The Value of 5 Basic Pilates Mat Exercises

The Value of 5 Basic Pilates Exercises

The above quote from Joe Pilates appears in The Eighth Avenue “Contrologist” by Evelyn S. Ringold, an article published in the New York Herald Tribune in 1964.

It's one of my favorites.

I have come to understand the myriad benefits of even the very first Pilates exercises. And I always assume Joe is referring to the first 5 Mat exercises (because I love them).

How nice would it be if everyone in the world could feel invigorated and positive? All of us at peace with ourselves and with the world around us.

The Value of 5 Basic Pilates Mat Exercises

In my very first Mat class at Excel Pilates in Washington, DC, we learned ‘the basic 5.'

The Basic 5:

The Value of 5 Basic Pilates Mat Exercises

  1. The Hundred
  2. The Roll Up
  3. Single Leg Circles
  4. Roll Like a Ball
  5. Spine Stretch

These are wonderfully effective when I've procrastinated my time away for a larger workout until dinner time. It looks like a workout is not going to happen and my gosh, I still need to fucking stretch out.

5 in less than 5

These are my 11th hour go-to exercises. Get a good workout in just a few moments. I usually finish the basic 5 in less than 5 minutes.

And I feel virtuous. You can really dig deep into these exercises and they can be thorough.

From one of my very first Pilates teachers, Kerry DeVivo of Excel Pilates Annapolis:

My first and passionate thought about the basic five is this. It is the template on which most everything in the Pilates method is built.  Each of these exercises serves as a building block to other more complex exercises and concepts. 

And within the “basic” nature of each exercise lies sophisticated concepts upon which advanced knowledge can be applied by the long term Pilates practitioner.

How amazing are these 5 exercises? Let me count the ways:

  1. They make a good goal for new clients to practice at home. These exercises will increase their strength, their memory and retention and they'll soon be on their way to figuring out what exactly you're asking of them in their lessons.
  2. It's a good way to begin working out on your own if that's not something you regularly do. Build your daily or every-other-daily Pilates habit little by little. After a few weeks of just the basic 5, you'll want to add a few extra exercises.
  3. They are extremely difficult to do perfectly. You'll be sweating if you apply yourself.

Use these practice videos to perfect your Basic 5. If the exercises are new to you use the more deliberately paced workout first. Then challenge yourself with the uptempo video.

Deliberate Pace:

Brisk Pace:

Got an extra minute?

If you've got an extra minute you can add 2 more exercises giving yourself a basic 7:

  1. Single Leg Pull

The Value of 5 Basic Pilates Mat Exercises

  1. Double Leg Pull

The Value of 5 Basic Pilates Mat Exercises

Start with 5 repetitions of these 2 exercises. You can even increase the reps to 8 or 10 to get an extra infusion of strength in your stomach.

Also included in this next video is the 3rd exercise in the order of the Pilates Mat exercises, the Roll Over.

If the Roll Over isn't an exercise you currently do, just leave it out and proceed to the next exercise, Single Leg Circles. If you do it and you've got a moment to spare then by all means have at it!

How many minutes does it take to feel awesome?

Get your Basic 5 on and report back!

What are the Benefits of a Daily Pilates Mat Workout?

BONUS VIDEO BLOG: Join me for just a few minutes every day and Return to Life!

What are the Benefits of a Daily Pilates Mat Workout?

Joe Pilates intended his mat exercises to be done as homework.

Your maintenance plan.

30 minutes to return you to the “zest and pleasure” of living!

But first, we must begin.

With a studio in my home, doing my own workout often feels like I am still working…Or maybe I have taught so many clients in a day that I am convinced I had a workout as well?

Ultimately the challenge becomes about just lying down on the Mat/Reformer/Cadillac.

Oh it can be daunting…

What are the Benefits of a Daily Pilates Mat Workout?So I teamed up with my husband (as fate would have it, also named Joe) and embarked on a daily mat practice.

Inspired by Benjamin Degenhardt’s March MATness, our plan was to do at least a few exercises every morning: 10 minutes at the bare minimum and a bit more or even the entire Mat if time permitted.

10 minutes is the least that I can do for my optimum health.

It’s my body.

Hopefully I'm gonna have it for a while, right? It behooves me to care for it so it will run strong for life!

Pilates is my lifetime warrantee.

I would also like to note that a few times each week Joe is scheduled to begin work at 6am. So that would mean some 5am Pilates for me.

Was I up to the challenge?

Was I up?

To be frank, I have never been a morning exerciser. It’s all about the sleeping in for me and then squeezing in a workout between clients. Which I have to admit, rarely happens…

So we began in July this year. It is now mid-October and we have maybe missed a handful of days – Sunday, the hardest day sometimes. A day of rest, we rationalized. It’s okay, I thought, Sandy Shimoda will kick my ass on Monday, so I’m safe.

Sorry, no photos of the 5am workouts…remember, Pilates isn't pretty…

But please, PLEASE!! What are the exciting results???

  • Joe recently announced for the second time since our first workout that all nagging “injuries” he would feel now and then, have vanished.

And that’s a big statement coming from him. When you are married to a Pilates teacher, we of course offer much more counsel than one might desire.

“You know, Pilates could help you with that.”

“There’s an exercise for that.”

“Blah, blah, Pilates…blah blah blah.”

All of which is true, of course, but coming from one’s spouse…well, you know how that goes…

  • The trajectory of my own Pilates workout remains ever onward and upward. No sliding back if you do the mat (at least a bit of it) EVERY day.

You can get even more out of your weekly lessons when you arrive strong and focused.

  • I keep myself strong to teach my clients. Pushing and pulling and standing all day long is harder than you think… or harder than I think it is.

It is a constant challenge to take care of my own body as I give full energy to others.

  • My back no longer feels stiff after hours spent on my laptop writing these posts 🙂 

Time flies when you are blogging…!

  • Any insecurity about how to reconcile my appetite (insatiable) with staying fit has disappeared as well. I feel fabulous and believe that I look stunning as well. Mentally my daily Pilates workout has empowered me to be confident in my own skin. Not an easy feat.

One more Series of 5, please…

  • I feel weird to have a morning without the Mat actually…

Why not cultivate a good habit?

Bonus video blog: 7 ways to feel fantastic in 5 minutes.

Join me!

Use these 7 exercises as a place to begin. The entirety of the Mat may seem too much at first, especially if you would like to introduce a friend or family member to a daily Pilates workout.

Start simply and build on your success day by day. Use the video at first. Then see if you can learn them and they’ll be YOURS for life!!

Share your thoughts and progress in a comment below.

Thank you for reading…and for doing your Mat!



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