You can’t take your favorite instructor or a bulky Pilates reformer with you when you travel—but this plan is the next best thing. The secret of its success: a simple band. “The beauty of working on equipment like a reformer is it aids your alignment to ensure you’re getting the full benefits of an exercise,” says Amber Adams, Pilates manager at Equinox East 54th street. “On a mat, a band’s resistance can act as a substitute to spring resistance, helping you maintain your alignment. It also ensures you’re engaging your small and deep muscles, rather just your large ones.”
The moves here are quintessential Pilates—some of the classical exercises you’d perform on a reformer—and together they strengthen your muscles from head to toe. “The plan challenges every dimension of your body: the front, sides, and back,” says Adams, who designed the routine and demos the moves below. Do this workout when you can’t make it to the studio; you’ll never have to skip a session again.
You’ll need a yoga mat and a flat, medium-resistance band. (If you’re using a Theraband, try a blue one.) Do 1 or 2 sets of each move in order. Perform the workout as many days per week as you’d like.
Wrap the band around your thighs and lie face up on the mat with knees bent and feet hip-width apart on the floor. Extend your arms at your sides, palms down. Inhale, then exhale as you raise your hips and lower back off the floor until your body forms a line from shoulders to knees; open knees farther apart, bring knees back to hip-width apart, and then exhale as you lower your body to the mat. Do 4 or 5 reps.
Wrap the band around your shins, just below your knees, and lie face up with arms extended at sides; grasp an end of the band with each hand, between thumb and forefinger. Raise legs into a tabletop position. Pull bellybutton toward spine, lift arms and shoulders off the mat, and extend legs at a 45-degree angle. Pump arms up and down with a small range of motion, inhaling for five pumps and exhaling for five pumps. Repeat an additional nine times (for a total of 100 pumps), keeping shoulders lifted and band taut the entire time.
Wrap the middle of the band around balls of feet, crisscross it in front of ankles, and hold an end in each hand. Lie face up and extend legs straight up toward ceiling, heels touching. Extend arms at your sides, bringing them away from your hips until band is taut. Inhale, then exhale as you lift hips and rotate legs clockwise in a circle. Immediately inhale, then exhale as you rotate legs in the opposite direction. Do 10 reps, alternating direction each time.
Lie face up with knees bent into chest; loop the middle of the band around your feet, and hold an end in each hand. Inhale, then exhale as you pull your bellybutton toward your spine, and simultaneously extend your legs at a 45-degree angle, raise your arms overhead, and sit up, so your body forms a V. Inhale, then exhale as you reverse the motion to slowly return to the starting position. Do 3 to 5 reps.
Loop the middle of the band around the balls of your feet and hold an end in each hand. Lie faceup with arms and legs extended on the mat. Inhale and pull your bellybutton toward your spine; exhale as you slowly lift your shoulders, and then your back off the floor and bend forward, reaching your arms overhead toward your feet. Inhale, then exhale as you slowly roll back to the starting position. Do 3 to 5 reps.
Sit with your legs extended in front of you, feet wider apart than the mat. Loop the center of the band around your right thigh, and hold an end in each hand. Raise arms to shoulder height out to sides, palms facing the floor. Inhale, then exhale as you rotate torso to the right and bend forward, reaching right arm behind you as you reach left hand past right toes. Inhale as you reverse the motion to return to the starting position. Do 3 to 5 reps, then loop the band around your left thigh and repeat, rotating to the left.
Hold the middle of the band with both hands and get in plank position with hands shoulder-width apart. Lower your legs to the mat so you’re in an upward dog position, with thighs, belly, and chest lifted and arms extended (make sure there is tension in the band.) In one motion, lift hands and extend your arms in front of you as you drop your torso down and lift your legs. Use momentum to immediately rock back to the starting position and repeat. Do 6 to 8 reps.