I tried this 35-minute bodyweight Pilates workout — and it helped release tight hips and boost core strength

Nicole on all-fours with left arm and right leg extended
(Image credit: YouTube/ Move With Nicole)

Mat Pilates is a low-impact method for strengthening your whole body and building a strong core without much gym equipment — or any. That’s why I turned to this 35-minute bodyweight Pilates routine for the abs and glutes, without squats, planks, or lunges.

I rolled out one of the best yoga mats for multi-purpose workouts and got to work on my abs and glutes. That said, a one-off routine won’t cut it, so even though an hour of Pilates can do wonders for your body, you’ll need to practice consistently to yield results.

We’re big fans of Move with Nicole, a Pilates instructor who uses Barre principles (lots of agonizing pulses) and slow, controlled movements to strengthen, sculpt and build your muscles. Here’s why I recommend trying this muscle-torching low-impact Pilates routine for yourself. 

Watch Move with Nicole’s 35-minute Pilates workout

35 MIN ABS & BOOTY WORKOUT || Mat Pilates (No Squats & No Equipment) - YouTube 35 MIN ABS & BOOTY WORKOUT || Mat Pilates (No Squats & No Equipment) - YouTube
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The routine takes 35 minutes to complete and you only need an exercise mat. I chose not to add weights, but a set of light adjustable dumbbells or a resistance band could come in handy if you want to increase the load on your muscles. 

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Liforme yoga mat: $120 @ Amazon
The Liforme travel yoga mat brings together grip, design and cushioning to offer yogis 'the best yoga mat on the planet,' according to the brand. Bold claim, but we're here for it.

Bodyweight workouts like calisthenics and core routines help you focus on engaging and activating your muscles while you move rather than just shifting heavy weights; this can improve the mind-muscle connection as you send your attention to what your muscles are doing and give them a good squeeze as you move through each exercise.

Another benefit of bodyweight exercises is that the smaller stabilizer muscles can activate to help support the body. At the same time, core workouts can still feel intense without external loads like dumbbells or kettlebells, simply by utilizing volume — like high reps, pulses, or giant sets, for example. All of that and more is included here, and it's a brilliant method for building core strength.

Don’t let Nicole’s calm demeanor fool you — the abs and glutes workout is fiery. Think of it as a slow burner, starting with a low heat and intensifying as you build the exercises into a sequence. You’ll get very little rest, and many exercises piggyback others so your glutes, abs and obliques eventually set alight. 

I struggle to engage my glutes during resistance workouts, so this 30-minute routine was perfect. The exercises pay a lot of attention to the outer glutes (the gluteus medius muscles), the obliques that run down your waist and the abs. 

Writer Sam performing cat-cow on her yoga mat during Pilates workout

(Image credit: Future)

Exercises like alternating leg raises work your thighs, hip flexors, lower abs and deeper core muscles, including the transverse abdominis (a belt of muscles that sit beneath your abs), which feels more like a full-body workout. 

Admittedly, I’m not a huge fan of mat Pilates, but enough is going on here to keep you engaged throughout the 30 minutes spent on your mat without any equipment. Nicole sequences groups of exercises that build without breaks, starting with your glutes, moving to your core, back again, and so on, never leaving you in one place for too long. 

If I were to think of the best ab workouts out there, I wouldn’t say this is one for the advanced exerciser, but for beginners or intermediate fitness levels, it’s a perfect fit, especially for Pilates lovers.

And if you’re still learning how to engage your core properly, this a good place to practice, as Nicole cues you to adjust your posture and breathe properly, guiding you to where your lower back should be. 35 minutes later, the fire in my glutes and abs was worth it, and I felt like I had properly used my muscles. 

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Sam Hopes
Senior Staff Writer - Fitness

Sam Hopes is a level III qualified fitness trainer, level II reiki practitioner, and senior fitness writer at Future PLC, the publisher of Tom's Guide. She is also about to undertake her Yoga For Athletes training course. Having trained to work with mind and body, Sam is a big advocate of using mindfulness techniques in sport and fitness, and their impact on performance. She’s also passionate about the fundamentals of training and building sustainable training methods.  When she's not writing up her experiences with the latest fitness tech and workouts, you’ll find her writing about nutrition, sleep, recovery, and wellness.