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The Reinvented Use-Every-Muscle Pilates Workout

Sleek, strong, sexy. That’s the trademark Pilates body. But do this next-level workout and you can add chiseled, fit, and fierce to the list. And you won’t need a fancy machine or quirky tone-up tool to get there. Thanks to her tweaks to the workout style's signature small moves, instructor Karen Lord, the owner of the Karen Lord Pilates Movement studio in New York City, has created a bolder technique that gets deeper into your muscles and leads to even more results from the scientifically proven mat classics.

“You'll shake, burn, and work your hardest, but I promise that you’ll actually achieve the toning you're hoping to see,” says Lord, whose transformative classes draw many professional athletes, including runners prepping for big races.

Experience her modern approach (Lord's motto: “Out with the old and in with the exciting new”) with this workout that she created for Shape. If you've done Pilates before, the moves may look familiar at first, but they each have an added challenge that makes the difference.

Lord’s style is the opposite of—and adds a nice counterpoint to—the AMRAP-heavy workout world we live in. You won’t get breathless or be sweat-drenched. You’ll lift, press, and extend in slo-mo, thereby feeling a deep burn not present in many other workouts. “Slower can be harder, because you take time to start the movement in the muscle, not the joint,” she says. "It's crucial to getting results and avoiding injury."

Don’t worry if your body trembles on your final reps. "That means you’re doing something new and challenging and making changes in your muscles," Lord explains. Focus on balance, then alignment. You can’t tap into your body too much, Lord says. Is your jaw tight? You’re clenching your neck instead of working your abs. Are your shoulders crunched up to your ears? That’s a lot of tension and wasted energy. “These are go-to areas that we typically feel comfortable getting to do the dirty work for the often weaker abdominals, which can be trickier to find and fire up,” she says. Lord calls these form fixes her little big deals. “They turn something that’s easy to cheat through into something body-changing.” 

Want to see the workout in action? Check out our Pumped-Up Pilates workout video to see Karen Lord demo the moves.

How it works: Do each move in order for the number of reps indicated. Repeat the routine once or twice. Love it? Good news: You can do this workout every day. And if you do it for one month, you’ll see and feel a difference in your body, strength, posture, and mood, Lord says. But if you’re adding this to a schedule packed with other get-fit passions, then shoot for three times a week and you’ll notice the better-body, happier-mind benefits kick in at four to six weeks.

Total Time: up to 30 minutes

You will need: Free weights, Mat

1. Single-Leg Teaser Twist

A.

Sit on mat with knees bent, inner thighs squeezing together, feet pressed into floor, arms extended forward at shoulder height with palms down. Inhale as you slowly round your lower spine into a C shape; exhale as you raise and extend left leg at a 45-degree angle (keeping thighs aligned), toes pointed. Rotate torso to right to start, then inhale to raise arms about a foot; exhale to lower. Then, pull your body deeper into the C curve and inhale as you pulse torso forward and backward. Switch sides; repeat.

Reps:

10

2. Reverse-Plank Kick

A.

Sit on mat with legs long and together, feet flexed, palms flat beneath shoulders. Exhale as you point toes and lift hips into reverse plank to start. Inhale, then extend left leg upward at a 45-degree angle [shown]; exhale as you lower leg with foot flexed. Without lowering from reverse plank, switch sides; repeat.

Reps:

10

3. Jackknife Into Air Frogs

A.

Lie faceup on mat with legs extended, arms by sides, and palms down. Exhale as you lift legs and then hips, rolling onto shoulders (stay off neck), straightening legs, and pointing toes toward ceiling directly above eyes to start.

B.

Inhale as you bend knees wide, lowering legs toward shoulders with feet flexed and heels touching. Exhale back to start position. Slowly roll down, one vertebra at a time.

Reps:

3

4. Side Diamond Legs

A.

Lie on mat on right side with knees stacked and bent toward chest. Place right forearm on floor and left palm on floor in front of belly. Lift feet off floor (knees stay together and pointing down). Then stack hips by opening left knee toward ceiling to start.

B.

Inhale as you extend left leg outward at a 45-degree angle. Exhale as you slowly return to start position. Switch sides; repeat.

Reps:

10

5. Diamonds in the Sky

A.

Stand with feet hip-width apart, arms by sides, and a weight in each hand. Bend knees into a half squat and shift butt back; pitch torso forward slightly and keep spine straight. Inhale, extending arms overhead (biceps alongside ears) with thumbs touching and palms facing forward to start.

B.

Exhale, bending elbows wide and drawing thumbs toward head. Return to start position.

Reps:

10

6. Abs Blast

A.

Sit on mat with a weight in each hand, arms by sides, and bring legs into a tabletop. Extend arms forward at chest height with palms down to start.

B.

Inhale as you lean torso back and extend legs forward 45 degrees with feet flexed. Exhale as you return to start position.

Reps:

10

7. Triceps-Pulses Half Squat

A.

Stand with feet together, arms by sides, and a weight in each hand. Do a half squat; extend arms behind you just above butt with palms up to start. Inhale as you raise arms about 6 inches. Exhale as you return to start position.

Reps:

10

8. Hawk Wings Reach

A.

Stand with feet together, arms by sides, and a weight in each hand. Bend knees and hinge torso forward until it’s parallel to floor; extend arms
toward floor with palms facing each other to start. Exhale, opening arms to shoulder height with palms facing down. Inhale as you return to start position.

B.

Then exhale as you reach left arm forward with palm down and right arm back with palm up at shoulder height. Inhale to return to start position. Switch sides; repeat.

Reps:

10