When you can’t get to the studio, the simple squishy ball can add challenge or assistance like the apparatus for noticeable changes.

By Delia Buckmaster • Edited by Amanda Altman

In the Pilates world, there are a few words we can all relate to. I’m sure you’re thinking of control, balance and precision, just to name a few, but I’m talking about the other “p” word: props. Pilates props make geeked-out instructors like myself squeal with delight. There are so many different devices to help stretch, strengthen and lengthen the body in ways you never thought possible. But if I had to choose just one to use at home, while traveling or when teaching a mat class, it would be the mini exercise ball.

They say good things come in small packages, and that couldn’t be truer of this inexpensive inflatable sphere that I can take anywhere—you can even fold up in your pocket! The mini ball adds variety, interest and challenge. It can increase the intensity and resistance, as well as provide assistance. Learning body awareness comes from detailed cuing and modifications, and using even the simplest tool like the mini ball can help you get there.

Joseph Pilates created his method with the intention that grace, ease, and fluidity would apply to all the exercises. His workouts were composed with continuous, smooth and elegant movements that transitioned from one to the next. The key to this routine is the sequence of the movements and the placement of the ball. Feel how your body responds to each exercise, and get creative by connecting some of the other Pilates exercises you know. The possibilities are endless.


Prop: 9-inch ball
Breath: See cues throughout.
Reps: Varies.
• Try to move through the exercises with fluid transitions.
• Think about fine-tuning the quality of each movement by slowing down.
• Although this routine was designed for the intermediate client, beginners should do the suggested modifications with less reps until strong enough to complete all the exercises.

Hundred Prep

Purpose: strengthens the abdominals and trunk stabilizers
Ball Benefit: engages the inner thighs and stabilizes the hips
Setup: Lie on your back with your legs in tabletop with the ball between your feet. Extend your arms by your ears.

1. Inhale to prepare,
2. Exhale, lifting your head and chest and bringing your arms by your hips as you extend your legs to a high diagonal.

3. Inhale, returning to the starting position. Do 4–8 reps.

Tips: Nod your chin before lifting your neck, moving your head and chest as one unit. Resist your arms toward your hips. Only lower your legs to the point where you can still maintain pelvic stability.
Modification: If you experience neck tension or lower-back strain, interlace your fingers behind your head and keep your legs in tabletop.
Advanced: Hold the full-range position and do the full Hundred exercise. Or increase the reps to 10.

Single-Leg Stretch

Purpose: strengthens the abdominals and trunk stabilizers; teaches coordination
Ball Benefit: supports the hip flexor of the fixed leg
Setup: Lie on your back with your legs in tabletop, and the ball between the calf and hamstring of one leg. Interlace your fingers behind your head.

1. Inhale to prepare.
2. Exhale, lifting your head and chest as you extend your leg without the ball.

3. Inhale, returning to the starting position. Do 4–6 reps, then repeat on your other side.

Tips: Move your head, chest and leg as one unit. Maintain a stable position of your hips. Keep the shin of your bent leg parallel to the mat, and your feet at the same level throughout.
Modification: Break the exercise down into three parts: lift your head and chest; extend your leg; lower your body.
Advanced: Add spinal rotation to work your obliques, keeping your elbows wide and your opposite hip grounded.

Bridging with Hip Release

Purpose: stretches the hip flexors while strengthening the extensors; promotes pelvic-lumbar stabilization
Ball Benefit: emphasizes hamstring work and challenges hip stability
Setup: Lie on your back in neutral spine with your knees bent and slightly apart, one foot on the floor and the other foot on the ball. Relax your arms by your sides, palms down.

1. Inhale to prepare.
2. Exhale, drawing in your abdominals and curling your pelvis off the floor, pressing evenly into both feet.

3. Inhale, rolling the ball away from your hip, flexing through your ankle.

4. Exhale, slowly returning your leg, and then rolling down to the starting position. Do 5–10 reps on each side.

Tips: Move your hips evenly into the Bridge, and keep your glutes engaged throughout. Emphasize the return of your moving leg in step 4—imagine grabbing a pencil at the gluteal fold of your supporting hip.
Modification: Omit the Bridge, and only extend your moving leg for a hip release.
Advanced: Place both feet on the ball with your knees bent and together, and lift your hips on the inhale; return to start on the exhale.

Get the rest of this article and more exercises like this in our current issue, available on newstands and on Magzter now!

July 7, 2017 at 10:02 am
Category: Articles, Exercises, Pilates Blog, Teasers
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