What are Pilates?

Pilates are a form of exercise named after Joseph Pilates. Born in Germany in 1883, Pilates developed his system of exercises to strengthen the mind and the body. He believed that a person’ s physical and mental health were related.

This type of exercise involves starting from a strong core and then making controlled movements. Modern Pilates routines use several types of exercise equipment to help participants improve their fitness, including small weighted balls, foam rollers and rotating disks. Large exercise balls and exercise bands are also used to stay active and improve fitness.

Principles of Pilates

Pilates routines are developed based on the following core principles:

Concentration

The person performing the movements must give the exercise his or her full attention.

Control

The person performing the Pilates exercise is required to be in control of his or her body at all times. Muscles must work against gravity; if a piece of exercise equipment is being used, the muscles must also work against that apparatus to complete the required movement.

Centering

The group of muscles located in the center of the body (abs, upper and lower back, buttocks, hips and inner thighs) are an integral part of this exercise technique. Collectively, they are called the “powerhouse” and all Pilates movements start in this part of the body and move outward to the extremities.

Efficiency of Movement

Once a person gets some experience performing Pilates exercises, they are meant to be performed in a fluid movement. The goal is for the individual to build strength and increase stamina as he or she performs the movements.

Precision

All the Pilates movements are meant to be performed in a precise manner. Strength is built up by performing a few concentrated movements rather than several sluggish ones. This concept of precision is meant to eventually influence the Pilates participant’s everyday life as graceful movements.

Breathing

Deep breathing, with full inhalation and complete exhalation, is part of performing Pilates. The breathing is directed into the lower ribcage in order to keep the lower abdominal muscles close to the spine. As the person practicing this type of exercise gains more experience in the specialized breathing techniques that are part of a Pilates exercise routine, they learn to coordinate their breathing with specific movements.

Best Exercise Ball Workouts for Men

An exercise ball workout isn’t just for the ladies! These exercise ball workouts for men can help with core strength training, as well as core and leg strengthening. Give them a try for a few weeks and you will find that you are leaner and more toned.

Basic Crunch

Try this exercise to strengthen your abs. Position yourself so that your lower back is on the ball and your feet are flat on the floor. Your upper body and thighs should be parallel to the floor. Use your abs to lift your shoulders and upper back off the exercise ball.

Superman

This exercise targets your upper and lower back, as well as your buttocks. Position yourself with your stomach on the ball; your body should be at a 45-degree angle to the floor. Use the tips of your toes to make sure you don’t lose your balance and fall off the ball. Stretch your arms out in front of you as if you were flying and hold this position.

Opposite Limb Extension

Try this one for your lower back, glutes and hamstrings. Lie face down on top of the fitness ball, using your toes and hands to stabilize yourself. Look down at the floor and extend your left arm and right leg simultaneously. Hold the position for two seconds and then return to the starting position. Repeat with the alternate leg and arm.

Abdominal Rolls

Lie on your back with your knees bent; your feet should be flat on the floor. Place the exercise ball on your lower thighs and put your hands on top of the ball. Lift your shoulder blades off the floor and roll the ball toward the top of your knees. Pause and then return to the starting position.

Bent Knee Bridge

The Bent Knee Bridge is a good exercise for your buttocks and hamstrings. To start, lie on your back on the floor with your knees bent. Your heels should be resting on top of the fitness ball.

Spread your arms out to your sides. Squeeze your glutes and lift your butt off the floor, pushing your hips toward the ceiling. Pause when you get to the top of the movement and then your hips down to the starting position.

Elevated Push-ups

This is a good choice when you want to work on your shoulders, pecs, triceps and abs. Position yourself so that the front of your knees are on the front of the ball and your hands are flat on the floor. If you are in the right position, your whole body will be parallel to the floor.

Look down and bring your face down to with in a few inches of the floor. Push yourself back up until you get into the starting position.

Using a fitness ball is only one strategy for staying active. Change up your routine to include a number of activities, including cardio exercise routines and strength training to avoid boredom and stay on track.

How to Choose an Exercise Ball

If you are interested in using an exercise ball for fitness, the first thing you need to do is find the right one for your needs. Exercise balls come in different sizes, and you will want to be sure that the one you buy is the right size for your height.

