Pilates is an exercise system developed in the early 1900s by Joseph Pilates to primarily strengthen the core muscles and increase flexibility. Pilates exercises are most typically done on a mat or special Pilates equipment. Adding a Fitball, also known as an exercise ball or Swiss ball, to your Pilates workout increases resistance and provides a greater range of motion, which can lead to more effective results.
Correct Size Fitball
Use the correct size Pilates Fitball for your exercises. When sitting on the ball with your feet flat on the floor, your knees should form a 90-degree angle and thighs parallel to the ground. The ball is too small if your knees are up higher or too big if your knees are lower. Choose the right size ball by following these guidelines as outlined by the American Council on Exercise: if your height is under 4 feet 6 inches, use a 30 cm ball; if your height is 4 feet 6 inches to 5 feet, use a 45 cm ball; 5 feet 1 inch to 5 feet 7 inches, use a 55 cm ball; 5 feet 8 inches to 6 feet 1 inch, use a 65 cm ball; and if your height is over 6 feet 2 inches use a 75 cm ball.
Pilates abdominal curls strengthen and tone the lower abdominal muscles. Begin by lying on your back with knees bent at a 90-degree angle and resting over the Fitball. Place your hands behind your head. Do not lace your fingers or tightly grasp your neck. Inhale and relax your neck and shoulders; exhale and raise your head and shoulders off the ground. Inhale to hold position, then exhale and lower to starting position. Repeat 10 times. Use slow, deliberate movements for best results.
Leg circles condition your core and tone the leg muscles. Lie flat on your back with your arms at your sides and knees bent at a 90-degree angle with your calves and ankles resting on the Fitball. As you exhale, lift your right leg straight up with toes pointing toward the ceiling; inhale and cross the leg over your stomach with toes pointing to the left. As you exhale, circle the right leg back to the starting position. Repeat five times in a counterclock direction, then five times clockwise while keeping your bottom on the floor and the rest of your body still and relaxed. Repeat with the left leg.
Ab Curl with Ball Roll
Lie flat on the floor with knees bent at a 90-degree angle and feet flat on the floor. Place the Fitball on your ribcage and hold in lightly in place with your fingertips so it will not roll off. Inhale and relax your neck and shoulders; exhale and slowly raise your head and shoulders off the floor, rolling the ball to your thighs. Inhale to hold the position, then exhale as you roll back to the starting position. Repeat 10 times. Remember to keep your neck and shoulders relaxed.
Amy Hannaford teaches childbirth education classes and a healthy pregnancy series in Southern Oregon. Hannaford holds an Associate of Arts degree, a certificate in medical assisting, and has been a childbirth educator and birth doula for 20 years. She has been writing articles for Demand Media since 2008.