I’ve taken Pilates for about seven years now. I admit that recently, based on my insane schedule, I’ve had to take a break from lessons with my instructor, Crystal. I miss her company, discipline and toned arms! However, this doesn’t mean I’ve given up on doing “hundreds” exercises or Stott breathing for better abs. I’ve also kept up some other exercises using a very inexpensive piece of equipment that can be incorporated into any home gym–a Pilates circle.
This circle can tone both upper and lower body (including abs) as well as help you stretch your calves and hip flexors. Here are a couple go-to exercises that compliment your cardio routine nicely. As with any exercise, remember that form is important.
FOR INNER THIGHS
This exercise adds inner thigh work to whatever other exercise you are doing. Lie on your back like you are doing crunches. Put circle in between your legs right above your knees. Do not place the circle on the knees because the pressure of the exercise can hurt the knee joint. Squeeze the circle with your inner thighs. Also squeeze your glutes and abs. This will work most of your core muscles. Hold the squeeze for three seconds. Relax but do not release the circle. Do 30 reps. I’m laughing as I type this because I’m thinking of one of the old Sean Connery James Bond movies where one of the bond girls uses her thighs to choke a man in bed. Don’t do too many “circle squeezes” ladies. You may get too strong!
For sexy glutes, pulses can be done two ways:
The first way will strengthen the hamstrings more, as it adds a hamstring curl. Lie on your stomach with the circle between your shins and ankles. Bend your knees at right angles. Squeeze the circle. Extend the legs straight again. Bend your knees and squeeze the circle again. Do 30 reps. I would demonstrate this with a photo, but I look ridiculous.
The second way is to do faster pulses without the curl. Keep your knees bent throughout and pulse the circle by quickly squeezing and releasing 25 times. Lift your knees an inch off the floor to make both of these variations harder.
STANDING/TEASER ARM WORK
Stand with your legs shoulder length apart and your knees slightly bent. Press your shoulders down away from your ears and lift your chin slightly toward the sky. Tighten your abdominal muscles and concentrate on a long, straight spine. This exercise can be performed with your arms behind your back as well as parallel to your body out in front of you. You will work different muscles this way.
1) Hold the Pilates circle behind your back, with palms facing inward and holding each handle. Your arms should be parallel with your elbows slightly bent. Keep your hands only as high as you can without pushing your chest forward, holding your spine as straight as possible.
2) Push the circle in and release in pulsing motions, controlling both movements with the muscles of your arms and shoulders. Do thirty pulses.
3) To make it even more challenging, try doing your arm work in the “teaser position.” Yowwww. Below is a picture of the Pilates circle (arms forward) work in the teaser position.
Prices for the circle range from $30-60. There are a bunch of options on Amazon.com. Just google “pilates circle” or “magic fitness circle.” I prefer the kind with padding, however at the Pilates Center I use a Stott one with no padding (hard core). Also, if you’ve never worked with a circle or taken pilates lessons, I would invest in a “how to” video (also found on Amazon.com).
Do you have any pilates circle exercises you do? I’d love to hear about them and as always, keep counting.