Want to build a stronger core in just four weeks? Turns out all you need is a wall, thanks to a new fitness trend blowing up social media.
Ask any devotee and they’ll tell you there’s nothing quite like the zest of being in a reformer Pilates studio, and the rush of endorphins that comes as the burn in your abs and glutes starts to sting. But regardless of reformer’s vast fan base, it’s never been the most financially sustainable fitness option.
With prices starting at an average of $30 to $45 a class, and anywhere between $60 and $100 for a weekly studio membership, reformer Pilates frequently polls as one of the most expensive forms of fitness across the world.
Thankfully, the rise of home gyms and virtual workouts means we no longer have to drop untold cash into the latest boutique studio to reap all the benefits this exercise modality has to offer.
In fact, if you’re looking for a fresh way to push yourself and elevate your fitness, the latest online Pilates trend is guaranteed to put your core to the test – and turns out all you need to sculpt a stronger body is a plain old wall.
Like what you see? Sign up to our bodyandsoul.com.au newsletter for more stories like this
What exactly is wall pilates?
Honestly, it’s exactly as it sounds: Pilates with a wall. And it’s increasingly popular, having racked up over 71 million views on FitTok (aka fitness content on TikTok) and 35 million on YouTube. The workout leverages the resistance of wall exercises, rather than that of a reformer machine, and merges it with the key elements of Pilates to create a dynamic full-body workout. So, instead of heading over to your local studio to complete your body-weight hip dips, all you need to do is shimmy up to your closest wall to amp up your Pilates workout.
The main goal of the challenge is to strengthen your core muscles, giving you a foundation to improve your posture, balance and general stability. But if you think you’re getting off without working the rest of your body, think again. The routine is designed to work all key muscle groups, making it one of the most effective at-home sweat sessions.
The best thing about wall Pilates? It only takes four weeks to see results. Plus, it can be done in any setting where a wall is present, making it the perfect travel workout. And as for why this new fitness trend is so effective, according to Upstate Studios Pilates instructor, Jess Hemsley-Hackett, it improves mobility while providing a high-intensity workout.
“When your legs are elevated, it allows a greater range of movement than simply doing a bridge with your feet on the floor,” she explains. “When putting pressure against the wall, it’s asking more of your abdominal chain to support the resistance, meaning your muscles contract to support the force you’re driving into the surface.”
Why has the workout gone so viral?
The ‘Wall Pilates Challenge’ is gaining traction online for one reason: its modifiable framework means you can get a higher-intensity Pilates workout at home. It targets strength and mobility using a range of daily exercises over the course of a 28-day period. Each day, the workout consists of three rounds of varying exercises – one for your upper body, one for your lower body and one focused on balance and stability – which add up to around 10 to 15 minutes of activity.
The inclusion of a wall means you can leverage a hard surface (rather than expensive studio equipment) as you work your way through a range of movements, making progression an easy addition to the exercises with each week of the challenge. The wall also offers diversity to the age-old Pilates moves, without compromising on the physical benefits they offer.
“The exercises are the same, it’s really just the location of the resistance that has changed,” says Hemsley-Hackett. “It adds variety, similar to changing up the equipment that you use in the gym – different gear, but the same outcome.”
Are the fitness benefits the same?
In a word, yes. Wall Pilates is just as comprehensive a workout as an ordinary mat Pilates class, and can be adapted to suit any fitness level. One key drawcard is it’s beneficial for those who suffer back pain and restricted spinal mobility.
“All ‘mainstream’ fitness abilities can easily be catered for,” explains Hemsley-Hackett. “The wall acts as a postural guide to keep the spine aligned. Like any regular Pilates practice, the workout will encourage increased mobility and relieve any tension in the back and spine.”
Similarly, it will strengthen your core as effectively as studio workouts, Hemsley-Hackett adding it may also be a win for those who struggle to activate their abs. “The wall encourages your body to align in a stable position that makes it much easier to engage the core,” she says. “With the elevation of the legs, firmly planted on the wall, this form of Pilates encourages the activation of the lower abdominal muscles, an area most people find tricky to engage in mat Pilates.”
However, if the exercise is done the wrong way, Hemsley-Hackett warns it can come with risks. “You can imagine that balancing one leg on a wall can tilt the pelvis and create a dominant strength side,” she says. “When hips become uneven, it can send the whole spine into a tizz. As soon as you feel pain – not the ‘oh this burns’ but the ‘oh sh*t’ kind of pain, it’s time to stop.”
Whether you want to fine-tune your form or simply give it a try, there are plenty of experienced instructors offering free wall Pilates workout videos on YouTube. (We recommend @rachelsfitpilates, @seniorshapefitness, @livaligned if you want to try a full workout.) But first, to get you started, here are three easy-but-powerful moves.
We put the 28-Day Wall Pilates Challenge to the test
Having run out of credit on her ClassPass subscription for the third month in a row, Body+Soul’s Sarah Noonan decided to bring Pilates to her lounge room to see what all the hype was about.
“After seeing one too many ‘28-Day Wall Pilates Challenge’ videos on my daily social media scroll, I finally gave in and, rather than swiftly swiping past as per usual, watched one of the video clips in its entirety. Images of women rocking toned abs after just four weeks was enough to pique my interest – that, and the reality I needed to cut back on the truckload of cash I was spending on studio classes.
“It looked easy enough – I’ve been practicing Pilates regularly since I was 16, so know my way around a glute bridge – but oh how wrong I was. The wall definitely added a resistance increase, helping to isolate the muscle groups being targeted in each exercise, but I was still barely breaking a sweat by the end. That was until I upped the intensity after a few days. Switching to single-leg exercises and adding some weight to the moves made me feel as though I’d done an entire 45-minute mat class in the space of just 10 minutes.
“By the end of the third week, although I couldn’t see it yet, I could definitely feel the difference in my muscles. And my back, which is notoriously stiff from my days playing football, was feeling noticeably more flexible. While I’m not ready to swap my reformer classes for the wall altogether, the challenge definitely highlighted the benefits of engaging in at-home Pilates more often – and my wallet is certainly grateful for the savings.”
Top three wall pilates exercises
This one works the legs and improves posture. Stand with your back against the wall and slide down until knees are at 90 degrees. Shuffle your feet so that your ankles sit directly under the knees. Engage your core, quads, glutes and hamstrings as you hold for 60 seconds. To up the intensity, add a band around the quads and press knees out and in.
To work the upper body, stand facing the wall. Press your hands into the wall, shoulder-distance apart. Step your feet back, about half a metre from the wall. Bend your arms at the elbow as you lower your upper body to the wall, keeping elbows at a 45-degree angle. Press into the wall, extending your arms to rise back up. Perform 12-15 reps.
Double-leg glute bridge
Lie face up with feet on the wall, hip-distance apart, so that knees and hips are at a 90-degree angle. Lift hips off the floor until your body makes a straight line from knees to shoulders. Squeeze glutes at the top then lower. Perform 12-15 reps.
- Jeremy Renner shows off his ‘miraculous’ body in new workout video
- DaiJa Monet reminds women to continue to work out after plastic surgery
- Where prospects have visited in 2023
- Jeremy Renner shows off recovery via workout and walking videos
- The 16 Best Workout Tank Tops for Any Fitness Routine