Elizabeth Kovar by Elizabeth Kovar

The Pilates ball is an effective training tool because it promotes core stabilization by adding resistance, which forces exercisers to activate their pelvic floor muscles. Additionally, the ball acts as an unstable surface, which promotes greater core stabilization. 

The following exercises require activating or “hollowing” of the pelvic floor muscles. The feeling is similar to a Kegel exercise or stopping the flow of urine.  When lying down, draw the pelvic muscles up and the navel inward toward the spine. Maintain this position while breathing. The exercises can be added into any fitness routine or performed in sequential order. It is best to perform the exercises at a slower pace, which challenges the deep layers of the core. When performed correctly, six to eight repetitions in total or on each side is sufficient.

A 7.5 inch Pilates ball is ideal for this workout. The ball should not exceed 10 inches.

Pilates Roll-up

Position the body into a “V” sit and place the Pilates ball between the knees. Engage the pelvic floor and lift the torso over the top of the hips. Lift the hands in front of the shoulders. Inhale and slightly lift through the chest; exhale and round the spine and slowly lower, vertebrate by vertebrate, onto the mat. Inhale and reach the arms overhead. Exhale and bring the arms above the chest, while peeling the torso off the mat, vertebrate by vertebrate. Return to the upright pose and continue the motion.



Glute Bridge

Lie on the floor and place the Pilates ball between the knees. Gently squeeze the ball to engage the muscles of the pelvic floor. Bring the arms overhead onto the mat, palms facing up. Exhale and lift the hips off the floor into a bridge, while simultaneously bringing the arms up toward the ceiling and then down next to the sides of the body. Inhale and lower the torso and the hips onto the floor, while simultaneously lifting and reaching the arms overhead. 



Crescent Moons

While lying down, place the ball between the legs, near the lower calves. Lift the feet toward the ceiling and straighten the legs above the hips. Keep the hands by the sides of the body and engage the pelvic floor muscles. Roll the legs on the ball so that the right leg starts on top and the left starts below. If comparing the movement to a clock, the right foot starts at twelve o’clock and the left foot starts at six o’clock. With pointed toes, roll the legs onto the ball so that each foot creates a crescent moon shape. Continue this motion while maintaining a stable core. The exercise is more challenging when the feet are positioned away from the hips.



Leg Circles

While lying on the floor, extend both legs flat onto the mat. Place the ball underneath the left leg between the calf and the ankle. Point through the toes on both feet and lift the right leg into the air; engage the pelvic floor muscles. Begin the circles in a clockwise direction. Inhale and cross the midline of the body; exhale and bring the leg down and around back to the starting point. Complete a set of clockwise and counterclockwise circles on each leg.  If this is too challenging, bend the straight leg and place the ball underneath the foot.



Scissors With Figure Eight

Lie on your back with hands and legs in the air. Hold the Pilates ball between your hands. Point through the toes and curl the head, neck and shoulder blades off the mat. Exhale and perform scissors, lowering the legs to 45-degrees off the floor. While scissoring, figure eight the ball between the legs, exchanging the ball into the opposite hand behind the hamstring of the leg that is closest to the chest.



Toe Taps

While lying on the floor, place the ball underneath the hips and sacrum. Keep the hands by your sides and engage the pelvic floor muscles. Lift the legs to 90 degrees and point through the toes. Lower the right foot to touch the floor and return to center. Lower the left foot to touch the floor and then return to center. Perform the toe taps at a slower speed.



3-2-1 Pulse Scissors

Beginning in the same position as the toe tap exercise, lift and extend the legs above the hips with pointed toes. Exhale and lower the right leg. As you reach your point of extension, pulse the leg at the bottom of the scissor three times. On the third pulse, lift the leg to its starting position. Alternate the right and left leg for each repetition. 




Position the body as indicated in the 3-2-1 Scissor. Inhale and split the legs like a scissor, but reach the top leg toward the head. Exhale and rotate the legs away from the body. Once the feet reach the midline of the body, return the legs to center. The motion is similar to drawing a capital “D.” Complete a set with each leg leading in the lowering and lifting phase of the scissor.



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