10 Best Pilates Exercises on Total Gym

What is Pilates

Pilates Total Gym
Pilates is designed to improve core stabilization and postural alignment (in other words, balance and posture) by enhancing awareness, mobility, flexibility and strength. The essence of Pilates lies in the focus on using one’s core to initiate and sustain movements – all in coordination with your breathing. Pilate moves work out your pelvic floor, the transverse abdominis, and multifidus. In an earlier blog post on using a Total Gym to get back into shape after a pregnancy I give an overview of what these muscles are, and how to tighten them in a way to help support your core when performing the movements.

Breathing with Pilates

In Pilate the breath is meant to be energetic and a facilitator to the core. As you inhale, the diaphragm moves downward and out to the sides, like a parachute opening. As you exhale, you tighten the core and feel how the breath makes it easier. If you’re still a beginner or doing pilates for the first time, make sure you keep your breath flowing and that you don’t hold your breath. If you’re doing Pilates on your Total Gym, start by inhaling to prepare your move, and exhaling to release it. Once you become familiar with some Pilates movements – or if you’re a Pilates expert – you can try to experiment with your breathing at different parts of each movement.
You can also adjust the incline level on your Total Gym to match your flexibility and strength, which will help your control your breath better.

Pilates and Alignment

Using a Pilates mat is usually the easiest place to work out when you’re at home, but if depending on how flexible you are this approach might be affecting your posture – which means you won’t be able to get all the benefit of Pilates. The Total Gym can help keep your posture when doing Pilates while adding additional resistance to each move – thus strengthening, lengthening and toning with faster results.

Below we’ve got a list of Pilates moves that you can perform with the Total Gym, but first here here are some tips on how to get the most out of it:
1. Mat exercises like Roll Up, Saw, and Spine Twist are easier when facing away from the tower at a high incline. The higher the incline, the easier the move.
2. Similarly exercises like Leg Pull, Leg Pull Front, Planks and Side Planks are easier at a higher the incline when facing the Tower.
3. You’ll have a much easier time stabilizing your core if you do mat exercises like Stomach Series Bicycle, Scissors, Bend and Stretch/Double Leg Stretch with the glide board set to a lower inverted incline. For a greater challenge you can try them when facing away from the tower.
4. Reformer Exercises are more challenging the higher the incline.
Use these tips, and those you have heard your Pilates Instructors teach, as we move through the 10 Best Pilates Exercises on the Total Gym.
Watch the video to see how to do the moves and follow the tips below to help you with your movements.

10 Pilates Moves You Can Do With Your Total Gym

1. Roll Up
a. Tuck the hips under as you roll back, but keep your shoulders relaxed and shoulder blades sliding down your back.
b. Be careful as you roll up not to hinge forward; focus on the upper, middle then lower back peeling off the glideboard.
Pilates Total Gym
Pilates Total Gym

2. Saw
a. Keep your pelvis neutral.
b. Visualize moving up and over a beach ball.
c. Keep your shoulders sliding away from your ears.
Pilates Total Gym
Pilates Total Gym

3. Single Thigh Stretch
a. Keep your hips facing forward, being careful not to twist them.
b. If you feel overarching of the back, gently tuck the hips under.
Pilates Total Gym
Pilates Total Gym

4. Long Stretch
a. Learn the movement on the knees.
b. The movement is from the shoulder. Careful not to move from the hips or just the ankles, especially as you move into full plank.
Pilates Total Gym
Pilates Total Gym

5. Side Plank
a. Maintain the shoulder sliding away from the ears.
b. Focus on lightening the pressure through the top leg.
Pilates Total Gym
Pilates Total Gym

6. Mermaid
a. The legs may be in traditional position (one leg crossed in front the other behind), or sitting with both legs on the ground.
b. Lengthen through the torso as you reach up and over.
c. Maintain the shoulders sliding away from the ears.
Pilates Total Gym

7. Half Roll Back with Twist
a. Maintain a “C” shape with the body during rotation.
b. To help avoid shoulders riding up toward the ears, clasp the hands and gently pull them apart from one another.
Total Gym Pilates
Total Gym Pilates

8. Stomach Series: Bicycle Legs, Scissors, and Bend and Stretch/Double Leg Stretch
a. Inverted position allows the low back to have assistance with stabilization. The tower is toward the lower 1/3.
b. Lifting the head may be more or less challenging depending on the ability to stabilize the spine. Remember, it is about form and core activation, so focus here first and explore head up or down.
Pilates Total Gym

9. Hundred with Arm Pulley
a. If you feel the low back arch, then keep the feet on the glideboard.
b. Challenge coordination with the arms alternating at tempo where the glideboard remains still.
Pilates Total Gym

10. V sit/ Teaser
a. Use momentum in the beginning and allow the legs to straddle the glideboard when rolling up.
b. Note when the feet remain on the glideboard the intensity increases for rolling up.
c. Keep the shoulders sliding away from the ears throughout the movement.
Pilates Total Gym

Elizabeth Leeds, DPT

Elizabeth Leeds, owner of Seaside Fitness and Wellness, combines her background in physical therapy, personal training, and Pilates in her practice and teaching. As a pelvic floor physical therapist working at Comprehensive Therapy Services in San Diego, her passion for pregnancy and postpartum is seen in her mission to empower women with knowledge and understanding of their physical changes, and how to address them to prevent future issues. Additionally, Elizabeth is a Master Trainer and developer for Total Gym’s GRAVITY education.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. I have back problems due to a very physical job, I just turned 55 I’m hoping this physical therapy will help my back.

    Mahalo and aloha from Hawaii.


  2. Wish you lived by me. (Northwest Indiana) I am 84 – osteophytes in hips. S curve (lumbar to the right), osteoporosis, spondylolisthesis (L4 over 5. L5 over S1), a nerve impingement, a bulge and tears in 2 discs. I am in PT currently. My lower legs are strong, upper not. I have 2 compression fractures in thoracic spine. I have increased bone density by taking Vitamin D3 (stopped fosamax and density got worse on it). I like the Long Stretch. I haven’t used my total gym forever (told not to) but am going to try to use in place of some of the strap exercises (rowing). I have asked Total Gym many times else I could do but they don’t answer. I understand the risk; just tried. Anyway, wish me luck and good health.

    1. Maureen, we are not your doctors OR therapists. We recommend trusting your doctors and therapists who are physically present with you and knowledgeable of your medical history. If you don’t trust them, find new ones.

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