Our 7-move, 12-minute Pilates workout to get a stronger core, glutes and thighs

This 7-move core workout can be done with a Pilates ring or "magic circle", but you can replace it with a ball or cushion

Pilates workout
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Pilates is a form of exercise designed to increase muscle strength, endurance and flexibility. Whether you do gentle movements for rehabilitation or low-impact beginner's workouts, or you opt for strenuous, intense versions of the exercises to blast your core and burn fat, Pilates has something for everyone.

The best part? You just need a clear bit of floor space and one of the best yoga mats to get started.  While you can get pilates rings or "magic circles" to provide additional resistance, if you're at home you can also use a stiff cushion, a soccer ball or medicine ball, or even a hardback book to achieve the same results. 

Like lots of the best exercises for weight loss, Pilates is great for burning fat and flexibility as well as muscle development. Researchers from the University of Miami found eight weeks of traditional pilates training resulted in a reducing of body fat percentage and improved athletic performance in novice trainees.

Want to get started? This workout from Taryne McPherson, Pilates instructor at boutique London studio East of Eden, has provided us with a fantastic 12-minute, seven-move routine. 

You can see the routine in full below, along with a breakdown of each of the seven moves. 

Taryne McPherson
Taryne McPherson

An expert pilates teacher at London studio East of Eden, Taryne is also a semi-professional cross country runner, running coach, and personal trainer, so she knows her way around the human body!

Watch: Taryne McPherson's 7-move workout

1. Magic circle crunches

  • Lie flat on your back making sure your shoulders are down away from your ears, your knees are bent and your feet are flat on the floor. Place your magic circle between your thighs and your fingers to your temples, ensuring that you have a neutral pelvic position. 
  • Inhale to prepare, gently nodding your head then exhale to bring the head neck and shoulders up into flexion as you do so, squeezing the circle with the thighs at the same time.
  • You should feel the pelvic floor muscles engage, and a corset sensation around your ribs, like they are knitting together, which is the transverse abdominis and internal oblique muscles engaging. 
  • Lower the head, neck and shoulders down on the floor on the inhale, and repeat 10 times.

2. Magic circle thigh squeezes

  • On the last crunch, stay in flexion, keeping that tension in your core. 
  • Moving the arms alongside your hips, compress the circle, ball or cushion with your thighs, "pulsing" for a count of 10
  • Lower the head, neck and shoulders back down to the floor. 

3. Magic circle glute bridges (pull)

  • Take the magic circle and thread your legs through the ring above the knee joint with the heels hip distance apart on the floor. Gently pull out on the circle to feel the outer thighs (abductors) engage. If you don't have a circle, you could use one of the best resistance bands, or perform the move without added resistance.
  • Inhale to prepare, move your pelvis so that it's flat on the floor, then push upwards into the glute bridge, pulling out on the ring with your thighs as you do so.
  • Inhale at the top before returning to the start position. Repeat eight times then on the last rep, stay up, making sure the hips are parallel and pulse the circle out for a count of eight. Hold still maintaining the pressure on the circle for a final count of eight before slowly articulating down to the start position.

4. Magic circle bicycle crunches

  • Move the circle back between your inner thighs, and your hands back to your temples. 
  • Bring the head neck and shoulders up into flexion but this time twist across the body extending the opposite arm alongside the knees. Pulse the ring as you do so, alternating arms. 
  • Repeat eight times before holding and pulsing 8 times to the right, then alternating and pulsing eight times to the left.

5. Magic circle glute bridges (squeeze)

  • Moving back into the glute bridge this time with the ring between your thighs, you will articulate the spine up and down, while simultaneously squeezing the circle. 
  • Repeat eight times. 
  • Stay up for the last one taking the arms above your head and maintaining stability in the hips, pulse the circle for a count of eight, before slowly moving the spine back down to the start position.

6. Magic circle leg extensions

  • Hold the ring in your hands and keep the pelvis neutral, maintaining this pelvic position for the whole exercise. 
  • Put the ring between your ankles lifting the legs up to a tabletop position. 
  • Without shifting the pelvis, extend the legs diagonally on the exhale, moving them back to tabletop on the inhale. 
  • Repeat eight times then extend the legs, and lift and lower eight times with the ring securely between the ankles

7. Magic circle V-sits

  • Take the ring from between the ankles holding it between the palms of the hands. 
  • Bring the head, neck and shoulders up into flexion then, keeping the legs together, extend them to the diagonal as you extend the arms above your head. 
  • Bring arms and legs into the body on the inhale, extending again as you exhale. 
  • Repeat eight times.
  • Finish by windscreen wiping your knees from side to side to release any tension. You did it!
Matt Evans

Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and is currently Fitness and Wellbeing Editor at TechRadar, covering all things exercise and nutrition on Fit&Well's tech-focused sister site. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen runner, gym-goer, and infrequent yogi. His top fitness tip? Stretch.