Pilates Workout With Exercise Ball and Ring

This Pilates workout with the exercise ball and Pilates ring (magic circle) is going to tone your whole body, especially your core, inner thighs, and arms. The ball and ring are inexpensive and easy to buy, yet you can create a fun, circuit training type workout with them. 

Pilates Workout With Exercise Ball and Pilates Ring

Pilates ring
Working with a Pilates ring. Seth Joel/Getty Images

Each set of exercise instructions will give you basic directions, along with a link to more detailed information on each exercise. Please consult the detailed versions if you have not done these exercises before — or it's been a while.

Warm Up: Arms Over With Pilates Ring

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Your legs and feet are parallel, about hip distance apart. It is a little more challenging if you extend your legs as our model has.
  • Your abdominal muscles are pulled in, but you are in neutral spine position.
  • Hold your Pilates ring upright between your hands. Your arms are straight and down as far as the ring will allow.
  • Inhale to bring your arms overhead. Use your abdominal muscles to keep your ribs down as you go.
  • Exhale to bring the arms down to start position.
  • Repeat 3 - 5 times

Get detailed instructions for basic arms over

Knee Folds on the Exercise Ball

Knee folds on the exercise ball.
Knee folds on the exercise ball. Sporrer/Rupp/Getty Images

Continuing the warm up with knee folds, the core works a little harder to maintain stability on the ball.

  • Sit up straight on your exercise ball with your feet flat on the floor. You will do this exercise in neutral spine with sit bones pointing down. Your shoulders are relaxed and your fingertips rest on the ball.
  • Use your abdominal muscles to stabilize your position as you lightly lift one foot off the floor.
    The idea is to get a deep crease at the hip without letting the move effect the rest of your body.
  • Place your foot back on the floor -- use control.
  • Repeat 4 times on each leg, alternating legs.

Get detailed instructions for knee folds on the exercise ball

Chest Lift on the Exercise Ball

Pilates Exercise on the Exercise Ball
Chest lift on the exercise ball. Sheer Photo Inc/Getty Images

Chest lift is a wonderful abdominal workout. When you do it on the ball there is challenge added as you work to maintain stability throughout the move.

  • Sit on the ball with your feet flat on the floor pointing forward, and your legs parallel, about hip distance apart. Engage ​your abs and make sure you feel stable.
  • Walk your feet out as you roll down on the ball so that your back is supported by the ball. The front part of the ball should be just below your shoulder blades.
  • Put your hands behind your head. Your chest and elbows stay wide throughout the exercise. Inhale.
  • Exhale: Tilt your chin down and pull your abdominals in deeply to begin a slow, upper body curl away from the ball. Feel a deepening of the abs, especially just below the sternum. Don't tuck your pelvis.
  • Pause at the top and inhale.
  • Exhale: Keep your abdominals drawn in as you use them to slowly and sequentially roll your upper body down to the support of the ball.
  • Repeat 6 to 8 times

The Hundred With the Pilates Ring

The hundred with the Pilates ring.
The hundred with the Pilates ring. Elisabeth LHOMELET/Getty Images

If you hold a Pilates ring between your shins during your Pilates hundred it adds an inner thigh workout to already challenge abdominal exercise. Pay attention to the muscular feedback the ring gives you through your legs into your core.

  • Lie on your back with your legs bent in tabletop position, shins and ankles parallel to the floor. Put the magic circle upright between your shins.
  • Inhale.
    Exhale: Nod your chin slightly toward your chest and using your abs, curl your upper spine up off the floor. Keep your shoulder blades settled in your back. Your gaze is down into the scoop of your abdominal muscles.
  • Stay here and inhale.
  • Exhale: Deepen the scoop of the abs, extend your legs toward the ceiling, and your arms toward the wall in front of you.
    If you can, lower your legs to where the wall and ceiling meet.

    Your legs should only be as low as you can go without shaking and without your lower spine coming off the mat. If you are more advanced, lower your legs more.
    Your arms extend straight and low, just a few inches off the floor, with the fingertips reaching for the far wall.
  • Hold your position.
    Breathe in for 5 counts and out for 5 counts. As you breathe, pump your arms up and down a few inches in a controlled manner.

