Regulars at our BarreConcept classes will be familiar with how Pilates balls and resistance bands can enhance this already dynamic workout. It’s also great for plenty of mat exercises too.
For those of you who haven’t used either piece of equipment, let’s look at the Pilates balls first. You might not have seen one much because they aren’t typically found in gyms. They’re quite small and squidgy, not like a regular large gym ball, but it’s the fact that they’re not fully inflated which makes them very effective.
- On the mat, they’re great to place between your knees or ankles, for example in Bridge, to keep the hips, knees and legs in alignment. Also putting one under your pelvis for certain exercises will create gentle instability, allowing the muscles to work harder;
- One move that’s particularly aided by the ball is when it’s balanced underneath you (between the shoulder blades when lying down), which encourages deeper extension through the upper thoracic section of the spine;
- Using a ball to squeeze onto, at the knees, will add extra tension to the main leg muscles. We do this a lot in Barre, in Parallel plies, as it helps to combine good alignment with muscle strengthening as you contract the legs;
- To strengthen your Quads, placing the ball just above the knees, with legs hip distance apart, bend your knees (keeping the heels down), hold for a few seconds, squeeze the ball then come up. Repeat for four sets of 10;
- Finally, use the ball for a lovely relaxing movement at the start or end of a Pilates class, or at home. Position the ball under the centre of your head (lying on your back) and make small movements which will release tension in the neck and shoulders Imagine you have pencil on your nose and draw vertical and horizontal lines on ceiling, five times each and then little circles with the nose, five times in each direction.
Most of us have used or can easily store a resistance band at home. They do come in varying strengths, so we often advise having two: one low resistance one for any weak areas that need building up and a stronger one. We do use bands a lot in Barre, to make the muscles work harder or to help clients perform movements that are slightly out of their comfort zone! The bands are also great for wrapping around the Barre or a bannister for certain arm exercises, to mimic the feeling of the in-studio Springboard.
- To really target the Triceps, wrap a band around the Barre or a stair bannister and face away, place your right foot forwards into a lunge, both hands holding onto one end each. Interlock the fingers and drop your lower arms behind your head, keeping the elbows forward and then on the breath out, extend the arm from the elbow without lifting your shoulders. Try repeating 10 times and then swap legs for another 10;
- You could also keep the band where it is and sit on the floor for a ‘Pull Down’ which will strengthen the large Latissimus Dorsi (Lat) muscles. You should pull the very ends of the band by bringing your elbows down, low and into your waist, focusing on using the Lats and not the shoulder or neck muscles to move your arms;
- And here’s a very effective bottom exercise to finish off with…! Tie one end of a band around your right ankle and place the other end under your standing left foot. Bend the right leg keeping knees together and put the ball of your right foot on the floor behind, as you breath out squeeze the right heel up towards the ceiling. Breathe in to lower, 10 times and then add 10 little pulses at the end. Repeat this sequence twice. Make sure your core is engaged and that you don’t sink into the standing hip.
So we hope this taster of some of the exercises that you can do with bands and balls will encourage you to give them a go at home and in your next Pilates or Barre class!