Sculpt stronger arms and abs with this 3-move Pilates workout

It won't take you any longer than 10 minutes

Woman doing a side plank
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

A strong upper body is essential to living a healthier life; it helps us with everyday activities, reduces our risk of injury and is key for good posture. While strength training and lifting weights may be the most popular way to gain strength, if you’re looking for something a little less intense, then this three-move Pilates workout is for you.

Just a quick one, Pilates isn’t going to give you massive muscles and if that is your goal then you are better off doing a strength workout like this one. However, the Muscles Ligaments Tendons Journalsays that what Pilates can do is increase muscle strength and endurance, flexibility, as well as improve your posture and balance. Pilates is also renowned for being excellent for your core too, the central part of our body that keeps us steady, helps us move better and can even reduce the likelihood of back pain. 

For this workout you’re going to do eight reps of the exercises below, on both sides of your body, completing two rounds in total. All of the exercises require you to hold your bodyweight either using both arms, or one arm, so get ready to feel that upper body burn. If you need to, take a 20 to 30 second rest between each movement and have your gym water bottle to hand. Here’s your exercises: 

1. Side bend twists

Rather than just holding a static side plank, by adding in the rotation you're challenging your core muscles and stability even further. As you balance on one arm, you'll also be strengthening your shoulders, triceps and forearms. If you can't perform a side plank balancing on your hand, just come down to your forearm instead.

2. Plank steps

This exercise may look simple, but expect a big burn! Holding a plank position will help to strengthen the muscles in your arms, chest, back, hips legs and core. Add in the extra movement of slowly bringing your feet in towards your torso and back out again will really fire up your abs.

3. Downward dog crunch

The downward dog is a popular Pilates pose that conditions your arms, shoulders, wrists and lower back. However, this variation also adds in a crunch to work your core muscles more and add even more of a challenge to your upper body. You don't need to extend your leg upwards (as shown in the video below), just bring your knee to your opposite elbow (a bit like a mountain climber) then return your leg back to your downward dog position.

If you enjoyed this routine then we have plenty of other beginner-friendly Pilates workouts here on T3 for you to try. As you’ve just worked your arms, why not move onto your lower body next and work on your glutes with this three-move Pilates workout? If it’s you also want to target your quads and calves, then we recommend this 10 minute workout instead. However, if you’re pushed for time and just need to work everything you’ll want this full-body routine, just get ready to burn. 

Bryony Firth-Bernard
Staff Writer, Active

Bryony’s T3’s official ‘gym-bunny’ and Active Staff Writer, covering all things fitness. In her spare time, you will find her in her natural habitat - the gym - where her style of training is a hybrid of bodybuilding and powerlifting. Bryony loves writing about accessible workouts, nutrition and testing innovative fitness products that help you reach your fitness goals and take your training to the next level.