Pilates Props 101
Whether you choose to do your Pilates on the Mat or a Reformer, there are multiple props used to enhance and challenge your workout. They can be used to assist your alignment and focus if you are fairly new to Pilates, or by contrast can also increase the burn! Let's take a look at some of the props we regularly use at Studio Lifewave.
Balls: By using a large Stability Ball or Swiss Ball, we focus on your balance. Whether it be sitting on the ball, pushing against it in a wall squat or rolling out to a plank position, the large ball gives you an additional challenge to some of the more basic moves. As balance is all about your core, you will naturally engage your T-Zone and stabilise the rest of your body. The smaller sized balls - 15cm or 22cm - use a similar theory as the larger ball, creating instability to fire up your core. They are generally a little under-inflated enabling you to squeeze them and really pin-point specific muscle groups.
Yoga block: A yoga block is used to maintain proper alignment and support the body. By placing a block under your head when you are side-lying, you take pressure off your neck and create a straight or neutral spine. It can also be used in place of a ball to target particular areas e.g. by holding a yoga block between your lower legs when in a tabletop position, you will engage your inner leg muscles.
Bands: There are many variations of resistance bands; with everything from the more stretchy therabands, to the more rigid "booty bands". All bands work on similar concepts of providing some extra resistance to your exercise. Bands can be used to increase the intensity of an exercise (e.g. “Bikini Butt Lift”), provide assistance or support (e.g. “Roll Up”) and also assist in providing an excellent stretch at the end of a workout (e.g. stretching out hamstrings).
Pilates Ring / Magic Circle: The Pilates Ring or Magic Circle as it is often referred to, is designed to be gently squeezed between your hands, legs or ankles. The circle adds that extra bit of resistance to target the smaller muscles in your shoulders or inner thighs. It is a prop that many Pilates instructors and clients love to include (and it is equally hated by many too!!).
Rollers and massage balls: Foam rollers, and various massage balls, offer direct pressure and massage to specific pain points. They are great for literally rolling out tight muscles and knots. Rollers are also used to add some instability by gently lying on them, once again ensuring you focus on your balance and core.
Hand weights: Legs, butt and core are quite easy to exercise and engage on the mat with just your own body weight as resistance. But the arms and upper body are a little harder to target. This is where the inclusion of some light hand weights or toning balls come in.
The various Pilates props available are used to increase intensity, target muscle groups and work on your coordination and stability. So what is your favourite Pilates prop?