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The 12 Days of Pilates Challenge

This year we wanted to test your core strength with a fun Pilates challenge!

For every day between December 25th and New Years you’ll have a different Pilates movement to do.


Whether your goal is to lose a little holiday weightstand up straighter, or get a head start on your New Year resolutions, this is a fun 12 days of Pilates Holiday challenge!


We’ve also made it into a handy PDF guide so you can print it out! Pop it on your fridge or the room in the house you do your Pilates as a reminder.


Download The Free PDF HERE!

Day 1 – The Hundred


Start off your Pilates challenge with a classic. Designed to increase circulation and oxygen throughout the body, the Hundred has plenty of variations to make the movement easier or harder.


To perform the Hundred you should:

  1. Lie on your back, inhale and lift your legs off the floor and engage your abdominals.
  2. Bring your head up, tucking in your chin and making sure to keep your lower spine on the floor. 
  3. Pump your arms up and down in short bursts, inhaling for 5 seconds and exhaling for 5 seconds. Make sure not to tense your shoulders or neck.
  4. Continue this for a count of 100.


 Make the Hundred easier by bending your legs at a 90-degree angle keeping your legs parallel with the floor.


Day 2 – Spine Stretch

Harder than it looks, the Spine Stretch (sometimes known as the Spine Stretch Forward) is an exercise that aims to lengthen the spine and strengthen the back, abdominals, and hamstrings. 

To perform the Spine Stretch:

  1.  Start with your legs extended out in front of you with your feet flexed. 
  2. Relax your shoulders and inhale as you extend your arms in front of you in line with your shoulders. 
  3. With your palms facing down, make sure to keep your arms the same distance apart throughout the exercise. 
  4. Exhale and lengthen your spine as you curve forward into a C-shape. Making sure to keep your knees pressed down towards the mat. 
  5. Make sure you’re keeping your abdominals tucked inwards and then begin to roll gently and smoothly back up into the original position. 


Top Tip: The trick to do this exercise is to stay lengthened in the spine as you stretch forward into flexion rather than collapsing. 


Day 3 – Swimming

As an extension-based exercise, Swimming is designed to restore length in the hip flexors and abdominals after teasers and hip twists. Also, extension exercises in Pilates challenge the strength and endurance of your spinal extensor muscles.

To perform the Swimming exercise:

  1. Start on your stomach, closing your legs and placing your arms outstretched in front of you. 
  2. Begin by listing your legs and arms simultaneously, making sure to activate your glutes. 
  3. Lift alternate arms and legs in quick succession to mimic a swimming motion. 
  4. Continue for 30 seconds making sure to keep fluttering your arms and legs in small, deliberate movements.



Day 4 – Side Bend

Improving abdominal strength and shoulder stabilization, Side Bends focus on obliques, shoulder stabilizers, and abdominals.  It’s also an amazing stretch that you can really feel working!


To perform the Side Bend:

  1. Start by sitting on your hip, lying on your side and using your hand to prop yourself up. 
  2. Tuck your bottom leg slightly under the other and bend your knee. 
  3. Lift your hips up and inhale as you reach your arm up and over your head.  
  4. Then exhale, reach back and bend your knee to return to your starting position. 


These can be made easier by doing them standing with weights if you’re unable to hold a side plank position. 


 Top Tip: Make sure that the bottom shoulder stays pulling away from the ear and that both shoulders are stacked one on top of the other. The body should be in a line as if it is between two walls.

Day 5 – Teaser 

As a staple Pilates move, the Teaser utilizes all of the core Pilates principles; breathing, centering, control, concentration, precision, and flow. It requires a strong and deep connection to the powerhouse in order to stabilize yourself. 


To perform the Teaser:

  1. Start by centering yourself and lying flat on your back. 
  2. Inhale, engage your core and gently lift your legs and arms up towards each other to meet but don’t let them touch. 
  3. Keep your arms a consistent width apart and your legs straight and engaged. 
  4. Exhale and slowly release yourself back down to starting position. 


It’s important not to arch your back which can damage your spine. You want to keep a straight back throughout with your spine tucked under. 


 Easier Variation: Start with tabletop legs and your arms up toward the ceiling. Take an inhale, curl the chin towards the chest, then exhale, roll up to seated, and keep the knees bent.

Day 6 – Roll Over

As an excellent abdominal exercise, the Roll Over is harder than it looks because it requires a lot of control to perform correctly. Using the core, your aim is to be slow and controlled in your movements so you’re not flinging yourself backward and potentially damaging your neck or spine.


