Lydia’s Top 5 Mat Pilates Exercises to do from home

5 top Mat Pilates exercises

When teaching my Pilates classes, I often think “this is one of my favourite exercises!”… which inspired me to list my top 5 Pilates exercises to do from home! So here they are!



My number one – I love this exercise for several reasons, and unless clinically contraindicated, I give it to most people at the start of their workout, and also as a home exercise for many of my physio clients.

This exercise helps improve spinal mobility and work any tight spots you may have in your back. It is also great for firing up all the small stabilising muscles of the spine (the multifidus muscle) as well as strengthening the glutes and the muscles around the hip.

The key to this exercise is to do it correctly… Really try to visualise each vertebra moving separately as you peel up and roll back down again, creating length through the spine throughout the whole movement. Keep the pressure even on both feet and monitor the alignment of your legs – keep the feet, knees and hips in line with each other, squeezing a towel between the knees if that helps.


Dead bugs / Femur arcs

A fantastic exercise to strengthen the abdominal muscles and work on hip dissociation – i.e.  moving the hips separately from the lower spine and pelvis. Femur arcs load the spine more, so it is important to ensure this exercise is done correctly.



A great exercise for strengthening the muscles required for dynamic stability in everyday life, especially walking and running. It targets your abdominals, glutes, hamstrings, and latissimus dorsi, which provide a sling of support through your back line. It also helps improve your body awareness. Everyone can benefit from this exercise, and it can be simplified for rehabilitation purposes, or made more challenging for those who are working to elevate their performance. There are so many options with this exercise! Remember to keep the spine in a neutral alignment throughout the exercise and keep your abdominals engaged, so that you don’t allow your ribs to drop down towards the floor.

Primal movement mat pilates exercises



Anyone with a tight lower back, especially into the Quadratus Lumborum muscles on each side, will love this exercise as it provides a fabulous stretch down the side of the back. The rotation variation also helps mobilise the thoracic spine into rotation and flexion or extension. I find that prenatal clients, in particular, love this exercise – it’s so easy to do, yet so effective.


Book opening

This exercise can be hard to get the hang of initially, but once mastered it’s definitely a winner! Many people have reduced thoracic mobility (upper spine between the shoulder blades) and this exercise really helps to open up the upper back. Remember to keep the pelvis still, and rotate from the navel and ribs in order to target the thoracic spine. Don’t worry how far your arm reaches back; instead, focus on how the spine rotates around a central axis as if it is being wrung out like a dishcloth.


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There you have it! My top 5 Mat Pilates exercises which can be done at home.

Tip: try to do these every day for a week and see how you feel after!

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