Getting a lifted bum and toned, round hips is a goal that many people both aspire to and struggle with. Pilates has been a standard for years for carving out a flat, strong core, but it can also give you a lower half to be proud of. A Pilates ring is a flexible yet firm ring of plastic with soft foam padding that you can use to add resistance to your routine. When squeezed between the knees or ankles, it helps tone your hips, thighs and glutes.
Lie on your stomach with your toes pointed away from your body (externally rotated) to prepare for a glute squeeze. Bend your knees so that the soles of your feet are facing the ceiling. Place the ring between your heels. Take a breath, exhale and squeeze the ring firmly as lift your thighs off the floor. You should feel your thighs and glutes tighten. Slowly lower and repeat for one to three sets of 10 repetitions.
Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the mat to perform a bridge. Place the ring in between your knees with your arms beside you, palms on the mat. Take a breath, exhale and slowly lift your back off the mat until your body forms a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. Squeeze the ring firmly as you lift. Hold the position in the air for a few seconds, then slowly lower, keeping pressure on the ring. Repeat for one to three sets of 10 repetitions. This exercise hits your thighs, hips and glutes.
Get into the bridge position, but this time place your legs in the ring so that the ring is around the outside of your knees. Perform the bridge, but push outward on the ring. This modification will build muscle around your outer thighs and hips.
Lie on your back and place the ring between your ankle for the ominously named "one hundred." With your legs straight, lift your legs into the air until your body forms a 90 degree angle. Lift your head, neck and shoulders off the ground. If the angle is too extreme, lower your legs slightly. Hold your arms beside your hips with your palms parallel to the ground. Pump your arms up and down quickly and forcefully beside you as you hold this position. You don't need to use a large movement -- about 6 inches up and down is ideal. Pump your arms 100 times. Lower your legs between 90 and 45 degrees to the floor to challenge your muscles and target different muscle groups.
Move into the lying down position for the "one hundred" exercise for a modification called the lower and lift. While squeezing the ring, lift your legs into a 90-degree angle. Lift your head and shoulders just slightly off the, using your hands to support your neck if necessary. Inhale and lower your legs to a 45-degree angle. Exhale and lift your legs back to a 90-degree angle. Perform one to three sets of 10 repetitions. This exercise works your core as well as your hips, thighs and glutes.
Sit on your mat with your knees bent and feet flat on the mat in front of you. Place the circle between your legs an inch above your knees. Hold your arms straight in front of you and straighten your back. Take a breath and exhale as you lean back until your weight is resting around your tailbone and lower back. Squeeze the ring and hold this position for one inhalation, keeping your glutes, thighs and core engaged. Return to start and repeat for one to three sets of 10 repetitions.
Lie on your left side to perform leg presses. Bend your left elbow against the mat and rest your head in your hand. Point your toes and place the ring between your ankles. Lift your left leg off the mat so that your lower half is in the air, engaging your core. Take a breath, exhale and squeeze the ring as hard as you can, engaging your hips, thighs and glutes. Release, inhale and continue the exercise for one to three sets of 10. Roll on your right side and repeat.
Lie on your left side, bend your knees at an angle slightly greater than 90 degrees and place the ring between your knees. Extend your left arm and rest your head against it. Take a breath and squeeze the band tightly as you exhale. Return to start and continue for one to three sets of 10 on each side. Then move the ring to the outside of your knees and open your legs, pressing as hard as you can against the ring. Perform one to three sets of 10 on each side. These two versions of the clam will hit your inner and outer thighs and glutes.
- Perform Pilates ring exercises three times a week for best results.
- Pay attention to the breathing rhythm on each exercise. Breath control is a key factor in Pilates.
- Always consult your doctor before beginning a fitness regime.
- Because Pilates causes you to focus on and change your breathing pattern, some people can become dizzy. If you feel lightheaded, stop the exercise and wait until you feel comfortable again.
Lindsey Robinson Sanchez, from Bessemer, Ala., has written for the "Troy Messenger," "The Alabama Baptist" and "The Gainesville Times," where her work was featured on the AP wire. She has a Bachelor of Science in journalism from the University of Florida. She writes style, beauty, fitness, travel and culture.