When shopping for fitness balls in a store, sit down on different sizes so that you can find one that you feel comfortable with. If your hips are level with or slightly higher than your knees when you sit on the ball, you have found the right size.

People who are concerned about the ball bursting because they are overweight or obese should focus on finding on that is burst-resistant. Models are available that can withstand up to 600 lbs. in weight. If you are concerned about damaging the ball when you are using it, so check out one of these models when you are shopping.

Exercise balls are available in department and sporting goods stores. You can also order them online. If you decide to buy online, make sure you ask about the company’s return policy before deciding to make a purchase.

Why Exercise Balls Are Effective

Using an exercise ball as part of your fitness routine adds a new element to it. When you lie on the ball, you need to use your abdominal and leg muscles to keep from sliding off.

Try using the exercise ball when you are doing weight training. It makes a unique bench for you to sit on and gives your abs, legs and glutes a more challenging workout. You can also use it for crunches and twists for core strengthening.

You can also use the exercise ball for stretching and pilates exercises. Both of these activities are part of an active lifestyle that will help you feel great and lower your risk of heart disease.

Best Exercise Ball Workouts for Women

If you are looking for a home exercise routine that can help you get and stay in shape, look no further than an exercise ball to help you reach your goal. Don’t let the fact that they look like a giant beach ball fool you; this is a serious piece of equipment that has a part to play in helping you stay active by getting regular exercise.

The exercise ball can be positioned against a wall to give you more support. You can use it to get a great exercise ball workout by trying some of the exercises listed here.

The Dip

Place the exercise ball next to the wall and sit on it with your bottom on the edge. Your palms should be placed hip-width apart behind you with your fingertips pointing towards your back.

Next, push out from the ball so that your hips are in front of it. Your knees will be at a 90-degree angle. If you need to, you can walk out a few steps. Plant your feet firmly on the floor and contract your abdominal muscles.

Lift your chest and press your shoulders down. Bend your arms until they are at right angles to your body, keeping them pointed back the entire time. Straighten your arms and repeat.

Static Squat with Front Raise

Stand next to a wall and position the exercise ball level with your lower back. Grasp a dumbbell (3-8 lbs.) in each hand. Take a step forward and position your feet hip width apart. Lean back into the exercise ball and contract your glutes and abs.

Lower your hips until your knees are at a 90 degree angle. While holding this position, raise your arms in front of your body until they are at shoulder height. Repeat the arm movement eight time and then rise to the starting position. This is one complete set.

Wall Crunch and Twist

This exercise focuses on your obliques and the center of your abs. Sit on the exercise ball facing the wall. Lie down on top of it so that the middle of your back is resting on top of it. Your fee should be hip-width apart on the wall with your legs bent to a 90-degree angle.

Cross your arms over your chest. Curl up and twist through your waist to your right side. Come back to the center and curl down. Alternate to twist on the left side. These movements are considered one rep.

Once you have some experience, work up to three sets, three times per week for each one of these exercise ball workout routines for women.

An Exercise Ball Can be Part of Your Workout Routine

An exercise ball is more than just an overgrown beach ball. They can be used in conjunction with other pieces of exercise equipment, such as the stair stepper and stepmill to help improve your fitness and overall heart health.

Using one properly will help you to improve your core strength. When you lie back on a fitness ball with your feet on the floor, your abdominal and leg muscles must contract to keep you from sliding off. You can perform certain exercises, like a crunch or a chest press while balanced on top of the ball, which takes the workout to a different level.

You will want to choose the right size exercise ball for your height. You should be able to put your feet on the floor at a 90 degree angle. When you go shopping for one, sit down on it to make sure you get one that isn’t too large or too small for you.

Once you get your exercise ball home, you can use it for several purposes. One way to think of the exercise ball is as a kind of weight bench. You can adapt exercises where you are sitting and lying down (either face up or face down) for use with the exercise ball instead of a flat bench. Doing so means that your abs, glutes and legs get a workout as well as the other muscle groups you are trying to target.

When you want to do crunches or twists, lying on top of an exercise ball means you have an extra level of difficulty. If you are new to using this piece of equipment for working out, ask a friend to act as a spotter and make sure the all doesn’t slide out from under you. Once you get some more experience using the ball, you won’t need to use a spotter.

