This Upper-Body Pilates Workout Is Designed to Advance Your Practice

The core is the star of most Pilates sessions — it's true — but refocusing your attention to your arm strength could help you break through a Pilates plateau.

According to certified Pilates instructor and founding kuudose expert Keisa Parrish, the strength of your arms won't make or break you while taking a virtual Pilates class, but is useful.

"I would say, however, strong arms are important in advanced Pilates exercises — especially [those] done on Pilates machines (tower, chair, reformer, etc.). You are using your arms to lift, hold, push, or pull your body weight as you stabilize and strengthen the trunk or lower body," she adds.

Strengthening your upper body with Parrish's moves could be the push you need to advance in your Pilates practice. As you go, though, remember to take rests and modify exercises as needed!

And while personal growth is a great benefit of her circuit, my favorite part about this workout is that these moves double as a warmup — although I can't say the same about cooling down.

After your sweat, Parrish says to roll your shoulders back and forth four times in each direction, do a tricep stretch, and a chest opener stretch with a forward fold bend.

Serving Tray
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Serving Tray

Work your biceps, shoulder, triceps, and upper back without disrupting your center, Parrish says.

  • Come standing tall with your feet hip-width apart. Draw your navel into your spine and up into your ribcage.
  • Squeeze your shoulder blades together on your back as you pull your front lower ribs together — this is your powerhouse. Don't let it go until you have finished this whole series.
  • With your arms at your sides, bend them to make 90-degree angles with your elbows slightly behind you and your palms facing up.
  • Inhale, without losing your powerhouse, extend your arms forward like you were passing a tray to someone directly in front of you.
  • Reach the energy through your fingertips as you draw your ribs back. And don't let your hands and arms go higher than shoulder height.
  • Exhale, use your back and the back of your shoulders to draw your elbows back into your waist.
  • Repeat 10 times.
Pilates Tricep Push-Ups
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Pilates Tricep Push-Ups

"The purpose [of this move] is to use our upper body strength, abs, and back muscles to lower and lift ourselves in one piece keeping the arms close to the rib cage," Parrish says.

  • In your plank position, place your hands directly underneath your shoulders. Keep your powerhouse engaged, reach your chest forward as you reach your heels back.
  • With your fingertips facing forward, inhale and draw your elbow back, grazing your ribcage, as you lower down halfway in one piece.
  • Exhale as you push down in your arms to rise back up in one piece.
  • Repeat five times.
Side Plank Thread the Needle
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Side Plank Thread the Needle

Here, Parrish wants you to stabilize the shoulder joint while taking the top reaching arm and scooping it underneath your body between the floor and your rib cage — without sinking into your supporting shoulder.

  • In your forearm plank, step your feet hip-width apart.
  • Internally rotate your left arm so that your fingertips are facing the elbow on the right.
  • Turn your heels to the left as your toes turn to the right. Your weight should be on the inside of the right foot and the outside of the left foot.
  • Float your right arm up towards the ceiling to find yourself in a side plank.
  • Inhale and take your right arm and scoop it underneath you between your rib cage and the floor. As you turn your right shoulder down towards the floor, lift out of your left shoulder and armpit.
  • Exhale and return to your side plank.
  • Repeat 10 times before returning to your regular forearm plank to repeat on the other side.
Reverse Plank Tricep Dips
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Reverse Plank Tricep Dips

According to Parrish, this move is all about strengthening the tricep by bending and straightening the elbow while keeping the body in one piece.

  • Sit with your legs extended in front of you and squeeze your thighs and ankles together. Point your toes.
  • Lean back and place your hands under your shoulders, palms flat, fingers facing your feet.
  • Squeeze your legs together and press your heels and palms into the floor to lift your hips into a reverse plank.
  • Working to keep your body in one piece, inhale and bend your elbow as you continue to stay lifted out of your shoulders.
  • Exhale and straighten your arms to return to a reverse plank.
  • Repeat five times before lowering your hips to the ground to start from the top.

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