Pilates Props: Swiss Ball and Over Ball
We can take your workout to the next level, but do you have the balls for it? Not the balls that you are thinking of. We are talking about the exercise props used to do Pilates! Using balls can transform your experience of working out and make it extremely fun. Balls aren’t Classic Pilates props though, as they weren’t introduced by Joseph Pilates. However, the Pilates community has added these props their own by incorporating them wonderfully into the Pilates repertoire. Exercise balls come in multiple sizes. We, at Moushu’s Pilates, use the big Swiss Ball and the Pilates Over Ball in our routine. Let’s look at what makes the ball the game-changing prop that it is.
In most gyms, the balls that you will spot are the bigger-than-beach-ball Swiss balls. Also known as the stability ball, this comes in a range of sizes from 45 cms to 85 cms, to suit people of different heights.
How do you know which size is fit for you?
Sit on the ball, with your feet flat on the floor. The angle between your torso and the thighs should be 90 degrees. If it’s more then it is too big, if the angle is less it is too small.
What is it used for?
The big ball is used to enhance mobility. It is an extremely versatile piece of equipment that can be used instead of the ladder-barrel to practice equipment-style whole-body exercises. The unstable surface adds a great challenge. More muscles are activated to keep the ball from rolling away as you perform a movement on it.
It can take your basic bridge to a challenging bridge. When you prop your legs on the ball while lying on the mat and articulate your spine to go into the bridge, you will challenge your balance and coordination as you try to keep the ball steady.
Note: Do not try these exercises without supervision. It is always better to do these with a trained instructor.
The big ball can also be used to mobilise and relax the spine by lying on one’s back on it and allowing for the spine to extend.
Those who sit for long durations can switch to sitting on a ball as it improves posture. Moreover, it relaxes the pelvic muscles. That is the reason why pregnant women are told to sit on the ball and exercise.
Used more often by Pilates instructors all over the world, the small ball is an inexpensive way to add variety and enhanced mind-body connect to the Pilates mat exercises. The inflatable rubber balls come in sizes ranging from 20 cms to 30 cms.
What is it used for?
When placed between the legs or arms, the ball works like the magic circle to improve alignment and deepen the connection of the limbs with the core. Squeezing into it provides resistance to the exercises.
It is very useful in challenging lumbopelvic and shoulder girdle stability. Pressing into the ball wakes up the receptors in the fascia increasing proprioception. You can lie down prone and place the ball under your belly or chest, or you can lie supine and place the ball under the shoulder blades, lower spine, or hips. All these positions will work different muscles while challenging your stability. The more inflated the ball, the more difficult it is to balance.
Placing the ball under the hip in supine exercises also increases the mobility of the joint as the ball provides support for the hips.
You can do numerous exercises with the ball. We have shown some of our favourites in this video:
A writer and Pilates instructor by profession, and a lawyer by education, Tarannum is passionate about art, travel, fitness and food. She has been practicing Pilates for the past five years at Moushu’s Pilates Studio and has experienced the transforming effects of it on her body, firsthand.