It’s finally time for my review of POP Pilates! Yes! I’ve been eager to write this post for you, but first I wanted to be sure I spent enough time getting acquainted with the program so this could be as valuable as possible. I’m a newly certified POP Pilates instructor, and I’m completely loving this format. Let’s get to it …
Review of POP Pilates workout and class
Background and history
POP Pilates was created by one of the original healthy lifestyle bloggers, Cassey Ho, of Blogilates — who also happens to be the number-one female fitness trainer on YouTube. She started out sharing videos of herself doing fast Pilates-style movements with good tunes and quickly became an internet sensation. Years later, she created an official POP Pilates program that is now seen throughout gyms and studios worldwide, taught by certified POP Pilates instructors like me.
What is POP Pilates?
POP Pilates is inspired by classical Pilates, and it’s a full-body cardio, strength and flexibility workout using nothing but your own bodyweight and a yoga mat. The program is entirely mat-based, although you do stand up during a few tracks. The “POP” part comes from the faster moves, the dance-like feeling at times and the addition of upbeat pop-style music. It’s definitely not boring.
How is POP Pilates different than classical Pilates?
This is the official terminology pulled from the POP Pilates manual …
While POP Pilates moves all originate from classical Pilates, the class design, relationship with the music, sequencing and reps, differ from reformer classes and traditional mat classes. The fundamentals of breathing, core engagement and powerhouse-based movements are shared, however, the emphasis on moving to the beat of pop music is what makes POP Pilates so unique. Participants love that each 55-minute class is like a ‘dance on the mat.’
This intense, mat-based workout challenges students to rhythmically flow from one exercise to the next, developing a rock-solid core while leaving no muscle untouched. The format takes classical Pilates to the next level like you’ve never seen before.”
What can you expect in a POP Pilates class?
A typical POP Pilates class is about 55 minutes in length and includes 13 standard tracks, all around 3- to 4-minutes long. There are also 30- and 45-minute versions.
Each class you attend will progress through the specific tracks in a specific format, although the moves, repetitions and music may differ slightly depending on your instructor. In fact, POP Pilates has something called “Freedom of Choice,” which means instructors can actually take the roadmap of moves and put them to their own music choices, while keeping the tone/tempo/format of the original class. As an instructor, I haven’t done this, because I happen to like the upbeat music that the POP Pilates organization provides to us. It’s catchy, even if it’s not on the radio.
You will spend the entire class on your mat, in your own personal space. So you do not move around the room, which can certainly be a nice thing — not only to save time, but also to help new people feel comfortable.
Although this class hits the full body, much of the work is centered around the core — which includes your glutes, back, abs and even shoulders. You will definitely feel the burn throughout class, but not in a painful way, in a doable way. There are moments of intense shaking, if you know what I mean.
This is a low-to-no-impact workout, therefore you are not jumping up and down, so it’s easy on your joints.
You can expect to transition from one move to the other fairly quickly, getting the heart-rate up while you work your muscles. And let me tell you, it feels great.
What does a POP Pilates workout look like?
A full 55-minute POP Pilates always includes 13 tracks, with about a 20-second break in between each to set up for the next track. While the moves and music in each section can change slightly, the focus of each individual track remains the same from class to class.
Here’s the order of the tracks …
- Warm-up — standing warm-up to get the body and mind ready
- Total-body opener — mostly standing with big flowing moves
- The Hundreds — a play on the classical Pilates Hundreds
- Butt challenge — think bridges and fire hydrants
- Ab challenge — usually a tough crunch move
- Crazy cardio — getting the heart-rate up
- Abs and thighs — so tough and unique
- Upper body — push-up variations and arm work
- Obliques — think crisscrosses and scissor reaches
- Back work — all about the back, of course
- Kick-butt cardio — standing cardio to get you sweating even more
- Hard core — the final big core challenge
- Flexibility — slow swaying movements to stretch your muscles
What kind of moves will you see in a POP Pilates class?
