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Pilates is a beginner-friendly, low-impact workout that is especially effective at strengthening and toning the core. And thanks to trendy boutique fitness studios and the reformer machine, it has only grown in popularity in recent years.
One of the best things about Pilates is its accessibility. The workout can be modified for any fitness level and it doesn’t require much space or equipment, which makes it a great home workout.
And the latest Pilates trend taking social media by storm allows enthusiasts to level up this efficient workout at home. It's called wall Pilates. This version of the workout includes the use of a wall to modify the intensity of each exercise to the level that works for you.
Fans of wall Pilates claim it offers many of the same toning benefits you'd get in a reformer Pilates class — without the hefty price tag of a class at a boutique studio.
What is wall Pilates?
During wall Pilates, you'll essentially perform the same traditional Pilates exercises — such as bridge pose or Pilates 100s — with the assistance of a wall, which mimics the foot bar used in reformer Pilates classes.
Pressing your feet against the wall while performing different exercises allows you to add resistance to each move, which can help you build strength.
"In Pilates, the only resistance you have really is the force of gravity. Using a wall for static resistance, you can actually exert the force," Heather A. Milton, exercise physiologist supervisor at theNYU Langone Health’s Sports Performance Center, tells TODAY.com.
"This is a type of resistance training known as isometric training," Milton explains. "Essentially, you can choose to exert force at varying levels of your maximal effort."
Wall Pilates benefits
“Wall Pilates is great for improving stability, balance, strength and control,” explains Callie Jardine, a Pilates instructor and founder of Sweaty Studio. “Unlike traditional Pilates, your feet are typically elevated throughout most of the workout, so you may experience increased circulation, improved digestion and sleep and reduced muscle cramps.”
Additionally, wall Pilates may provide an easy way to improve your overall strength, balance and stability in the comfort of your home. “The wall adds resistance to workouts without the need for extra equipment,” says Jardine.
Milton says that research does show that isometric training is an effective way to build strength without putting a lot of stress on the joints. But, she adds, there isn't much research to support claims about wall Pilates specifically. And much of the purported benefits are anecdotal or are simply assumed based on the proven benefits of traditional mat Pilates.
However, Milton does see some benefit to incorporating this type of exercise into your routine.
"There is benefit in that you can strengthen your abdominal wall," she says. "It is a low-moderate intensity exercise, so it will not provide the same benefits as moderate or vigorous exercise in terms of body composition improvements and cardiovascular health, however if you are not doing any exercise and decide to start wall Pilates, you will achieve a benefit of improved musculoskeletal health."
Using a wall is also an effective way to ensure that you're performing Pilates moves with proper form, Milton continues. "Doing exercises that use the wall as feedback — for example, doing a side lying leg raise as you slide your heel up the wall — is a great way to ensure you are maintaining proper alignment," she adds.
In a traditional Pilates class, you might watch your alignment as you perform the exercises in a mirror or get feedback from an instructor. "When you are at home, using the wall is a good alternative method," Milton says.
Wall Pilates results
The popularity of the workout has inspired one-month wall Pilates challenges to circulate on social media. One popular challenge created by Rachel’s Fit Pilates has almost a million views on YouTube. And the before-and-after photos of people who commit to one month of wall workouts are compelling.
Fitness influencer Renée Mowatt is one of those success stories. She first discovered wall Pilates on TikTok — where the hashtag has 12.6 million views. She saw impressive results from the workout and now shares her popular wall Pilates workouts with others who want to give it a try.
“To start off, I did wall Pilates around 4-5 times per week to really help improve my form and fitness,” she says. Mowatt started to see results after about a month of doing 10-30-minute wall Pilates workouts; noticing an improvement in her strength, flexibility and coordination.
Are these results something everyone can expect? "When starting from nothing, yes, you can see improved strength or balance," says Milton. "However, if you are an already active person and decide to change your workout to this, I predict you will not see much improvement in one month."
It typically takes a few months to see physical changes from a strength workout, Milton adds, and it may take even longer to see changes with a lower-intensity workout like wall Pilates.
"Strength gains take 4-6 weeks for the nervous system to improve the efficiency of activating muscle, and more like 12 weeks to actually see changes in the muscle size itself," she says. "This is when you are stressing the muscles at least 60% of their max ability. With Pilates, many people may be at a lower percentage of their max effort when doing, for example, leg circles, thus not eliciting sufficient stress for the muscle to adapt to become stronger or more defined, unless doing very many repetitions."
Wall Pilates: A beginner-friendly workout
Still, wall Pilates is a workout with a low barrier to entry: Workouts are available online, free of charge and require no equipment and little space, making it an easy place for beginners to start.
“It is a great alternative to in-class Pilates if you want a more cost-effective workout that you are able to do at home while also having fun,” says Mowatt.
Understanding basic Pilates movements is helpful for those who want to try wall Pilates, but the workout has grown in popularity because it’s so beginner-friendly.
Mowatt herself is new to Pilates, starting her practice just 10 months before finding wall Pilates. “I started off with shorter 5-10 minute workouts until my form improved,” she says.
Jardine designs her Wall Pilates workouts to be purposely beginner-friendly, with slow-paced movements and verbal cues to help those new to Pilates focus on their form and prevent injury.
