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No Fancy Equipment Needed: How to Do Pilates at Home

Contrary to what you may see on social media, Pilates is pretty easy to get into from the comfort of your own living room.

Mercey Livingston CNET Contributor
Mercey Livingston is a health and wellness writer and certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach. She's written about fitness and wellness for Well+Good, Women's Health, Business Insider, and Prevention.com among others. When not writing, she enjoys reading and trying out workout classes all over New York City.
Mercey Livingston
5 min read
woman does Pilates in living room

Pilates is a popular workout that can help you get stronger and more flexible at home.

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Pilates is one of those workouts that constantly surprises me. Sometimes I'll take a class and find that it's the perfect restorative type of movement I need but I still feel like I did something. On another day I can go to a reformer class (a type of Pilates class where you use a reformer machine for resistance) and find it so challenging that I have to stop to take multiple breaks. 

Pilates classes have a reputation for being low-impact yet powerful workouts and the good news is you can do them at home, whether you prefer a studio with fancy equipment or not. With the huge amount of Pilates equipment out there (including Pilates balls, Pilates rings, bands and reformers) it can seem intimidating to start at home. To help you start your own Pilates routine at home, I tapped two Pilates instructors for their best tips on how to set up a home practice. 

What is Pilates?

Pilates was developed in the 1920s by Joseph Pilates. According to Mayo Clinic, Pilates practices are fundamentally based on low-impact movements and exercises that help strengthen the muscles while also keeping them balanced and flexible. There is a huge emphasis on alignment and posture in Pilates, which is one of the reasons why many people are drawn to the method. Dancers and athletes often use it to help balance their other training, and it's often used to help people rehab or recover from injuries. 

There are several types of Pilates classes and methods out there, and it can take some trial and error to figure out what type is best for you and what kind of instructor style you like.

Pilates is a highly effective workout that can help you get stronger while keeping your body safe. Other benefits include better core strength, stability, flexibility, injury prevention and better posture.

If your idea of a great workout class is low impact, slow, but intense -- then you need to try a reformer style class. "With the resistance-based movement, you are moving as slow as you can. As you are moving slowly, you are using your bodyweight," Triana Brown, training manager at Solidcore, tells CNET. "When you're at home, it's the same idea and just as effective because you're getting the slow twitch muscle fibers because you are moving really slow and building that tension and eventually bringing it to failure. And you're still getting the same burn feeling [as a reformer studio class]."


Pilates studios often have equipment, like reformers, for use in class. But you don't need much equipment to practice at home. 

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Basics for your home studio setup

Although you don't need any equipment to practice Pilates at home, a few basics, like a yoga mat, will help you set up your space and have a comfortable practice. According to Heather Andersen, founder of New York Pilates and NYP Online, finding some space and ideally, a space with light is a good foundation. 

"It's important to set yourself up for success when working out from home. Step one is to find a spot with plenty of space and good light. Step two is to set the vibe. Play some music and light a scented candle," Andersen says. Setting up a space you not only feel comfortable working out in but enjoy will help you feel motivated and more likely to keep your practice going.

If you're unable to get to your studio Pilates workouts, Andersen suggests trying to mimic the experience by putting on a workout outfit you would wear to the studio and connect with others.

"Power up by putting on an outfit you love. Connect with your community by recording and sharing your workout [on social media]. Recording your workout can help keep you motivated plus you can track your progress and assess your form. Don't forget to post and tag for some community support," Andersen says.


Sliders are tools that can help you mimic the movement of a Pilates reformer at home.

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Equipment for a reformer-style class

A Pilates reformer is a machine that looks like a massage table, but it has a carriage that slides and different springs that let you control the resistance. You can purchase them for home use, but they're expensive.

Instead of buying a Pilates reformer machine, you can replicate it with smaller and less expensive tools.

Sliders: Sliders are discs that you can place your hands or feet on to help them mimic a Pilates reformer class at home. Some sliders have foam cushioning that can help if you want more support and cushion when you use them. If you don't have sliders on hand, you can use other easy props that you already have at home that can work similarly. The goal with finding a tool to mimic a slider is to use something that lets your hands or feet glide smoothly across the floor when you do certain exercises, like a plank. The movement helps you create resistance with your own bodyweight, which feels similar to if you were on a reformer machine. 

"You need sliders [to take a class like SolidCore] but I've seen clients make anything work like I've seen clients in fuzzy socks, or clients with carpet use plastic shopping bags or towels," Brown says. She adds that finding a slider that works well on carpet can take some trial and error. You may need to swap your props or relocate to a different room that has hard surface floors. 

Weights: Some Pilates classes use hand-held weights to help improve resistance while you exercise. Many Pilates workouts can be modified without weights if you don't have them or don't want to use them. Typically you will use lighter weights for these classes, between 2 and 8 pounds. 

Brown suggests using props like wine bottles or water bottles if you don't have any weights at home. 


Pilates workouts are easy to incorporate into your home routine.

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At-home Pilates workouts to try 

Studios like Solidcore and New York Pilates offer classes on streaming platforms (Solidcore currently uses Zoom) so you can choose from a variety of class formats. If you want a more interactive class, try Zoom classes where the trainer can see you and help you adjust your form. You can also see other people in the class, which may help give you a sense of community and accountability, which you may miss if you're used to group classes. 

You can find Pilates classes all over the internet, too; watch a few of my favorites below.

Online Pilates workouts to try at home

Solidcore mini-class:

Beginner's mat workout:

Reformer class:

Pilates for weight loss:

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.