To perform the Roll Over:

  1. Begin by lying on your back. 
  2. Slowly lift your legs towards the ceiling and roll up and over, bringing your toes towards the floor over your head. 
  3. Open your legs hip-width, flex your feet. 
  4. Slowly roll down to starting position and repeat.


Day 7 – Hip Twists

We have a love/hate relationship with Hip Twists here in the studio! The aim is to work your deep core, abdominals, obliques, and provide protection for your lower back by strengthening the supporting muscles. 


To perform Hip Twists:

  1. Start by sitting and lean slightly back to rest on your hands pressed behind you. 
  2. Inhale and raise your legs upward making sure to keep them straight
  3. Keeping your legs together, move them in a small circular motion and rotate to one side. 
  4. Then repeat on the other side. 


Top Tip: Make sure that when you perform repetitions you do so by working both sides evenly.


Day 8 – Shoulder Bridges

This is a diverse exercise with plenty of variations so it never gets old! Shoulder bridges improve the segmental mobility of your spine which is vital for its health. As well as working your abs, glutes and improving posture!


To perform Shoulder Bridges:

  1. Start by lying on your back, legs shoulder-width apart and bent with your arms facing down by your side. 
  2. Exhale and lift your hips toward the sky pressing down with your feet until your upper back has also lifted and you’ve created a diagonal line with your body. 
  3. Raise your leg to either a straight or bent position. From here you can straighten all the way before putting it back down or bring it down still bent. 
  4. Then repeat with the other side.



Day 9 – Swan Dive on Mat

Perfect for combatting the negative effects of sitting, the Swan Dive is very similar to the Cobra (Salabhasana) yoga pose! It opens and expands the chest, abdomen, and hip flexors as well as strengthening and stretching your back. 


To perform the Swan Dive:

  1. Starting face down on the mat, place your hands either side of your head, shoulder-width apart. 
  2. Inhale and draw up your upper torso by engaging your abdominals. 
  3. Then exhale and release your hands and raise them up, allowing your body to roll forward maintaining the arch of your back and keeping your abdominals engaged. 
  4. Using your abdominals roll back so that you’re in starting position with your arms raised and repeat. 

The Swan Dive exercise can also be performed over the barrel. For this variation, check out this video here.


Day 10 – Single Leg Kick 

Targeting your hamstrings, the Single Leg Kick is a mat exercise that is best for both beginners and seasoned Pilates pros. Helpful for strengthening your glutes and can easily be scaled up into the Double Kick variation, it is particularly beneficial for runners trying to avoid injury. 


To perform the Single Leg Kick:

  1. Lie on your belly propped up on your elbows.
  2. Pull the belly up and in and lift up out of the shoulders.
  3. Bend one knee kicking your heel to your bottom (there are variations on foot position you can try too)
  4. Then extend the knee reaching the leg long behind you.
  5. Repeat on the other side.



Day 11 – Rolling Like a Ball

Rolling exercises like the Rolling Like a Ball help to stimulate the spine. They deeply work the abdominals, and tune us into the inner flow of movement and breath in the body. As an intermediate exercise it is harder than it looks, but great fun once you’ve got the hang of it! 


To perform the Rolling Like a Ball exercise:

  1. Start in a sitting position and bring your arms around to clasp your shins just above the ankle. 
  2. Raise your legs off of the floor making sure to keep your spine tucked under. 
  3. Inhale and roll back to your shoulders making sure to maintain the curled position. 
  4. Exhale and bring yourself back to starting position, keeping your feet raised off of the mat. 
  5. Repeat 6-10 times.


 Top Tip: Keep your rolled position throughout the exercise and use your breath to keep this exercise controlled and flowing.


Day 12 – The Saw

Combining flexion and rotation which can be difficult for many. The Saw helps to maintain strength and mobility in the transverse plane as well as providing an excellent hamstring and back stretch. 


To perform the Saw exercise:

  1. Start by sitting with your legs extended in front of you slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and with your feet flexed. 
  2. Stretch your arms out to the side at shoulder height. 
  3. Inhale whilst twisting to the right making sure you do not lean with your torso. It should be a twist. 
  4. Exhale and stretch forward diagonally so that your left hand touches your right foot. Try to exhale fully and reach as far as you can. 
  5. Inhale again and untwist as you return upwards and back to your starting position. 
  6. Repeat the other side.


 Top Tip: It’s important to keep your hips still and stable throughout the exercise which is a great test of your abdominals.

Whether you’re beginning your Pilates practice or you’re keeping in shape over the holidays, completing our Pilates challenge will get you off on the right foot!

Share your progress with us on Instagram or Facebook by using the hashtag: #12DaysOfPilatesChallenge


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