3 at-home wall Pilates exercises
Interested in trying wall Pilates for yourself? Jardine and Mowatt share a few easy moves to get you started.
As with starting any new workout, listening to your body is important. “Take breaks and modify exercises as needed, and don’t beat yourself up if it feels difficult at first,” says Jardine. “That’s usually the case for everyone!”Leg raises
Start lying flat on your back facing the wall with both legs extended vertically and arms stretched alongside the body. Rest both heels against the wall, then lift each leg one at a time toward your body at around a 45-degree angle. Alternate for 20 repetitions.
Start by lying flat on your back facing the wall, with your feet about one foot away. Bring your feet hip-width apart and set them on the wall, so that your calves are parallel to the floor and your thighs are at a slight diagonal. Let your arms rest by your side on the mat. Then, tuck your hips under and press through your heels to slowly peel your back off the mat into a bridge position. Slowly lower back to the starting position. Repeat for 10-15 reps.
Stand with your back flat against the wall. Slowly walk your feet away from the wall as you sit down into a squat, bending your knees to a 90-degree angle. Make sure your ankles are directly below your knees. Roll through the balls of your feet to lift the heels off the mat while staying in the wall sit. Lower the heels back down. Repeat for 15 reps.
Pilates is a popular workout that focuses on strengthening and toning the core. It is known for being beginner-friendly and low-impact, making it accessible to people of various fitness levels. In recent years, a new trend called wall Pilates has gained popularity, especially on social media platforms. Wall Pilates involves using a wall to modify the intensity of each exercise, similar to the foot bar used in reformer Pilates classes. By pressing your feet against the wall, you can add resistance to the movements and build strength [].
During wall Pilates, you perform traditional Pilates exercises with the assistance of a wall. This allows you to exert force against the wall, providing static resistance and engaging your muscles in a different way. This type of resistance training is known as isometric training. By choosing to exert force at varying levels of your maximal effort, you can customize the intensity of the workout to your fitness level [].
Wall Pilates offers several benefits, including improved stability, balance, strength, and control. Since your feet are typically elevated throughout most of the workout, you may also experience increased circulation, improved digestion and sleep, and reduced muscle cramps. Additionally, using a wall adds resistance to your workouts without the need for extra equipment, making it a convenient option for home workouts [].
While there isn't much specific research on wall Pilates, isometric training has been shown to be an effective way to build strength without putting excessive stress on the joints. Incorporating wall Pilates into your routine can help strengthen your abdominal wall and improve musculoskeletal health. It is important to note that wall Pilates is considered a low-moderate intensity exercise, so it may not provide the same benefits as moderate or vigorous exercise in terms of body composition improvements and cardiovascular health. However, for individuals who are not currently engaging in any exercise, starting wall Pilates can lead to improved musculoskeletal health [].
Using a wall as feedback during wall Pilates exercises can also help ensure proper form and alignment. This is particularly useful when practicing at home, as you may not have access to a mirror or instructor for feedback. The wall can serve as an alternative method to maintain proper alignment and perform exercises correctly [].
The popularity of wall Pilates has led to the creation of one-month challenges on social media platforms, with participants sharing their before-and-after photos and experiences. While some individuals have reported positive results in terms of strength, flexibility, and coordination after committing to regular wall Pilates workouts, it is important to note that individual results may vary. Beginners or individuals who are new to Pilates may see more noticeable improvements in strength and balance compared to those who are already active and have a consistent workout routine. It typically takes a few months to see physical changes from a strength workout, and it may take even longer with a lower-intensity workout like wall Pilates [].
Wall Pilates is considered a beginner-friendly workout, making it a great alternative to in-class Pilates for those who want a cost-effective workout they can do at home. Basic knowledge of Pilates movements is helpful when starting wall Pilates, but the workout has gained popularity because of its accessibility to beginners. Wall Pilates workouts are often designed with slow-paced movements and verbal cues to help individuals focus on their form and prevent injury [].
If you're interested in trying wall Pilates, here are three at-home exercises to get you started:
Leg raises: Start by lying flat on your back facing the wall with both legs extended vertically and arms stretched alongside the body. Rest both heels against the wall, then lift each leg one at a time toward your body at around a 45-degree angle. Alternate for 20 repetitions.
Elevated hip bridge: Begin by lying flat on your back facing the wall, with your feet about one foot away. Bring your feet hip-width apart and set them on the wall, so that your calves are parallel to the floor and your thighs are at a slight diagonal. Let your arms rest by your side on the mat. Then, tuck your hips under and press through your heels to slowly peel your back off the mat into a bridge position. Slowly lower back to the starting position. Repeat for 10-15 reps.
Wall sits with calf raises: Stand with your back flat against the wall. Slowly walk your feet away from the wall as you sit down into a squat, bending your knees to a 90-degree angle. Make sure your ankles are directly below your knees. Roll through the balls of your feet to lift the heels off the mat while staying in the wall sit. Lower the heels back down. Repeat for 15 reps [].
Remember to listen to your body, take breaks when needed, and modify exercises as necessary. It's normal for the workout to feel challenging at first, especially if you're new to Pilates or exercise in general. With consistent practice, you can gradually improve your form, strength, and overall fitness level.