Forget the gym — I tried this 20-minute equipment-free Pilates workout to strengthen my core and improve my posture

a woman performing a wall sit
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Pilates workouts are an excellent way to build muscular endurance and strength. While there are plenty of exercises you can do with just a bit of floor space, the more advanced moves typically require expensive equipment and studio memberships.

But thanks to a popular fitness trend called Wall Pilates, you can amp up your Pilates regimen without spending a dime. You’ll just need a bare wall and a yoga mat for some support. 

I discovered Wall Pilates a few months ago and was shocked at how challenging the classes were. After finding this 19-minute workout from influencer Jenna Collins  I decided it was time to give Wall Pilates another try.

Collins' routine is quick and easy to follow, though it might not be the best choice for beginners. If you’ve never done standard Pilates before, I’d recommend starting with these Pilates exercises instead.  

How to do Jenna Collins' 20-minute Wall Pilates workout

19 MIN WALL PILATES WORKOUT FOR WEIGHT LOSS - YouTube 19 MIN WALL PILATES WORKOUT FOR WEIGHT LOSS - YouTube
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You’ll need about a 3-foot-tall section of bare wall and a yoga mat for this Wall Pilates workout. Each of the program’s 21 exercises are performed for 40 seconds, with a 15-second break between each movement.

There aren’t any other built-in breaks or instructor banter, so you’ll be working for the full 19 minutes (plus a few extra seconds). And except for one advanced move, there aren’t any modifications offered.

I was curious to see if this version of Wall Pilates would be as taxing as my initial efforts. Here’s what I found after finishing Jenna Collins’ workout. 

My glutes were on fire

Collins packs plenty of glute exercises into a quick 19 minutes. Not only that, but she puts most of them back-to-back (I counted 8 in a row), leaving little time for recovery.

By the time I got to the final minutes of the workout, my glutes were completely fatigued and I was forced to take my feet off the wall for a few reps.

I do my fair share of heavy lunges and deadlifts, so the fact that a few bodyweight glute exercises could totally exhaust my muscles was humbling.

This is something to keep in mind if you’re relatively new to Pilates, or new to exercising in general. You may want to bring your feet to the floor for a mid-workout reprieve if needed.     

Some of the exercises hurt my neck and lower back

Pilates exercises that involve lifting the head and shoulders off the ground cause my neck muscles to tense up, so I’ll always modify them by placing my hands behind my head for support.

Collins doesn’t include many of these exercises, but I still experienced the same kind of neck pain with a few movements in this workout. Namely, ones where the legs, hips, and torso were lifted off of the floor placing bodyweight pressure on the upper back and shoulders.

I was able to alleviate some tension by positioning my feet on the wall a bit lower. My lower back is also chronically tight, and the final exercise of Collins' workout — a push-up variation with the shins braced against the wall — was initially almost impossible for me to do without pain.

I was eventually able to position myself so that I could do the exercise comfortably, but I wasted half the allotted time trying to figure it out. You don't have to avoid the routine if you have neck or back pain, but you may want to adjust the position to find what's comfortable for you.

My abs were sore days later

When you train your muscles, it causes small tears in the fibers, which your body needs to repair to grow and strengthen the muscle. Until it's repaired, you'll likely sense the post-workout soreness known as delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS), and I really felt it in my abs.

In fact, I didn’t feel back to normal until almost a week later. This surprised me, as I didn’t find the core exercises to be especially strenuous. But I guess working my abdominal muscles differently is what did the trick. 

Fortunately, DOMS isn't inherently harmful, nor is it an indication of a “good” workout, but it’s something to keep in mind, especially if you have any physical activities planned in the days following. Although you can promote recovery with a foam roller self-massage.

It’s not a beginner workout

While the first few minutes of this Wall Pilates workout are relatively doable for any fitness level, the difficulty increases as the workout progresses. Some of the exercises, especially towards the middle and end of the class, were quite challenging.

There’s only one exercise where Collins includes a modification, and even the modified version was tough. Unlike some popular YouTube instructors, Collins doesn’t speak at all during this workout — the music starts, she gives a quick wave to the camera, and then you’re off.

Personally, I prefer this as I usually find talking to be distracting. The downside is you won’t hear her giving any verbal cues, which can be really important for beginners trying to learn the correct form.

I enjoyed Jenna Collins' workout, but I wouldn’t make it your introduction to Pilates. Start with a beginner-focused Pilates program and come back to it once you’ve got some mat time under your belt. 

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Jennifer Rizzuto

Jennifer Rizzuto is a freelance writer and certified personal trainer based in Long Island, NY. She covers various fitness-related topics and reviews for Tom's Guide. She also writes sketch comedy and short films, and performs frequently as an actor, singer, and improviser. When she's not writing, working out, or performing, you'll find her trying to convince her husband to get a dog.