There are 33 fundamental core moves that will often appear in POP Pilates workouts, then each new release (set of moves and music packaged and sent out to instructors quarterly) will feature brand new moves throughout. However, you can always expect to see some of the following …
- Leg lifts
- Leg drops
- Teasers (with plenty of options to modify this one)
- Bridge pulses
- Plie squats
- Half-cobra push-ups
- Plank jacks
- Downward dog
- Child’s pose
Each track will typically have about three or four moves, and you repeat those moves throughout the track, so you have a chance to learn them, work on them and master them by the end of the song. I’m a big fan of the repetition and keeping it simple. This is a great way to lay out workout classes for the best success from participants of all levels.
What are the benefits of a POP Pilates workout?
- Improved body awareness and muscle connection
- Increased flexibility and mobility
- Better posture and overall body alignment
- Major core strength (not just the abs, but the butt, back and even shoulders)
- Helps alleviate back pain by strengthening the core (this is a big one!)
My thoughts on POP Pilates
I didn’t have a ton of experience with POP Pilates when I decided to go through instructor training, which is NOT something I recommend to anyone else. However, my gym (24 Hour Fitness) is currently expanding the program and offered to send me to the training. I can never say no to furthering my fitness knowledge, so I went for it.
And I can honestly say that I am now loving this program. First of all, I love how it is intense and effective, yet it doesn’t beat your body up (like some of the other workouts that I teach, do and also love).
In addition to that, I love that this class is appropriate for all levels, because there are so many options. A beginner will likely not be able to do all the advanced moves, but will be able to do enough to get in a good workout and have fun, adding on difficulty every time.
I also love that there is a huge POP Pilates community of people who have been doing these workouts online for so long. And these folks are not only exercising and strengthening their bodies, but they are also learning to love themselves a little more each and every time they step on the mat. That’s powerful.
I’ve felt an improvement in my flexibility, mobility and core strength since doing POP Pilates about once or twice a week for the last three months. And because there is so much beneficial stretching, doing POP Pilates has made me feel like I don’t even need to go to yoga. I’m zen and stretched already.
And here’s what I don’t love about the program …
When I first took POP Pilates a few years ago I found the transitions way too quick, the set-up for moves a bit complicated and some of the names of moves a little too cheesy for me.
And yes, some of the moves still have cheesy names, for instance “sassy cat” is a cat/cow with a side-to-side hip roll. However, I now better understand that these names are meant to be fun. The whole workout is supposed to be different than a regular Pilates class, so it’s just part of the vibe. A little bit silly, definitely not too serious.
While some of the transitions between moves are still a little quick, I think that the POP Pilates choreographers/team have made things a bit more manageable. However, I do think sometimes the moves start way too quickly when the song begins (like on the first downbeat), which is always a little hard to catch, so I’d prefer more intro music on each track in the future.
Based on what I’ve seen from teaching this class, I can see that people definitely struggle a bit transitioning from move to move during the first set. But based on the way the tracks are laid out, people can improve and catch on to do a better job on the second and third sets.
Of course, in the history of choreographed live group fitness programs, this one is still quite new. At the point of writing this post, POP Pilates release 20 just came out. And when you think about some of my other popular worldwide group fitness programs, like Les Mills BODYPUMP for instance (which I also teach and was the first format I ever trained on), it is currently on release 113. That’s a lot of time to grow and perfect.
I’m encouraged and excited to see where POP Pilates goes as it continues to expand. I’m here for it.
What you need to know before attending a POP Pilates class
- Duration: About 55 minutes
- Equipment: Bring a yoga mat, a towel and some water
- Attire: Comfortable fitted workout clothing, bare feet, hair back
- Difficulty level: Plenty of options to modify, so appropriate for beginners all the way to advanced exercisers. On a scale of 1 to 10, about a 7
- Impact: No jumping involved
- Frequency: I’d recommend 1 to 3 POP Pilates classes a week, with 48 hours in between
If you want to find out more about POP Pilates, how to become an instructor and where to find a class, head to the official POP Pilates site.
You can also read a little bit about my time at POP Pilates instructor training in this post.
And you can find a totally free POP Pilates full-length class on YouTube here.
Thank you SO much for reading my review of POP Pilates.
Head on over to find me on Instagram if you haven’t yet, and I’ll share more about the program as I continue to teach it. Have an amazing day!
Questions of the day
Have you ever take a POP Pilates workout or class?
Do you have any questions about the program I haven’t answered?
How was your weekend?
Have you ever tried Pilates?