A Pilates Workout With Just Two Towels

If you’ve ever taken a Pilates reformer class, you know the feeling of excruciating pain in your core every time you laugh, cough or stretch in any direction for the three days following the class. While I love/hate the reformer and all its torture inducing capabilities, classes are expensive and I see them as a treat workout (a twisted treat, I’m aware). This pilates workout is inspired by the pain I’ve come to know and love on the reformer, but here’s the good news: all you need for it is two small towels.

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Here’s your 30-minute Pilates-inspired workout:

Before you get into the towel portion of the workout, you have a three-minute cardio buy-in (i.e. two moves you perform on repeat for three minutes).

There are just six moves in the Pilates portion of this workout. Go through them slowly, focusing on form (described thoroughly with each move’s photos). You’ll go through all six exercises two times, working 60 seconds on each. Then you’ll go through them all one last time, but for only 30 seconds each.

The last three minutes will be your cardio buy-out, which is the same two moves repeated again for three minutes!

These are you buy-in / buy-out sets:

Three minutes spent repeating these exercises:

  • 10 squat jumps
  • 10 jumping jack burpees

These are the Pilates workout moves with a towel:

  1. Reverse lunge (a full 60 seconds on the right, then a full :60 on the left; your third round is :30 on each side)
  2. One-legged mountain climbers (:30 on the right side, then :30 on the left side; your third round is just :15 on each side)
  3. Lateral lunge combo (:60 on the right side, then :60 on the left side; your third round is :30 on each side)
  4. Push-up arm slide (:30 on the right side, then :30 on the left side; your third round is just :15 on each side)
  5. Russian twist with a towel
  6. Side-to-side slides from plank
  7. Hamstring curl from bridge (:30 on the right side, then :30 on the left side; your third round is just :15 on each side)
  8. “T” slides from plank

Here are your exercises:

Squat jumps: Starting with your feet hip-width distance and your knees behind your toes, sit down and back. From there, explode up into a jump and land softly into your squat position.
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Jumping jack burpees: Jump your feet out and bring your arms overhead for a jumping jack, then jump your feet back together and bring your arms down, landing low in a narrow squat. Bring your hands to the ground and jump your feet back to a plank, keeping your knees softly bent. Lower all the way down to your belly, then press back up to your plank, hop your feet forward and stand all the way up. Jump back out to your jumping jack and continue to repeat.
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Reverse lunge: Place the towel under the ball of your right foot. Start with your feet hips-width distance apart and slide your right leg back into your lunge until you’re at a 90-degree bend with both knees. Use your left hamstrings and glutes to stand back up, pulling your right foot on the towel back to the starting position. Do this for a full 60 seconds on the right leg, then a full :60 on the left. Your last round through you’ll do just :30 on each side.
asweatlife_towelworkout_reverselunge1 asweatlife_towelworkout_reverselunge2

One-legged mountain climbers: Start in a plank with your shoulders over your wrists and your head, shoulders, hips and ankles in one straight line. With the towel under your right foot, hover your left leg so you’re in a one-legged plank. Now draw your right foot (the foot that’s on the towel) in towards your chest, keeping your left leg stretched behind you. Aim to keep you hips square while you draw your right knee as far up towards your chest as possible.

Lateral lunge: Place your feet wider than hips-width with your toes facing forward, the towel under your right foot. Bend your right knee deeply and send your hips over to the right and your glutes back for a lateral lunge. Slide your right leg in and up to work your adductors.  Slide back out into your lateral lunge and rise back up to standing for 60 seconds on the right, then switch to the left.
asweatlife_towelworkout_laterallunge1 asweatlife_towelworkout_laterallunge3 asweatlife_towelworkout_laterallunge4

Push-up arm slide: Start from a plank with a towel under one hand. Slide the hand with the towel directly out to the side and lower down to a push-up. The hand with the towel will be in a wide push-up position and your other arm will bend straight back, elbow close to you for a tricep push-up. After 30 seconds, switch which hand slides the towel.
asweatlife_towelworkout_pushup asweatlife_towelworkout_pushup2 asweatlife_towelworkout_pushup3

Russian twist with towel: Sitting on the floor with your heels planted, lean back to engage your core, keeping your back flat and shoulders rolled back. Either keep your feet on the ground or lift them up to tabletop height. Hold the towel tightly between your hands and twist gently to the right and hold for a three-count and then back to the left and hold for a three-count.
asweatlife_towelworkout_russiantwist asweatlife_towelworkout_russiantwist2 asweatlife_towelworkout_russiantwist3

Side-to-side slides from plank: Start in a plank position with your feet together, big toes touching and a towel under each foot. Keeping your legs together and shoulders still, slide your legs towards the right, closer to your right hand. Then shift them back to center and over to the left.
asweatlife_towelworkout_sidetoside asweatlife_towelworkout_sidetoside2

Hamstring curl from bridge: Lie on your back and plant your feet on the ground hips-width apart, knees facing the ceiling with a towel under each right heel. Press down equally through both feet to lift your hips high and keep them there. Now slide your right leg out as far as you can, maintaining equal height for your hips. After 30 seconds, switch to slide your left leg out.
asweatlife_towelworkout_hamstring asweatlife_towelworkout_hamstring2

“T” slides from plank: This is the only move that you really need two towels. From your plank, feet together with one foot on each towel. Slide both feet out at the same time, then slide them back together. Then pike your hips and drag the towel as far as you can towards your hands, keeping legs straight. If you need, bend your knees in at the same time instead of piking your hips. The line you trace with your feet in this combo move makes the shape of a “T.”
asweatlife_towelworkout_t asweatlife_towelworkout_t2 asweatlife_towelworkout_t3 asweatlife_towelworkout_t4

(Disclaimer: This workout is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor is it a replacement for seeking medical treatment or professional nutrition advice. Do not start any nutrition or physical activity program without first consulting your physician.)

Move Workouts

About Maggie Umberger

Maggie moved to Chicago from North Carolina in 2014 with a degree in Journalism and Spanish, a 200-hour yoga certification, a group fitness cert and a passion to teach and to sweat. It wasn't until she found aSweatLife that she really started to feel at home. Here, she's incorporated her passion for health and wellness into her career as she helps to build the network of Ambassadors, trainers and fitness enthusiasts that exist within the aSweatLife ecosystem. You can also find her coaching at CrossTown Fitness and teaching yoga classes at Bare Feet Power Yoga, Yoga Six and exhale.