Here at Loftus Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation, our Clinical Pilates instructors use an assortment of Pilates apparatus, mat exercises and a variety of special props. These props props increase the intensity, resistance, balance challenge and fun factor of a typical Pilates mat session. Typical Pilates props include the physio-ball, elastic resistance bands, Pilates mini-balls, Styrofoam rollers, bosu balls, small weighted balls, light dumbbells and the Pilates fitness circle.
Having a Ball
The large physioball fitness increases the range of motion of the typical Pilates abdominal exercise, and thereby adds resistance. When added to Pilates training, it poses a balance challenge, which forces your deeper core muscles to work in concert with your superficial abdominal muscles. Even if a particular Pilates exercise was not specifically designed to target the core, this balance challenge makes deep core activation necessary.
Take a look at the breast stroke exercise. Performed in a prone position, it requires you to:
- Prepare by drawing in your abdominal muscles, thereby engaging your core
- Extending your spine and lifting your upper to a 45-degree angle
- Engage your gluteal muscles to stabilize your pelvis on the ball
The stability ball also increases the comfort level of the prone exercises, because it eliminates the discomfort associated with lying face-down on the mat.
The BOSU: Pilates From Both Sides
Adding a BOSU ball to the Pilates exercise repertoire helps “dimensionalize” the program, says Pilates instructor trainer Erika Quest. Depending on the exercise, it can either add challenge to the movements or provide assistance. For example, during the forward spine stretch, the BOSU prevents your hamstrings and hip flexors from overfiring, which in turn enables you to elongate your spine. In contrast, placing the BOSU ball on its dome side and positioning your feet on the platform dramatically changes the bridging exercise, by altering how your brain organizes the articulation of the movement. As a side benefit, this variation adds an extra challenge to your hamstrings and glutes.
The Styrofoam roller is a versatile prop, which serves as a self massage tool, whilst adding a balance challenge to Pilates exercises. Supine foam roller Pilates exercises also help your Clinical Pilates practitioner identify balance discrepancies between the right and left sides of your body. For example, many people have a tendency to favor one side of the body over the other. If you favor one side while lying supine on the roller, you may not be able to maintain your balance on the weaker side. This gives your instructor valuable information to work with, and help you develop a corrective exercise program.
The Pilates Mini Ball
The “mini me” of the stability ball serves a number of useful functions in Pilates exercise. For example, placing the ball between your legs during bridging exercises invites your inner thighs to activate and join the fun. If you tend toward neck pain during supine abdominal exercises that involve upper torso flexion, placing the ball under your head and rolling your neck from side to side will loosen your cervical region before you start the exercise.
These are just a few fun ideas of how props can be added to Pilates. Want more? Book a session with one of our Clinical Pilates practitioners.