What to Know Before You Buy a Pilates Magic Circle

What You Should Know About the Pilates Ring

Two women doing pilates in the gym
Two women doing pilates. Image Source/Getty Images

The magic circle is a Pilates tool created by founder Joseph Pilates that's intended to help practitioners find their center. It's also referred to as a fitness circle, exercise ring, and a fitness ring, but "magic circle" is still the preferred name within Pilates. It is said that Joseph Pilates made the first magic circle from the ring on a keg. 

It's intended as a secondary prop, and any Pilates exercises can be done without a magic circle.

But since they're lightweight and inexpensive, and have a variety of purposes within a Pilates practice, they've grown to become popular props. 

So how can you choose which magic circle (also known as Pilates ring) is right for you? And how is it used properly? 

What is a Magic Circle?

The Pilates magic circle is a ring, usually made of flexible metal or rubber, about thirteen inches in diameter, with small pads on either side. It provides gentle to moderate resistance in an exercise. It also give the body feedback about which muscles are being used. The magic circle is not intended to provide a big resistance challenge; users shouldn't pick one up and try to crush it (although that's usually the first inclination). Instead, try Pilates magic circle exercises like these:

How Much Resistance Do You Need?

Flexible metal is the most common material for magic circles.

There are some that are all rubber, but the rubber models tend to be on the softer side or too "mushy." If you are a stronger person who wants more muscular challenge, then you will not want a rubber ring or even one of the new "lite" versions of the metal. If your purpose is mild resistance and more body placement oriented, then a lighter ring could be perfect.

    Portability Versus Durability

    The magic circles are perfect for travel. They don't weigh much, they lay flat, and add little volume. If you are looking for an exercise ring that will stand up to a lot of use, for example studio use, then you will want a regular metal ring. 

    Get Pads on the Inside and Outside

    It used to be that there were pads only on the outside of the circle. The new trend it to put pads on the inside of the ring as well, which makes them more versatile. An exercise like rainbow, for example, where one stabilizes the ring with pressure on the inside, is much easier with pads.

      How to Buy a Magic Circle

      The best place to start is by asking your Pilates instructor, or to test one that your studio has available. If you do decide to buy one, it may be worth getting it at a shop where you can test it out and get a feel for it. But magic circles are available online. 

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