Who would of thought that a little kid’s toy could become your best friend while exercising? A slightly deflated medium-sized ball is a must have accessory to any Pilates class. We often use these Pilates balls to intensify moves and access different muscle groups. A Pilates ball is especially great for lower body work, focusing on the glutes, hips and thighs, common trouble areas for fat loss. Any flexible ball around 9 inches in diameter will do. Most of these exercises can be done without a ball, but they are more effective when done with a ball. You’ll feel the difference as your butt and thighs get tighter and trimmer.
Ham Curls- Get down on all fours with your shoulders over your wrists and your hips over your knees. Place the ball in between your right hamstring and calf. Squeeze the ball just enough to keep it secure. Make sure to keep your hips parallel during the entire exercise. Pull your navel into your spine and your shoulder blades down your back. Use your core to stay centered as you lift the leg holding the ball up. Squeeze your glute and hamstring to lift the knee to hip height or as high as you can without disengaging your abs. Slowly lower the knee back down and then lift it back up again. Do 15-20 reps and then hold your knee up on the last rep. Squeeze the ball by pressing your heel to your bottom for 10 pulses. Repeat on the other leg.
Hydrant Lifts– Stay on a fours with the ball held behind your one leg. This time, work the outer hip and thigh with a lateral lift by raising the knee up to the side and then slowly down. Don’t allow the knee to creep up towards your shoulder. Keep it in line with your hip. Do 15-20 reps on one leg and hold your knee up to finish off with 5 small circles in each direction. Repeat on the other side.
Relevé Squats-Stand next to a sturdy chair, countertop or wall. Hold on lightly with one hand as you stand with your legs parallel hip distance apart. Place the ball between your inner thighs just above your knees. Lift your heels to balance in relevé (on the balls of your feet.) Bend your knees to lower your body down just an inch or two. Keep your back straight and abs pulled in. Shoulders should be over your hips and hips over your ankles. Squeeze the ball with your inner thighs 20 times before straightening back up and repeating facing the other direction.
Bridge Squeezes– Lie on your back with your legs bent and feet flat on the floor. Place the ball in between your inner thighs above your knees. Squeeze the ball to engage your inner thighs and use your glutes and hamstrings to lift your hips into the air without arching your back. Lower the hips back down and release the squeeze. Repeat for 15 reps. On the last rep, hold your hips up and squeeze the ball as tight as you can for another 15 pulses.
Ball Rotations– Our abs are connected to our inner thighs through the pelvis, so engaging all of those muscle groups at the same can be more effective than spot training. Lie on your back with your legs straight up to the sky and the ball in between your feet. Place your hands behind your head and curl your head neck and shoulders off the ground, engaging your abdominals. Lower your legs as far as you can without allowing your lower back to lift off the mat. Rotate the ball between your feet, alternating right and left for 10 counts. It might take some practice not to lose the ball after several rotations. You may have to bend the knees back in and readjust the ball in between sets.
What are some of your favorite accessories to exercise with?
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Video: Crystal Chin; Music: “No Roots” by Alice Merton