    Remember, it is the abdominal muscles that should be doing all the work -- not your neck and shoulders.
  • Do a cycle of 10 full breaths.
    Keep your abs scooped, your back flat on the floor, and your head an extension of your spine with the gaze down.
  • To finish: Keep your spine curved as you bring your knees in toward your chest. Grasp your knees for support as you release your upper spine and head to the floor.

Get more details on the Pilates hundred

Roll Over With Exercise Ball

Exercise ball
Roll over with exercise ball. Jason Homa/Getty Images

Roll over with the exercise ball is a fun exercise, but it is a little advanced. You will still get a great workout if you lower and lift the legs without rolling over. But if it looks inviting, give it a try!

Notice how squeezing the exercise ball with your inner thighs not only tones them but makes it a little easier to feel the deepening scoop of your abs.

  • Lie on your back with your exercise ball between your ankles. Extend your legs up toward the ceiling.
  • Inhale.
  • Exhale: Use your abs to lower the legs slightly.
  • Inhale: Use your abs to lift the legs and continue...
  • Exhale: Using your abdominals, draw your legs over your body until they are parallel to your chest. Pressing down with the backs of your arms will help you.
  • Continue the deepening of the abdominals as you roll onto the broad part of your shoulders. Do not roll onto your neck.
  • Inhale: Flex your feet, lengthening the back of the legs and sending energy out through the heels.
  • Exhale: Keep your legs straight but allow them to lower toward your chest as you use abdominal control to slowly roll down.
  • Inhale: Lower your legs to begin again. Repeat 4 to 6 times.

Get detailed instructions for Roll Over with Ball

Bridge on the Exercise Ball

Exercise ball bridge.
Exercise ball bridge. Ana Abejon/Getty Images
  • Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Make sure that your toes, ankles, and knees are straight and parallel to each other.
    Your arms are along your sides. You are in neutral spine, with the natural 3 curves of the spine present.
  • Place your feet near the top of your exercise ball, flat.
  • Inhale.
  • Exhale: Draw your abdominals in and allow your back lengthen along the floor. Continue that action into a tilt of the pelvis as you press through your feet. Press up just to your shoulders, not onto your neck. Don't let the exercise ball move!
    Your body will be in a long line from your knees to your ears.
    As you press up, use the backs of your arms to help you.
  • Hold 2 to 4 breaths.
  • Roll down. Placing each vertebrae on the mat using abdominal control.
  • Repeat 3 times.

Get detailed instructions for Bridge on the Exercise Ball

Plank on the Exercise Ball

Exercise ball plank.
Exercise ball plank. Ana Abejon/Getty Images
  • With the ball in front of you, place your belly on the ball and walk your hands out so that your body rolls along the top of the ball.
    At a certain point you will be able to lift your legs away from the mat. Center the ball under the middle of your thighs (shins for more advanced).
  • Roll your shoulders back and down away from your ears as you center your hands under your shoulders. Fingertips point forward.
  • Send your tail bone down toward the ball, and pull your abdominal muscles in and up.
  • With your belly lifted, make your spine as long as you can.
    Your legs are together and reaching behind you.
  • Take a few deep breaths, extending the line of your body as you do.
  • Release and repeat 3 times.

Get detailed instructions for Plank on the Ball
Bonus Challenge: Pike on the Ball

Arm Toning Set With the Pilates Ring

Arm toning set with the Pilates ring.
Arm toning set with the Pilates ring. Miodrag Gajic/Getty Images

To finish, do a set of arm toning exercises with the Pilates ring. This might look like it's just for the arms but the abs, back, and shoulders are working too.

  • With your Pilates ring in hand, adjust your posture so that you are standing straight and tall.
    Your legs can be in Pilates V, which is legs together and rotated slightly outward at the top so that the heels are together and feet make a V shape. They can also be in parallel position.
  • Pull your abs in and point your sit bones toward the floor.
  • Relax your shoulders and send energy out through the top of your head.
  • Low Ring: Your arms are straight and your palms are flat against the handles of the ring. Hold the ring in front of your thighs.
  • Pulse the ring 8 - 10 times, controlling the release each time. Keep your shoulders down and your chest open.
  • Mid and High Ring: Continue the same pattern taking the ring to the mid position, straight in front of your chest, and then to the high diagonal.

Get detailed instructions for Arm Toning with the Ring plus two more exercises