Pilates with props---this is a common name for a typical mat based pilates class. I often say in my class, "Props are used to make me sound more interesting". That is true, and usually gets a laugh, but it isn't the whole truth. Yes, using a prop CAN indeed make the exercise I am explaining sound more interesting, but in turn actually DOES make the exercise more interesting. The prop can help you engage additional muscle groups to make an exercise more or even less challenging. It just depends on the prop and how you use it. I will have more posts about other props but let's stick with one for today...the mini stability ball.
I LOVE this prop. First, you can really get one anywhere. Ok, yes Amazon is at our fingertips, but you know that big bin at the grocery store or pharmacy that is filled with balls that have Dora the Explorer or Nemo on it that your child, niece, nephew, kid you babysit (enter any child in your life here) begged for and is now in the backyard, garage, basement (insert place of forgotten toys here)? Yeah, well go to that place of forgotten/misfit toys (Sorry King Moonracer) and grab that ball! Yes, you can use that to enhance your pilates practice. If you are more of a traditionalist, please go visit Amazon and check out this ball. I have the 7.5 inch and 12 inch and both are great!
I like using the mini stability ball in class because it adds a challenge, but is soft and has give to it. It also is the prop that just about every studio/gym has on hand and also has enough stock for everyone to have their own. Any time you add an unstable prop you are going to challenge your core stability and all those deep spinal stabilizers (yes, your abs, and other muscles) in ways you cannot on a stable surface. Here are a few examples:
One Leg Circle: This is an exercise that I would say many people do not find that interesting. I personally love it, but I am probably not the best example as I do this for a living. You lie down on our back with one leg long on the mat with the mini ball under your ankle. Your other leg is pointed up toward the ceiling. Imagine you have a piece of chalk on your big toe of the leg pointing toward ceiling and you need to draw circles on the ceiling. The movement comes from the hip and you need to keep your hips as still as possible. The mini ball under your ankle is challenging this stability and in turn challenges and strengthens your core more than you would with no prop. Contrary to the exercise name, it has more to do with your abs than your leg.And yes I intended that core and more rhyme.
Something else? You can try just your traditional ab curl.
Abdominal curl or Ab Prep (I use this term in class): Instead of lying down, you sit up and put the min ball about mid back. The instability of the ball automatically makes your deep spinal stabilizers kick in. But the ball not only helps challenge, but it helps people that may not be comfortable lying on their back (hello vertigo) perform and achieve a challenging abdominal curl. Add some rotation and you add the focus to your obliques. Bonus!
You want more? I will be doing some pop up classes and adding some short videos soon so stay tuned!