Build Your Muscles: 5 Pilates Moves That Incorporate Weights

Pilates doesn’t necessarily make you think “sweat,” but throwing weights (even light ones) into a Pilates-based workout adds a cardio element that makes for an amazing way to more quickly and efficiently lean out and tone up. With that in mind, we turned to FLEX Studios, known for its mix of Pilates, barre, body-weight training, HIIT, and strength training, for a Pilates-based hybrid circuit to help sculpt your muscles while taking your Pilates practice to the next level. Do each of these moves the recommended amount of times; take a 45-second to one-minute break after completing all five exercises, and repeat the circuit another two times.

1. Weighted one hundred


Source: FLEX Studios

  • Start lying flat on your back with legs extended long and arms by your sides holding weights palms up.
  • Exhaling, curl head neck and shoulders up, float the arms up 1 to 2 inches, and lift legs off the floor keeping them straight.
  • Holding the curl, pump the arms up and down by your side inhaling for five counts and exhaling for five counts. Repeat 10 times.

Easier: Bend knees into table top position or keep head neck and shoulders down, or both.

Harder: Add small beats with the legs as you pump.

2. Half roll back twist


Source: FLEX Studios

  • Start sitting tall with feet flat, knees bent, inner thighs squeezing together, and arms reaching in front of body with weights.
  • Exhaling, round back just off the sits bones as you rotate to one side and open the same arm out wide keeping it straight.
  • Inhale as you rotate back to center and sit tall.
  • Repeat on the other side for one full rep.
  • Continue for 10 to 12 reps total.
  • Make sure that as you rotate you keep the hips and legs stable and still and keep the shoulders away from the ears.

Easier: No weights.

Harder: Hold the twist and raise and lower the arms.

3. Star


Source: FLEX Studios

  • Start in a side plank with feet stacked. One hand is on the floor, and one hand is down long by the side holding weight. Hips, ribs, and shoulders are stacked.
  • Raise top arm and leg together into a star position, and hold one count.
  • Lower back to start position.
  • Repeat 10 times.

Easier: Forearm plank or omit the leg lift just moving the arm.

Harder: Alternate reaching arm and leg forward with lifting them up.

4. Skater with single arm fly


Source: FLEX Studios

  • Start standing with feet hip-distance apart. Arms long by side holding weights.
  • Squat, bringing hips back and raising the arms up in front of the shoulders with palms facing in.
  • Keeping the spine and hips still, shift weight into one leg and extend other leg out to the side tapping the toes on the floor. Simultaneously, open the opposite arm out to the side.
  • Bend the knee back into the start position, and close the arm.
  • Repeat on same side for 45 seconds to one minute. Then stand and switch sides.

Easier: Weight only in moving hand.

Harder: Keep foot off the ground for a balance challenge.

5. Shoulder/tricep press pendulum swing


Source: FLEX Studios

  • Start standing with feet hip-distance apart. Arms long by side holding medium weights with palms facing in.
  • Lift one knee up in front of chest as you press the arms up overhead.
  • Extend the same leg back behind you as you hinge the spine forward and slightly bend the standing knee, simultaneously bending the elbows to the ribs and then extending the arms back by the hips.
  • Bring the knee back in front as you straighten the front leg and bend the elbows again to extend them overhead.
  • Repeat for 45 seconds to one minute on the same side, and then switch legs.

Easier: Do the movement just holding the weights by the side.

Harder: Both weights (or a slightly heavier weight) in same arm as moving leg.

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