You don't need weights to build upper-body strength, just this four-move Pilates routine

Build a strong, resilient body and develop core strength with this short bodyweight Pilates session

Woman doing Pilates bird dog pose
(Image credit: Getty)

Bodyweight workouts are a great way for beginners to build strength and muscle, with the added benefits of improving your coordination, balance, and posture.

What's more, you don't need any equipment to get started (although a yoga mat provides some welcome extra grip on slippery floors) and there are hundreds of exercises to try.

If that has piqued your interest, try this Pilates-inspired routine from certified instructor Georgia Weibel. It will strengthen your arms, back, and core with just four bodyweight exercises, while simultaneously providing a refreshing stretch for your upper-body muscles. 

“It’s so important to open up the upper body, especially in modern society where we spend so much time looking down at our phones and computer screens,” Weibel told Fit&Well. “This upper-body Pilates workout is perfect for anyone who works at a desk all day or spends a lot of time sitting."

Watch Weibel's videos below for a demonstration of all four exercises, then turn them into a workout by completing eight reps of each move for between one and four rounds, depending on how much time you have available.

Watch Georgia Weibel’s four move upper-body workout

Using the correct form is particularly important during Pilates workouts, as slight tweaks to your body position can enhance the effectiveness and difficulty of the movements. 

“During the breaststroke, focus on drawing your shoulders down your back when reaching your arms behind. This will give you a beautiful posture correction,” Weibel advises.

Another tip is to think about squeezing the muscles you’re using during each move. This will activate mind-muscle connection, which can increase the activity in the targeted muscle during the workout.

To make this routine more challenging, you can wear a pair of ankle weights or Bala Bangles, which are a type of wrist weights. This will increase the load across your body and challenge your muscles further.

If you enjoyed this workout, put your full-body strength to the test with this 30-minute Pilates routine. Or, if you want a longer-term plan to follow, consider starting our 30-day Pilates plan for beginners

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.