I just tried this simple, zero-equipment Pilates workout while traveling — here’s what happened

a photo of a woman doing a Pilates workout
(Image credit: Getty/Alexandr Dubynin)

Whether you’re traveling for the holidays or for work, your workouts have to suffer even if you don't have access to a gym. Recently, when traveling, I found myself looking for a Pilates workout that would require absolutely zero equipment, so I could work my core for 20 minutes in my hotel room. Read on to find my go-to workout from Laura Wilson, celebrity trainer and founder of Natural Pilates

“Even doing the shortest of workouts on a regular basis can still be effective, and will help you stay mentally and physically strong during the holiday season,” Wilson said. “From the airport to the hotel to the home of your family or friends, incorporating 20 minutes of movement will help you ring in the New Year feeling healthy and like your best self!” 

Her workout below involves just five different exercises, but when repeated, they worked my core hard. 

Looking for more Pilates-inspired workouts? Check out these 8 Pilates exercises that target your core for the ultimate burn, as well as this 30-minute Pilates workout with over 4 million views. You can also read more about whether Pilates for weight loss works here.  

What is the zero-equipment Pilates workout? 

Wilson shared the following zero-equipment Pilates workout with Tom's Guide: 

Leg Taps

  • Begin on your back, spine flat with legs in a tabletop position (90-degree bend at hips and knees)
  • Inhale: Keeping your knee bent at a 90-degree angle, lower one foot towards the mat
  • Exhale: Using your abs, pull the leg back up to tabletop
  • Repeat 10 reps on each side. Then do another set of 10, lowering both legs together. To increase the challenge, perform the same sequence with straight legs
  • Remember to keep your back flat. Only go as low in the range of motion as your spine stays flat

Side Bend with Leg Lift

  • Start laying on your side, propped on your bottom elbow. Legs are together and stacked. Top arm is bent with your hand on the mat
  • Inhale: Prepare
  • Exhale: Keep your legs connected, and lift them off the mat. Think of squeezing your hip up to your ribcage
  • Inhale: Slowly lower your legs down to the mat
  • Repeat 10-20 reps on each side

Side plank with hip lift

  • Start in a Side Plank on either the hand or elbow. Legs may be staggered or stacked (more advanced). Place a water bottle in the top hand and reach it to the ceiling
  • Inhale: Prepare 
  • Exhale: Slowly lower the arm so that its parallel to the floor
  • Inhale: Reach arm back up, maintaining the side plank
  • Be sure to maintain shoulders square to the front. Do not let your torso rotate as the arm lowers. Control the arm movement in both directions
  • Repeat 10-15 reps on each side. 2-3 sets.

Crunches with lower lift

  • Lie on your back with hands behind your head, feet flat on mat, and hip-distance apart
  • Curl up slightly to bring your shoulder blades off the floor, pulling your core toward your spine and keeping your lower back flat against the floor
  • Lift your legs up into a perpendicular position and slowly with control lower to a 45-degree angle and lift them back to starting position.
  • Repeat 10-15 reps for 2-3 sets

a photo of a woman doing a side body twist

(Image credit: Natural Pilates)

Side Body Twist (oblique v-up)

  • Lie on your side with your bottom arm outstretched, top hand on top hip, and legs squeezing together (modification: use your bottom forearm to prop yourself up and top hand on the ground for extra stability)
  • Inhale: Prepare and lift legs and torso simultaneously off the mat
  • Exhale: Roll your pelvis posteriorly, reaching your top hand towards your toes creating a V-shape.
  • Inhale: Pause shortly at the top
  • Exhale: Round through the lower back and rotate the ribcage as you bring yourself down to starting position.
  • Repeat 5-10 reps before switching sides
  • Repeat 5-10 reps on the opposite side. Do 2-3 sets in total.

I just tried this simple, zero-equipment Pilates workout while traveling — here’s what happened 

I don’t know about you, but I get fidgety when I’ve been traveling — sitting down for hours on end makes me feel a little anxious, not to mention a little stiff. I suffer from sciatica and often find that spending too long in a seated position will flare up my lower back pain. With that in mind, I opted to go for a quick run (I always pack a sports bra and running shoes when I travel and have been ‘that’ girl on hen do’s/weekends away with friends), then do this Pilates workout. 

I’m a huge Pilates fan — I once went on a week-long Pilates retreat in Thailand, and love how Pilates really sculpts into my core. This workout is wonderfully simple but deceptively difficult. It’s a slow burner, and really works the oblique muscles, as well as the deeper core muscles and outer, visible six-pack ab muscles along the front of the body. 

I was able to complete the workout in less than 10 minutes and really felt like I’d hit my abdominals hard. It’s also pretty adaptable — Wilson offers modifications to make the workout easier and more challenging. It’s important to remember to keep your lower back pressed into the floor throughout the workout to avoid putting too much pressure on your spine, plus if you’re completely new to Pilates, feel free to take breaks between exercises.

This workout was a good one and I definitely felt it in my core by the end of the workout. It also proves you don’t need an awful lot of time — or any equipment — to blast your core on the move. 

Looking for more traveling workout inspiration? Here are two full-body workouts you can do from anywhere, plus Chris Hemsworth’s 200-rep bodyweight workout

Jane McGuire
Fitness editor

Jane McGuire is Tom's Guide's Fitness editor, which means she looks after everything fitness related - from running gear to yoga mats. An avid runner, Jane has tested and reviewed fitness products for the past five years, so knows what to look for when finding a good running watch or a pair of shorts with pockets big enough for your smartphone. When she's not pounding the pavements, you'll find Jane striding round the Surrey Hills, taking far too many photos of her puppy.