Full-Body Pilates Circuits

by Erika Quest on Mar 05, 2012

Teaching Skills

Make the most of your assets, time and expertise with an equipment-based class.

Circuit training is an excellent way to maximize time in your Pilates studio while utilizing different equipment and props. It’s also a nice way to help clients through a mental plateau, because circuit training combats boredom and shifts neuromuscular patterns. You can make more money, too, since you’re teaching a group—and that also makes the workout affordable for more people. Don’t worry if you have a particularly small studio; you can still create a circuit class even if you don’t have several reformers. Depending on the client base, I try to program one Pilates circuit session every 2 weeks. If I’m running a class, I might invite a client to add this extra workout to his or her program in order to shift movement patterns.

Circuits can be designed in many different ways. In general, make sure the sequence alternates between muscle groups to allow adequate recovery time. Always adapt your cuing to stay true to the powerhouse. This will foster more compound movement that stems from the core outward and involves intercostal breath that directs the initiators and movers.

As with any Pilates program, focus on quality of movement rather than number of repetitions. You may be surprised to see how some heart rates pick up.

Sample Workout

Always assess client limitations and provide appropriate Pilates repertoire modifications.

Equipment Stations. Since my studio is only about 850 square feet, I choose three stations at a time and have participants repeat each circuit three times. I make sure that the equipment is safely spaced apart and that I can monitor and cue each station as it happens. Don’t put people in another room or so far away that you can’t easily get to them. Aim for a total-body experience, and plan for 2–3 minutes at each station before switching. Before starting, teach a 5- to 10-minute warm-up, and conclude the workout with 5–10 minutes of functional elongation and cool-down.

Pilates Circuit #1

Reformer Setup With Jump Board, Light/Medium Spring Tension

This is a jumping station with 10–15 jumps in each position. Sequence all the way through, but allow for a “mini-break” if needed, as participants will perform these jumps three times by the end of the circuit.

Objective. Pelvic lumbar and core stabilization with knee/hip extensor strength and cardiovascular endurance.

Muscle Focus. Abdominals and quadriceps.


  • parallel
  • V position
  • wide stance
  • parallel, V position, wide stance—in sequence

BOSU® Balance Trainer on Floor

This is a planking and core station.

Objective. Core stability and endurance, incorporating balance and full-body integration.

Muscle Focus. Rectus abdominis, obliques, shoulder girdle and scapula stabilization.


  • plank with hands on BOSU ball: 15 seconds
  • front support (mountain climber) with hands on BOSU ball: 15 seconds
  • leg-pull front with hands on BOSU ball: 15 seconds
  • recovery and switch to supine position: 15 seconds
  • chest lift with bottom slightly below BOSU ball apex: 30 seconds
  • chest lift with rotation, with bottom slightly below BOSU ball apex: 30 seconds

Trapeze Table Setup With Leg Springs

This is a hip work station. Lie supine on the trapeze table, feet in the leg springs. Perform 10–15 repetitions in each position.

Objective. Hip extensor and adductor strength with focus on disassociation during circles and walkings.

Muscle Focus. Adductors, hamstrings.


  • frog
  • down circles
  • up circles
  • walkings

Pilates Circuit #2

Reformer Setup, Light Spring Tension

This is an arms station. Do 10–15 repetitions in each position. Vary between sitting and kneeling, depending on the client’s ability. Start in the easier position and progress, or vice versa. Note: The moves for this station are broken into three groups; each time students return to this station, they’ll do two different exercises. By the end, the arms will be thoroughly worked.

Objective. Trunk stabilization and postural elongation with concurrent open-chain arm work.

Muscle Focus. Triceps, biceps, rhomboids, pectoralis major.

Circuit 1 Moves

  • chest expansion
  • biceps

Circuit 2 Moves

  • rhomboids
  • thread the needle

Circuit 3 Moves

  • hug a tree
  • salute

Ladder Barrel

This is a lateral-flexion station. Keep hips stacked on the barrel, feet anchored at the ladder’s base. Bottom foot is forward, top foot back.

Objective. Abdominal oblique strength while in functional length.

Muscle Focus. Abdominal obliques.


  • side lifts: 45 seconds
  • recovery and switch to other side: 15 seconds
  • side lifts: 45 seconds

Wunda Chair Setup, Light/Medium Spring Tension

This is a back extension station. Have the pelvis on the chair, hands on the pedal. Stack the shoulders above the wrists, extend the legs behind (parallel to floor), and activate the hamstrings and gluteals.

Objective. Back extensor strength with scapula stabilization and abdominal control.

Muscle Focus. Back extensors.


  • basic swan: 45 seconds.
  • basic swan, single arm: 30 seconds (switch).

IDEA Pilates Today, Volume 3, Issue 2

© 2012 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.

About the Author

Erika Quest

Erika Quest IDEA Author/Presenter

Erika Quest is the owner of Studio Q Pilates Conditioning in Laguna Beach, California. As a former advertising executive and triathlon participant, Erika's specialties include sharp and successful bus...


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