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No Reformer? No Problem! Tips For At Home Mat Pilates

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Pilates has gained immense popularity, especially after Miley Cyrus’ toned arms at this year’s Grammy Awards took social media by storm. Following Miley’s performance of Flowers at the award show, many women signed up for their first Pilates class, the type of exercise the pop star swears by.

Traditional Pilates is taught on a reformer, a machine equipped with springs and bands to provide resistance to exercises, but the expense of the machine and the level of training instructors must have can make reformer Pilates financially prohibitive. 

However, for those worried about expensive classes or dripping in sweat in the company of strangers, there is no need to fret. You can get strong arms, just like Miley’s, from the comfort of your own home!

Pilates originated from Joseph Pilates, the creator of the reformer who also coined the term, “Contrology,” the primary focus of Pilates. Contrology involves movements that target specific muscle groups, working those groups out until failure. 

While Pilates was initially intended to be done on a reformer machine, it is now widely practiced without one, simply requiring a yoga mat. I have done mat Pilates for a couple of years, and I can confirm that it produces great results, even without a reformer (or a $200-per-month class subscription). Because I am somewhat of a veteran mat Pilates warrior (adding this title to my resume), I believe I have learned how to maximize the at-home Pilates experience.

The best pilates creators

Lilly Sabri 

I have been obsessed with Lilly’s videos for years now, partly because of her positive attitude and fun music, but mostly because I have seen and felt a difference in my core strength since following her workouts. What I love about Lilly’s videos is that many of them are short and target specific muscle groups, like the lower abs, thighs, or glutes.  

I find myself coming back to her deep core activation workout time and again because of its high intensity within such a short timeframe. The way I see it, if I can scroll on TikTok for an hour with ease, a five-minute workout with a charismatic instructor and catchy music should be a breeze (and it is!). 

Move With Nicole 

If you are looking for mat-pilates classes that are more closely related to the format of an in-person class, Nicole is the girl for you. Nicole has videos tailored to every level of Pilates enthusiast, from beginner to master, and her soothing voice and gentle encouragement will surely provide the motivation you need to crush your workout.

Renée Mowatt

Pilates can be challenging, but with Renée’s witty commentary and sense of humor, even the hardest mat Pilates workouts seem to fly by. Renée’s videos also get bonus points because laughing at her jokes while holding a plank activates your muscles more, so her workouts produce faster results. While I tend to follow longer Pilates videos on YouTube, many of you may be crunched for time, or are looking for Pilates-type workout inspiration to add to your current gym routine.

For those of you who want Pilates workout inspiration, but who aren’t avid YouTube users, I would highly recommend these Pilates influencers on TikTok


Light Dumbbells

While Pilates is not traditionally done with weights, some classes are taught with light hand weights, and I find that I get more out of mat Pilates workouts when I use them.

Three to five-pound dumbbells can be added to many ab and arm exercises, such as crunches, lateral arm raises, and tricep kickbacks and extensions. Adding a small dumbbell can significantly enhance the effectiveness of the exercise for building strength, so I would recommend incorporating weights into your workouts when you can.

Resistance Band 

Resistance bands are similar to dumbbells in that Pilates is usually done without them, but I feel they take the workout up a level, and I think they are especially good for home workouts where you can move at your own pace. While rubber resistance bands work perfectly fine both for arm and leg exercises, I prefer fabric bands because they don’t pinch the skin or roll up easily. 

One of my favorite sets is from Lululemon, but I recently found a set that seems comparable on Amazon for a fraction of the price.  

Yoga Mat 

I am quite particular about the yoga mats I use, but in all honesty, any yoga mat will work for mat Pilates. My favorite brand for yoga mats is Gaiam, and you cannot go wrong with any of their mats, though I do prefer their dry-grip yoga mat for Pilates because the texture of the mat prevents any slipping. Lululemon also makes a very good yoga mat, though it is pricey. However, the quality and durability of the mat make the price more reasonable.

 From sharing some of my favorite creators to recommending the best equipment for at-home mat Pilates, I hope these tips inspire you to try mat Pilates — you just might love it.

Ally Jobe

UCSB '27

Ally is a first year Sociology major at UC Santa Barbara, where she finds particular joy in running, reading poetry, and admiring the sunset. She is elated to be a part of such an amazing group of writers, and she hopes, above all, that her work brightens your day.