A Little Goes a Long Way With These 5 Trainer-Approved Pilates-Ring Exercises
I've daydreamed of ordering a reformer — but, my wallet and the square footage of my apartment agree that there are more realistic Pilates tools I can use for effective, joint-friendly workouts at home.
A Pilates ring — which Club Pilates instructor Lencola Green also calls the "Magic Circle" — is the perfect example, as it can assist or add resistance to several exercises.
"The ring is a great tool for deepening the mind-body connection and toning muscles — and it's so versatile," she says.
Since Green is well-versed in Pilates rings and how well they can help build strength throughout the body (especially the butt, core, arms, and inner thighs!), I thought she'd be the perfect person to share some of her favorite Pilates-ring exercises.
As you follow along, know that Pilates rings come in many different resistance levels. According to Green, a little goes a long way, which is why a moderate resistance is great for most skill levels.
Side-Lying Inner Thigh
- Lie down on your side with your legs straight. Rest your head completely on your arm or prop yourself up on your forearm.
- Take the Pilates ring and place one of the handles on the floor near your feet. Then, place your bottom ankle on the inside of the ring to secure it to the floor.
- Place your top ankle on the outside top handle of the ring.
- Squeeze the ring until it looks like an oval, then release the tension slowly.
- Maintain a long body, making sure both legs are the same length — the only body part that should be moving is your top leg.
- Do three sets with 10 repetitions each. For a bonus challenge, hold for 10 seconds, then perform 10 tiny pulses in each set.
- Lie down on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Bring your feet a comfortable distance away from your butt.
- Place the inside of your Pilates ring at the base of your head (not your neck!) for support. Then, place your hands on the inside of the ring just above your eyes.
- Push the back of your head into the ring while pushing forward with your hands to stretch the ring gently. (Work to keep oppositional energy throughout the entire exercise.)
- While keeping your elbows apart, begin to lift your head, neck, and chest simultaneously until the tips of your shoulder blades are off the ground.
- Maintain about a tangerine distance between your chin and chest to keep your airway open. Make sure your lower body stays stable during the move.
- Try doing 10 full reps, allowing your head to touch back down every time. Then, hold at the top of the crunch to do 10 mini pulses.
- Complete three sets — and for a bonus challenge, hold each crunch for 10 seconds.
- Lie down on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Bring your feet a comfortable distance toward your butt.
- Take the Pilates ring and place it on the inside of your inner thighs. Try to avoid placing it on your knee joints.
- Start by squeezing and releasing the ring with your thighs to feel the tension (the ring should look like an oval), then hold the squeeze.
- Move into a bridge by tucking your tail inward, imprinting your lower back onto the floor, and peeling off the floor one vertebrae at a time. (When your hips lift, your knees should be just above your ankles and perpendicular to the floor.)
- Lift to a nice, long neutral line and hold at the top. If your ribs are flaring open to the sky, pull them down.
- Hold at the top of the bridge while pulsing the ring with your thighs.
- Maintain about a tangerine distance between your chin and chest to keep your airway open. Make sure you have space under your neck, and you are resting on your back just between your shoulder blades.
- Do three sets with 10 reps each. For a bonus challenge, hold the bridge for 10 seconds during each set.
Spine Stretch Forward
- Take a seat on a mat and extend your legs straight forward with your feet flexed.
- Move your legs apart to rest on the outside edge of the mat.
- Set one handle of the ring on the floor and place your hands on the top handle like a steering wheel.
- With straight arms, begin to press on the circle using just your arms.
- Next, squeeze the circle and hold. Begin to round forward with your head, neck, and chest simultaneously. Engage your core as you round forward.
- Maintain about a tangerine distance between your chin and chest to keep your airway open. Your lower body should remain stable and firm during the move. Only your spine is actively moving.
- If you have a hard time maintaining straight legs, you can sit on a pillow or rolled-up edges of your mat to ease the tension on the back of the legs.
- Try doing 10 pumps while sitting upright, then hold to do 10 abdominal pulses.
- Do three sets, and for a bonus challenge, hold steady in the crunch for 10 seconds.
- Lie down on your stomach with your legs in a V position and the tops of your feet flat on the floor. Tuck your tail between your legs and glue your pubic bone to the floor. Tighten your torso to pull your belly button away from the floor.
- Take the Pilates ring into your hands and extend it out in front of you like a steering wheel. Place your hands on the top of the ring, with either straight or bent elbows. (Bent elbows will enable you to lift up higher.)
- Push down on the ring and squeeze until it looks like an oval, then lift your chest off the ground until you are levitating. Once your chest is lifted, your arms should be straight and your abdominals should be pulled tight.
- Slowly descend to the floor without collapsing.
- Maintain a long neck in the front and back. This exercise is about how well you can articulate not looking forward, so work to keep your chin from jetting out.
- Move to a Child's pose after to counter the move.
- If you feel like you need to come out of the exercise immediately, your body needs to warm up more.
- Do up to five reps. For a bonus challenge, hold steady in the swan for 10 seconds.