I tried this five-move Pilates routine instead of my usual weights session and the results were impressive

This workout is great for building stability and was the perfect way to diversify my strength training

Woman doing tabletop exercise outside on yoga mat.
(Image credit: Alice Porter)

I swear by weight lifting for building muscle and getting strong. But I often neglect bodyweight exercises, which not only help with muscle growth, but can also help to improve balance, flexibility and stability, all of which can improve overall health.

This is why Pilates can be such an effective way to build functional strength, and, in theory, all you need is a yoga mat. I've done a few classes in the past, but found that the studio sessions were quite expensive. 

But then I discovered this short routine from personal trainer and yoga instructor Rhiannon Bailey. It uses your body weight alone, so you can do it whenever you have a spare moment and a bit of space. 

It's a circuit-style workout, with 40 seconds of work followed by 20 seconds of rest, repeated three or four times, depending on how much time you have. I squeezed a 15-minute version into my lunch break, which was ideal when I'd been sitting all day.

Since Pilates involves small movements and adjustments, I watched Bailey's video demonstrations a few times before I started. Plus, perfecting your form is particularly important if you want to get the most out of each exercise.

Watch Rhiannon Bailey's five-move Pilates routine

One thing is for sure, Pilates exercises look a lot easier than they feel. I'm used to lifting heavy weights, but using my body weight to do exercises like tricep presses really pushed my strength to its limit, and I found myself experiencing those well-known "Pilates shakes" during exercises like the side plank oblique crunch.

Although this routine targets the entire body, I felt it most around my core muscles. Pilates movements require your core for balance and to keep your posture correct, which helps stabilize your body during some of the balances.

I certainly found myself having to take breaks during the 40 second periods, as some of the exercises required a lot of balance and I found myself falling out of them at times, which wasn't a problem — you just take up the position again.

But I noticed my form improving throughout the workout, and I'm definitely going to be adding this routine to my workout schedule, to improve my bodyweight strength and supplement my regular training,

If you're after another core-focused routine to add to your schedule, you could give this Pilates ab workout a try. If you're wondering whether you should do yoga or Pilates to build core strength, it's really down to if you enjoy the slower movements of a yoga practice. 

Alice Porter
Freelancer Writer

Alice Porter is a freelance journalist covering lifestyle topics including health, fitness and wellness. She is particularly interested in women's health, strength training and fitness trends and writes for publications including Stylist Magazine, Refinery29, The Independent and Glamour Magazine. Like many other people, Alice's personal interest in combining HIIT training with strength work quickly turned into a CrossFit obsession and she trains at a box in south London. When she's not throwing weights around or attempting handstand push-ups, you can probably find her on long walks in nature, buried in a book or hopping on a flight to just about anywhere it will take her.