pilates ball exercises

Small Ball Big Results – Pilates Ball Exercises

Whoever said ‘good things come in small packages’ must have had this nifty little inflatable ball in mind! It’s a pocket-sized wonder that’s easy on the wallet and perfect for on-the-go Pilates fun. Toss in some Pilates ball exercises with your mat shenanigans, and voilà – your abs are in for a delightful yet intense treat. This peppy little ball is a game-changer, bringing a pinch of challenge and a dash of support, making your workouts not just effective but also super enjoyable.

With a plethora of gadgets out there designed to stretch, fortify, and extend the body in unexpected ways, choosing just one can be tough. But, if I had to pick a single go-to for my travels or while instructing a mat Pilates class, my top pick is undoubtedly the mini exercise ball for Pilates ball exercises.

The small Pilates ball, a staple in Pilates ball exercises, adds variety, interest, and challenge. It can increase the intensity and resistance, as well as provide assistance in these exercises. This simple tool can also help improve body awareness, balance, and proprioception, enhancing the effectiveness of Pilates ball exercises.

Following the theme of incorporating the small Pilates ball into your routine, let’s not overlook the mini-ball’s standout role. Perfect for both equipment-based and mat Pilates sessions, this nifty tool spices up your workouts with a plethora of core-strengthening variations. If you’re curious to see this in action, why not swing by my YouTube channel? I’ve put together a two-part video series all about Pilates ball exercises that showcase just how versatile and beneficial the mini-ball can be.

In this article, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite Pilates ball exercises that are fantastic for building a strong core and enhancing muscle definition 😉

Ready to go? Just grab a squishy small ball and follow these moves from Mor Movement to reap those Pilates benefits.

Pilates Ball Exercise #1: Pelvic Tilt

Starting Position: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, positioned about hip-width apart. Place the ball underneath your pelvis (specifically under the sacrum bone).

Movement:

  1. Tilt the pelvis forward and back.
  2. Tilt the Pelvis side to side.
  3. Combine all directions into circles.

Technique and key points:

  • Inhale when you tilt the pelvis forward. Exhale when you tilt the pelvis backward.
  • Keep the knees in-line with the ankles, pointed up. Avoid moving them from side to side especially when moving the pelvis from side to side.
Pelvic Tilt

Pilates Ball Exercise #2: Knee Folds

Starting Position: Lie on your back with the ball positioned under the sacrum bone, similar to the previous exercise. Lift both legs to a table-top position, with each knee directly above the hip, forming a 90-degree angle, and the shins parallel to the ground.

Movement: Lower one leg and tap your toes on the floor in front of your body, then lift it back up while lowering the other leg, alternating between right and left. Do 10-20 repetitions.

Modification: If you feel unstable with both feet off the floor in a table-top position, keep one foot on the floor and perform the knee fold with the other leg. Complete 10 repetitions, then switch and repeat with the opposite leg.

Technique and key points:

  • Stabilize your pelvis on the ball as you move the leg down and up.
  • Isolate the movement to the hip joint with no pelvic tilt.

Pro Tip: The farther you tap your leg out on the ground, the more challenging it will be for your core muscles

Knee Folds

Pilates Ball Exercise #3: Dead Bug

Starting Position: lie down on your back with ball underneath sacrum bone. Legs up in a table-top position (knees over hips and shins parallel to the floor). Arms on the ground along the body.

Movement: Extend opposite arm and leg out; arm back over the head and leg forward in the opposite direction. Then bring back to starting position and repeat on the other side. Alternate sides. x8-10 reps.

Modification: If you feel very unstable holding both arms and legs up in the air (while your pelvis is over the ball) – keep the non-moving side on the floor (foot flat on the floor and opposite arm down on the floor along the body. Execute a few reps on one side. Then repeat on the other side.

Dead Bug

Pilates Ball Exercise #4: Leg Circles

Starting Position: Lie on your back with ball underneath sacrum bone like in the previous exercise. One leg off the ground straight up to the ceiling, other leg bent with foot flat on the floor. Relax your arms by your sides, palms down.

Movement: “Draw” small circles on the ceiling with your leg, moving through the hip. X5-10 reps each direction. Then repeat on your other side.

Technique and key points:

  • Stabilize through the pelvis using the core muscles.
  • Avoid any movement with the pelvis, try to isolate the movement to the hip joint of the moving leg.
Leg Circles

Pilates Ball Exercise #5: Single Leg Bridge

Starting Position: Lie on your back with knees bent slightly apart. One foot flat on the floor, other foot on the ball. Relax your arms by your sides, palms down.

Movement: A. Lift your pelvis off the floor B. Press onto the ball with the foot and lift the other leg up to table-top. C. Lower the leg back down to the ground, then lower the pelvis back down to starting position. X5-10 reps on each side.

