rotate right as your left leg stretches away. Similarly, as you rotate left, stretch your right leg away. 

Remember to breathe and centre, too.

How long: Aim for 12 rounds each side.

6. Roll Backs

How to: Rocking up to seated, sit nice and tall. From here, reach the arms out in front of you and roll your back down. Tilt the pelvis underneath, round your upper body, and then take yourself back into that roll-back, anchoring through the feet. 

As you roll up, extend the spine - imagine you're going around a beach ball or a big Pilates ball and coming up and reaching into your back. Aim for a position that feels both comfortable but you also challenging. 

Lifting through the spine, try to lower yourself closer to the floor with each attempt, using your core strength and not your legs to pull you back to the seated position.

How long: Aim for 12 rounds.

7. Pulse Roll Backs

How to: In the roll back position, staying linear in line with the sides of your mat, take it back an inch and up an inch, pulsing eight times.

Focus on engaging your core muscles and lengthening your body.

How long: Aim for eight pulses.

8. Roll Back with Oblique Twist

How to: Keep your feet on the mat and cross your arms over your chest. From here, take a waist twist - look over your right shoulder and twist towards the right. Then, look over your left shoulder and twist towards the left. Inhale as you rotate and exhale as you return to centre. 

Now, roll back and add both the left and right rotations. Try to keep the knees nice and level with each other.

For the final level, run back even further, aiming for a C curve. Exhale as your lift both your right and left leg up, bring the arms back across the chest, and again, rotate right, then left. If you can't do this balance exercise, feel free to modify it and keep your feet on the floor.

How long: Aim for 6 rounds of each of the three movements. 

9. Shoulder Bridge

How to: Take a bridge, lifting your hips up and lowering them back towards the ground as you exhale. Then, inhaling, lift them again, hinging from the hip joints and aiming for a straight up, straight down movement and firing up both your glutes and hamstrings. 

How long: Aim for 12 rounds.

10. Shoulder Bridge Knee Drop

How to: Keeping your hips nice and still, drop your right knee downwards, then, close, Next, let the left knee open to the left and close in.

Make sure not to let the other knee move.

How long: Aim for 6 knee drops each side.

11. Full Roll Ups

How to: Stretching your legs out nice and long, finish with a roll up through the spine. Reach your arms back and then roll upwards, rounding through the spine, flexing the feet as you reach past the toes and then slowly rolling down as you point your feet away and lay back. 

This move is all about centering yourself, so make sure to focus on your breathing here, too.

How long: Aim for 12 rounds.

12. Cat Cow

How to: Come onto all fours, rounding your back and exhaling. Then, release the spine and gently arch, sending your breastbone forward. 

How long: Aim for 60 seconds.

13. Downward Facing Dog

How to: With your palms flat against the mat, tuck your toes underneath you and send your hips all the way up, so you are making a downward V shape. You should be able to feel the stretch in the backs of your legs here.

Don't worry about straightening your legs here - bent knees is often more comfortable and effective. Remember to both wrap your shoulders and lengthen your hamstrings where possible.

How long: Aim for 60 seconds.

14. Roll Downs

How to: From standing, roll down, exhaling and starting from the head. Trying not to let the pelvis move until you have to, fold from the hips and gently move down towards the floor until you can't go any further.

Then, as you inhale, begin to stack your spine and lengthen taller as you stand back up again. Draw your shoulders up, inhale, and release as you exhale.

How long: Aim for 60 seconds. 

Which celebrities practice Pilates?

According to Baracho, famous athletes have been known to practice Pilates to strengthen muscles or get a lean body while others have turned to Pilates to rehabilitate their bodies after injury or to resolve temporary health issues.

"Celebrities such as Halle Berry, Cameron Diaz, Lindsay Lohan, Miley Cyrus, Madonna, Hilary Duff, Kate Winslet, Anna Faris, Reese Witherspoon, Sandra Bullock, Tiger Woods and Hugh Grant all practice Pilates regularly," she explains.

Jennifer Anniston used Pilates in 2021 while she was suffering from an injury and it quickly became her go-to exercise (she’s now one of Pilates’ biggest advocates), Baracho explains. "Similarly, Lady Gaga used Pilates to help deal with her Fibromyalgia, and Belinda Carlisle also claimed that using Pilates increased her height by 6cm!"

Ally Head
Senior Health, Sustainability and Relationships Editor

Ally Head is Marie Claire UK's Senior Health, Sustainability, and Relationships Editor, nine-time marathoner, and Boston Qualifying runner. Day-to-day, she works across site strategy, features, and e-commerce, reporting on the latest health updates, writing the must-read health and wellness content, and rounding up the genuinely sustainable and squat-proof gym leggings worth *adding to basket*. She's won a BSME for her sustainability work, regularly hosts panels and presents for events like the Sustainability Awards, and is a stickler for a strong stat, too, seeing over nine million total impressions on the January 2023 Wellness Issue she oversaw. Follow Ally on Instagram for more or get in touch.