Pilates exercises are performed on the mat or on specially designed Pilates apparatus. While equipment sessions have some distinct benefits, they can be expensive. Some Pilates instructors have found that the rolling movements stability ball can simulate the gliding actions of the Pilates reformer, at an affordable price. The ball also poses a balance challenge, which requires you to work in correct alignment and engage your core muscles.
The Swan Dive
The swan dive is a spinal extension exercise. Like many exercises of its kind, it is performed in the prone position. This often poses a few problems. It means that you begin the exercise with your nose in contact with the floor, which can be unpleasant. People with limited spinal extension often find that they do not benefit from this challenging exercise. Using the ball keeps your nose away from the floor, while increasing your range of motion.
Lie prone with your body draped over the ball. Your hands should touch the floor in front of the ball. Keep your legs extended, and begin with your toes on the floor. Inhale, lift your head and extend your spine, until you reach a position that resembles the yoga cobra pose. Exhale, flex your spine to return to the starting position. Simultaneously lift your feet from the floor and extend your legs toward the ceiling. Perform three to six repetitions.
Pilates Side Bend
The Pilates side bend works the external obliques, which are the muscles near the waistline. Despite its primary target muscles, the exercise involves a considerable amount of upper body and wrist strength. People who lack this type of strength may experience discomfort when performing this exercise. The stability ball can help.
Sit on the ball in an upright position with your knees bent, your feet flat on the floor and your hands by your sides with your palms facing outwards. Inhale and roll your left hip to the left, simultaneously raising your left arm to the side. Exhale; bend at the waist and perform a side-bend to your right. Make sure to bend sideways, not forward. Inhale and begin rolling your left hip back to center. Exhale and lower your arm to the side. Perform four repetitions on each side.
The saw is an exercise for the internal obliques, which run diagonally across the abdominal area. The exercise is performed in a seated position, with the legs extended and slightly apart. People with tight hip flexors and lower backs find it difficult to sit in this position, but may be more comfortable on the stability ball.
Sit on the ball in an upright position, with your legs extended in front of you. Open your legs so that they are no wider than the width of the ball, and extend your arms to the side to shoulder height. Inhale and rotate your upper torso to the right. Exhale and flex your spine, reaching your left hand toward your right little toe. Keep facing right as you inhale and extend your spine to an upright position. Exhale and rotate your torso back to center. Repeat in the other direction. Perform four repetitions to each side.
About this Author
Lisa Marie Mercer has been a professional writer for nearly 10 years. She has authored “Open Your Heart with Winter Fitness,” “Breckenridge: A Guide to the Sights and Slopes of Summit County” and “101 Fitness Tips for Women.” She’s worked as a fitness professional, tour guide and ski resort employee. Her work has appeared in “Aspen Magazine,” “HerSports,” “The Professional Skier,” “Pregnancy Magazine” and “Wired.”