What Is the “Wall Pilates” Workout Craze?
We asked a certified Pilates instructor to weigh in on this popular exercise routine and rounded up a few of our favourite free online workouts.
You might have noticed a new fitness trend popping up on your social media feed—wall Pilates. While celebrities and influencers have long credited standard Pilates workouts for their sculpted bodies (hello, Kate Hudson and Jennifer Aniston), the latest viral TikTok trend is a new variation on this classic workout.
To get the scoop on what wall Pilates is all about, we talked to certified Pilates instructor Sarah Micak, who works at Body Harmonics, a movement studio in Toronto.
What is wall Pilates?
“Wall Pilates is really just using the wall as a prop, which is something Pilates instructors do all the time,” says Micak. “We use the wall for feedback because it helps you figure out where your body is in space, it can activate deep core muscles that support the spine and because it provides resistance,” she explains.
Wall Pilates looks a lot like classic Pilates, a workout popularized in the 1920s by Joseph Pilates. It involves standard moves like glute bridges, leg lifts, planks, push-ups and ab-strengthening “hundreds,” where exercisers use breathwork to focus on their core while pumping their arms up and down. All of these moves are, you guessed it, performed against a wall.
For example, instead of doing a bridge with your feet on the floor, you would brace your feet against the wall to target your core and back in a different way. (If you’ve seen how-to videos on social media, there’s a lot of hip thrusting involved.)
Why is the Pilates wall workout so popular right now?
“Pilates is low-cost and easy to do at home, so using the wall is one way to keep things fresh and new,” says Micak. “Pilates and at-home props really exploded over the course of the pandemic because people needed to get creative. Instructors used dining chairs, walls, or even cans of food in their workouts and that creativity has continued,” says Micak.
With the popularity of FitTok, YouTube and Instagram workouts, everyone has access to multiple fitness options, so people are looking for more variety in their workouts. The workouts are often quick, too, clocking in at less than 20 minutes. It’s also low-impact, which means it’s fairly easy on your joints. And because it’s not as sweaty as, say, going for a run, it’s more manageable to sneak in a wall workout before heading to the office or during a WFH lunch break. Plus, if you can suss out the best virtual workouts, wall Pilates costs next to nothing.
Do you need any equipment?
Pilates in general requires little to no equipment to get started. Ideally, you’d have a yoga mat and enough space so there are no obstacles on the wall and its surrounding area. One of the things you’ll immediately notice is that it takes some practice and adjusting to master the moves, which may require more space than you think. For example, during a glute bridge with your legs on the wall, you may be constantly scooting your butt closer to the wall to get your legs into the right position.
Is wall Pilates good for you?
Pilates in general has a lot of benefits because it focuses on those deep core muscles that you use to support your body every day, says Micak. Whether that’s carrying your kids or picking up groceries, you need a strong core to get through daily life without injury. “One of the great things about using a wall is that it provides resistance, a little like the Reformer [a Pilates machine], to make your exercises more challenging but more supported, so you can work the body in a new way and really tailor your workout,” she explains. But just because some of the moves might look simple, that doesn’t mean they are. (Don’t be discouraged if you can’t do a plank with your feet on the wall on the first try—or ever!)
What should you look for in a wall Pilates workout?
When you’re looking for a wall Pilates video to try, do some basic research first. “Be smart about who you’re taking instruction from,” recommends Micak. “Is it someone who is certified in Pilates? The more training the person has, the safer the movements will be in general.” Look for certifications, read the user comments, and even watch the full video in advance of trying it if you have time.
Will it help with weight loss?
Be warned: When you search wall Pilates, you’ll be bombarded with toned abs, round butts and a lot of talk about torching calories. While sticking with any exercise program could help you see these kinds of results, weight loss isn’t—and probably shouldn’t be—the focus of Pilates, says Micak. The standard benefits of Pilates are strengthening your core and muscles overall, and creating alignment in your body.
And what about the popular 28-Day Wall Pilates challenge that’s all over your social channels? “In theory, you could do Pilates every day,” says Micak, “but realistically, doing it three times a week is probably a really great goal.”
Where can I find the best free wall Pilates workouts?
There are a few popular subscription wall Pilates programs and paid apps, or you can watch reels on Instagram and TikTok to cobble together a workout. But we did our research and found some great free full-length videos on YouTube created by certified Pilates instructors.
We recommend trying Callie Jardine’s 10 Minute Full Body Wall Pilates for Beginners for an accessible, short workout or Rachel’s Fit Pilates Wall Pilates Beginner Workout. Both of these videos have over 1 million views and the instructors provide detailed instruction. In addition, they provide free programs to follow on their YouTube channels.
Other great (and free!) options to try include LivAligned Pilates, Wall Pilates Workout 20 Min Full Body, Jessica Valant Pilates 15-Min Wall Workout for Beginners or Trifecta Pilates Beginner Wall Pilates 20 min at-home Workout.