That’s why we asked Nina Marchione, program director of Sculpt (which infuses barre, yoga, and Pilates) at SOLACE in New York City, for some quick no-equipment toners you can do anywhere. While pricey megaformer Pilates classes might be all the rage right now, sometimes you just want to kick it old school with nothing but you and your mat.
These 12 moves will target everything from your core to your thighs. And while they may look simple, we promise you’ll feel your muscles sizzle. (For more tips on how to build muscle, pick up Lift to Get Lean by Holly Perkins.) We snagged a few pointers from Nina to guide you through each exercise:
1. Bird Dog: As you extend your leg, imagine you’re stretching a rubber band to keep resistance in your movement. Balance your bodyweight by engaging your core.
2. Side Plank to Pilates Pushup: Always align your shoulder over your wrist or elbow, and be sure to engage your bottom leg to get more lift in the obliques. When you go for your pushup, remember to keep your elbows squeezed in next to the ribcage to work your triceps.
3. Swimmers: Squeeze your butt and press your tailbone to the floor as you lift your chest. Keep your shoulders down and neck long as you focus on engaging your back muscles.
4. Reverse Plank with Leg Lift: Continually drive hips up and keep your shoulders pressed down. Stabilize and engage through the back of your body from legs to torso.
5. Single-Leg Bridges: Make sure your knee is lined up over your ankle. Squeeze your butt and pull your lower abs down as you lift your hips and lower back off the floor. Extend the top leg and engage it by pointing or flexing your foot to the sky. Relax your neck and shoulders.
6. Side Leg Sweeps: Stack hips and try to stabilize your core to isolate the movement to the leg. Keep resistance in your motion by constantly engaging the leg as it travels through space.
7. Side Leg Circles Big to Small: Follow the same guidelines as with the side leg sweeps.
8. Side Leg Lifts: Don’t let your top hip rock back as you lift your leg, be sure to keep it still. Flatten your back as if you’re sitting in a chair, and don’t let your spine round.
9. Can-Can: This movement is meant to work the core. Be sure to focus on using your abdominals to move your legs.
10. Scissor Kicks: Relax your neck and think about driving your navel to your spine as you kick. Try to push a sharp active exhale out through your mouth every time you switch legs. Lengthen those hamstrings and aim for a straight leg.
11. 100’s: Gaze toward your navel and focus on pulling your abs down so that your lower back stays pressed to the floor. Don’t forget to inhale and exhale as you count your reps. 10 sets of 10 equals 100, hence the name!
12. Planks: Lift your abs and flatten your back. Squeeze your butt and inner thighs. Maintain a long neck, with shoulders stacked above the wrists (or elbows, for forearm plank).
Special thanks to SOLACE in NYC for letting us work up a sweat in their space.