The exercise ball can be used as way to improve your posture as well. Try sitting on it when you are watching television or using a computer. Once you feel comfortable using the exercise ball for this purpose, try lifting one foot off the floor. Be careful, though; you don’t want to fall off the ball. Tightening your abdominal muscles when you are using the exercise ball will help you to focus on this group when you work out with an exercise ball.

Exercise Ball Workout Routines for Abs, Hips and Thighs

You can use an exercise ball for stretching, and it can also be a key piece of equipment for working on your abs, hips and thighs. Adding a medicine ball into the mix makes your workout more challenging.

Before you start your exercise ball workout, take five minutes to do some light cardio exercises first. If you are at the gym, using a stationary bicycle is a great choice. You can get your heart rate elevated without putting a lot of strain on your joints.

Squat and Reach

Grasp the exercise ball and hold it in front of you. Bend your knees, keeping your back straight. Your arms should be parallel to the floor.

Tighten your abdominal muscles and turn towards your left. Hold this position while you take three deep breaths. Move back to the starting position and repeat on the right side.

You can vary this exercise by holding the ball down toward your knees or up over your head.

Abdominal Crunches

Sit on the ball with your back straight and your feet flat on the floor, about shoulder width apart. Cross your arms over your chest.

Tighten your abs and lean back until you feel a stretch. Hold the position while you take three deep breaths. Return to the starting position and repeat.

Sit and Squeeze Exercise

Stand facing away from a wall with an exercise ball positioned against your back. While holding the exercise ball in place, slide down until your knees form a 90 degree angle to the floor. Squeeze a medicine ball or a towel just above your knees. Hold this position for at least 15 seconds. Repeat two or three times.

Leg Extensions

Position the exercise ball under your upper back. Make sure that your knees are at 90 degrees. Grasp a medicine ball and hold it straight up over your chest. Beginners can ask a friend to act as a spotter and hand you the medicine ball once you are in position on the ball.

Next, bring your arms down behind you (the medicine ball will be positioned over your head). At the same time, extend your right leg straight out in front of you. Return to the starting position. Repeat the movement with the other leg and repeat for a total of 10-16 reps.

If you are new to this exercise, start off by doing the leg extension without the medicine ball.

Basic Exercise Ball Workouts and Stretches

A heart-healthy exercise program can include an exercise ball for stretching. To get the maximum benefit out of this piece of equipment, you need to be able to use it properly.

Good posture is important when sitting on the exercise ball.

Ideally, your back should be straight and your feet should be flat on the floor.

Position yourself as if you were on a straight-backed chair.

Leaning forward too far forward or back is not going to help you improve your balance or your core muscle strength.

Stretching While Sitting on the Exercise Ball

A simple stretch you can do once you get in the right position on the exercise ball is to move your hips gently from side to side. Pause for a second or two when you get to the end of the motion so that you can feel a gentle stretch. Alternate hips and repeat 8-10 times.

This hip stretch can also be performed in a front to back motion. To start, put your hands on your knees and rotate your hips forward by tucking them under your pelvis. Then push your hips out behind your pelvis. Only your hips should move; make sure that you are not moving your chest or knees.

Tabletop Position

A basic position you can perform with the exercise ball is the neutral or tabletop position. To start, position yourself with the ball under your abdomen and your arms extended down to the floor. Slowly move forward until the exercise ball is positioned underneath your knees or your shins. Your glutes and abs should be tight.

If your muscles are tightened properly, your spine should be held straight. You don’t want to arch your back or sag down when you are in the tabletop position.

Marching Exercise

This exercise is recommended for beginners; you can use a slightly-deflated exercise ball if it’s easier to keep your balance. Sit up straight on the exercise ball and lift the heel of one foot off the floor. From there, lift your toes up. Eventually, you will be lifting the entire foot off the floor. This exercise works your abdominal muscles.

Exercise Ball Squat

Stand up with your feet about shoulder width apart. Put the exercise ball on the wall in line with your lower back. Turn your face away from the ball and push against it with your back. Move your feet out so that they are slightly in front of your hips. Bend your knees slightly, come down into a squatting position for one or two seconds and then move back up. Repeat 10-12 times.