Single Leg Bridge

Pilates Ball Exercise #6: Leg Roll & Split

Starting Position: Lie on your back. Legs bent, one foot on the ball, other leg bent off the floor. Relax your arms by your sides, palms down.

Movement: Move the legs simultaneously: Roll the ball out away from your hip to straighten the leg, and straighten the other leg up towards you. Then bend the knees and return to starting position. X5-10 reps on each side.

Technique and key points:

  • Try to split the legs with straight knees.
  • Maintain neutral spine. Avoid pressing your lower back down into the ground.
  • Use your core muscles to stabilize the pelvis.
  • Exhale as you split the legs and roll the ball out. Inhale as you return back to starting position.
Leg Roll & Split

Pilates Ball Exercise #7: Roll Up

Starting Position: Lie on your back with knees bent and together, and feet on the ball. Extend your arms over the head by your ears.

Movement: Lift the arms above your shoulders as you start extending the legs. Then lift your head and chest to roll up to sitting and reach over your legs. Then slowly start rolling back down and bend the knees to return to the starting position.

Technique and key points:

  • The legs extending forward over the ball simultaneously as you roll up.
  • Inhale to prepare. Exhale as you roll up to sitting. Pause to inhale. Then exhale as you roll down.

Modification: If you have difficulty rolling up, place a rolled towel under your lower back. \

Progression/Advanced: Keep your legs extended throughout the movement, and your arms in line with the ears as you roll up.

Roll up

Pilates Ball Exercise #8: Reverse Plank

Starting Position: Sit up with your legs straight forward and feet over the ball. Place the hands on the ground by your sides right next to your hips.

Movement: Press your legs gently down on the ball, lift your pelvis and open up your chest to a reverse plank position. Then slowly lower the pelvis back down to the ground. x5-8 reps.

Progression: with one leg straight over the ball, and other bent on the floor: lift your pelvis up, then extend the floor leg up straight toward the ceiling. Then release the leg back down to the ground and lower the pelvis.

Technique and key points:

  • Lift your pelvis and tuck it under, engaging the gluteus and core muscles. Avoid hyper-extending your lower back.
  • Press the shoulders down away from your ears and open up the chest.
  • Inhale as you lift the pelvis up to a reverse plank position. Exhale as you lower down.
Reverse Plank
pilates exercises with small ball
Reverse Plank Progression

Pilates Ball Exercise #9A: Chest Lift

Starting Position: Lie with the ball under your mid-back, knees bent hip-width apart and feet flat on the floor. Interlace your fingers behind your head.

Movement: Inhale – extend your spine back and over the ball. Exhale – flex your spine, lift up your head and shoulders. x8-10 reps.

Technique and key points:

  • Make sure your head stays aligned with your spine on both the extension and flexion.
  • Avoid pulling your neck especially when you flex the spine. Lift up through the torso.

Progression/Advanced: Add “knee folds”; as you flex the spine lift one leg up to table-top (knee over the hip and shin parallel to the ground). Then lower the leg back down as you release the chest back and over the ball. Alternate right and left legs.

Chest Lift

Pilates Ball Exercise #9B: Chest Lift + Twist

Starting Position: Lie with the ball under mid-back, knees bent hip-width apart, one foot on the floor, other leg up in a table top position. Interlace your fingers behind the head.

Movement: Inhale to prepare and center the chest. Exhale – twist the chest toward the leg held in table top, and extend the leg forward to 45 degree angle. Inhale – return your chest back to center and bend the knee back to starting position.

Technique and key points:

  • Make sure the keep your hips center. Avoid turning your hips as you twist the chest.
  • When you twist the chest, also try to lift it up; slightly taking pressure off the ball.
Chest Lift + Twist

Pilates Ball Exercise #10: Side Lift

Starting Position: Lie on your side, bottom hand on the ball, other hand in front of the chest for support, OR up on your hip along the body for more stability challenge. Legs straight, slightly off the ground and stacked one over the other.

Movement: Gently press the hand on the ball, lift your head and chest off the ground to a side bend. Roll the ball slightly in towards you, then roll it out and lower the body down back to starting position. X5-10 reps.

Technique and key points:

  • Exhale as you lift and bend over to the side. Inhale as you release back down.
  • Draw the the abdominals in, engage through the front of your abdominal wall before you lift up.
  • Keep your legs hovered off the ground throughout the exercise. Do not lower them down to the ground.

Modification: Beginners- keep your legs down on the ground.

Side Lift

This lively article shines a spotlight on the mini exercise ball, a small but mighty tool that’s perfect for spicing up your Pilates routine. It’s affordable, portable, and packs a punch by adding an extra layer of challenge and enjoyment to your workouts. From boosting core strength to enhancing balance and proprioception, the mini-ball does it all. Whether you’re on the go or in the studio, this piece makes it clear: the mini exercise ball is a must-have for Pilates lovers looking to level up their practice.