Modified Pilates Exercises

Pilates modifications can help you get the most out of your program.
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Knowing the proper Pilates modifications can give newcomers or those recovering from injury the confidence they need to join a group Pilates class or add Pilates-based exercises to their current fitness routine. Seek out the advice of a trained instructor if you are unsure of a modification or position to get the most out of your program and develop the strength you need.

For Beginners

    If you are new to Pilates, it is important to take modifications when necessary to help you keep form and alignment and protect you from injury. For abdominal exercises such as the Hundred, keep your knees bent into your chest until you develop the abdominal strength to extend your legs. Put a knee on the floor for straight and side planks if you feel tension in your lower back or drop down onto your forearms to protect your wrists. Shorten up your range of motion for supine leg circles and the side-lying series.

Neck Protection

    The core work of Pilates requires abdominal strength and can leave newcomers with pain and tension in their neck. To support your neck during ab work, keep your hands behind your head with your elbows wide as you curl up, or use a Pilates ring behind your neck. With your head through the ring, hold on to the top of it, pulling up as you curl. To keep your neck in line during planks and pushups, keep your gaze several inches in front of your mat and think about dropping your shoulders down and together.

Spine Support

    If your spine is tight, try bending your knees for exercises that you are required to move through your spine like the Roll-Up, Roll-over and Jackknife. For low back strengthening movements such as swimming, begin with lifting only one section of the body at a time. Start with lifting just your arms, then just your legs, or lift the opposite arm and leg. Be sure to take counter stretches such as the Cat/Cow or Child's pose to release any low-back tension that may have occurred with movement.


    The Pilates ring, fitness ball, and yoga block and strap can provide a great deal of options to modify traditional Pilates exercises. Use the ring to prop your legs off the floor for abdominal work, or place a foot in the ring to assist single leg movements. Sit on a yoga block to help lengthen the spine or use it for forward-bending exercises to bring the floor closer to you. Lie over a fitness ball for side-lying exercises to support the spine, and use a yoga strap to help stretch the hamstrings and lower back.

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