One popular and fun optional piece of Pilates equipment that is often incorporated into a Pilates routines is the Pilates ball, which is also known as a fitness ball.
What is Pilates?
Pilates is a popular, fun, and effective fitness and wellness program for millions of people of all ages, shapes, and sizes around the world. Pilates are designed to balance, strengthen, sculpt, and tone the entire body without excess bulk by combining breathing with posture and strengthening movements aimed to center and strengthen deep torso muscles. There are many different Pilates exercises and routines that will help you achieve the body-sculpting and well-being benefits of Pilates.
Why Use a Pilates Ball?
Exercise balls are used in all kinds of balancing and strengthening exercises in a variety of fitness programs including Pilates and Winsor Pilates. Exercise balls are a fun way to increase core strength when used properly. Many Pilates books and dvds will show you proper use of exercise balls.
Balancing on an exercise ball will help you increase your core strength and posture. You will need a yoga mat or a Pilates mat to use with your ball for comfort and safety.
Finding the Right Pilates Ball
You can safely add variety and challenge to your Pilates mat exercises with your ball. An exercise ball should always have a little give to it. The size of the ball you use should be proportional to your height. You should be able to sit comfortably on your exercise ball with your legs at least a 90 degree angle.
Your exercise ball should be blown up to be firm, but not too tight, to be safe. Your exercise ball should have enough give to it that when you sit on it, it forms a seat. The slight give in the ball will provide stability.
Exercising With the Pilates Ball
For light resistance exercises, squeeze your exercise ball several times. To get a good stretch, drape yourself over your exercise ball and hold the position while you concentrate on your balance and your breathing.
Other safe and recommended exercises are the spine stretch, in which you slowly roll out your back with your hands balancing on the rolling exercise ball, and knee folds, which are basic Pilates exercises performed sitting on your exercise ball with your feet flat on your mat.
To complete the knee folds, sit up straight with your shoulders aligned with your hips and your legs and feet parallel to each other as wide as your hips. Your abs should be pulled in, and your spine straight with the floor. Relax your shoulders and roll your shoulder blades down your back. Place your hands on your exercise ball or extend your arms straight out from your shoulders. Lightly lift one foot off the floor, keeping the rest of your body balanced and perfectly still. Alternate legs, using controlled movements as you place them back on the floor. Repeat this exercise five times for each leg
These types of Pilates exercises, performed carefully with your exercise ball, are safe and effective. Be sure to also follow the instructions that are provided with your exercise ball.