There is no doubt that Pilates has many benefits. It can help improve mobility, posture, muscle tone, balance and it can also relieve stress and tension. However, one of the largest benefits is probably the fact, that regular Pilates exercise will strengthen your core and back, thus tackling back pain. And a regular workout – e.g. several times a week – is easiest done at home.
To get the most out of your workouts at home, you need the right Pilates home equipment. Fortunately, there are a lot of Pilates accessories for mat exercises and Pilates machines for home workouts on the market now. Here is a selection of some of the most effective equipment.
Mat work essentials – the foundation of your workouts
When doing Pilates at home, it is important that you first buy some essential gear, and a mat is an absolute must-have. Having a good Pilates mat is of utmost importance as it protects your back and spine when doing your Pilates exercises.
Pilates mats are available in different sizes and thicknesses and the type of mat to choose mainly depends on what sort of floor surface you will be doing your exercises on, i.e. whether it is a hard floor or a carpeted floor. So you will want to choose a thicker and wider mat if you plan to do your workout on a tiled floor and you can go for something thinner and narrower if you are going to exercise on a thick carpet. Also, make sure it is long and wide enough to support all of your body. It is recommendable to choose a mat with a minimum thickness of 1.25 cm (1/2 inch), particularly if you tend to get back pain easily.
Another important factor to consider is the quality of the mat. First of all, ensure that the mat has a non-slip or slip-proof surface as slipping during exercise may cause injury. On top of that, examine the material of the mat. Cheaper ones tend to lose their sponginess after a while and might need replacing very soon. So in the long term, it may pay off spending a bit more initially.
Pilates resistance rings and bands for improved strength
Pilates resistance rings add intensity to floor mat exercises as they target specific muscle groups in the upper and lower body thus speeding up the core strengthening and toning process. These are also very useful when you want to tackle problem areas such as inner and outer thighs, upper arms, chest and pelvic muscles.
Most resistance rings, also referred to as magic circles, are made of flexible metal although there are some rubber models available. Here it is important to ensure that the ring has pads on the inside and on the outside of the circle. Also, make sure you choose a ring with the right sort of resistance. For a stronger person, metal rings are a good choice, whilst rubber rings are better for those you only want mild resistance.
Like resistance rings, resistance bands strengthen and tone your muscles and are ideal for strength training exercises. They are particularly useful if you suffer from shoulder pain as they target the muscle group around that area without the potential risk heavy weights can bear.
Most Pilates resistance bands are made of latex, although there are latex-free versions available. They come in different lengths and resistant levels and are often sold in packs with different resistant levels. When buying bands it is important to make sure that the bands are long enough, i.e. within 20cm (8 inches) of your height. In addition, It is usually a good idea to go for a variety pack as you may want different levels of resistance depending on your exercise. Again, it is advisable not to pick the cheapest on the market, as those bands tend to be of inferior quality meaning they tear more easily.
Exercise balls – a must-have for core targeting
Exercise balls, also referred to as balance balls and Swiss balls, are an essential part of a Pilates routine. Although they are not seen as traditional Pilates home equipment, they are regarded as an essential Pilates tool now. And this is for a good reason: no other Pilates floor mat tool challenges the core, or ‘powerhouse’, the same way as an exercise ball does. Pilates exercises incorporating an exercise ball are all about balancing and leverage, whether you try to sit or lie on a ball. It is exactly this balance challenge that will strengthen the core by targeting the core or stabilizer muscles.
Exercise balls are available in different sizes ranging from 45 centimeters to 85 centimeters in diameter. Choosing the right size ball for your height is of utmost importance to ensure you can perform your ball exercises correctly. For example, if you are 5’1″– 5’8″ tall, a 55 cm ball will be best, if you are 5’9″– 6’2″ tall, you are better off with a 65 cm ball, and if you are 6’3″– 6’7″, a 75 cm ball is the correct size. Also, check when buying that the ball has a good burst resistance – e.g. the better ones have a static weight limit of 2,200 lbs. and a body weight limit of 500 lbs.
Reformers – powerful and versatile Pilates machines
Pilates reformers are a highly versatile and effective piece of Pilates home equipment gaining more and more popularity with those exercising Pilates in their own homes. And there is a good reason for this as no other Pilates machine targets so many parts and dynamics of the body and offers such a high potential for a myriad of exercises as the reformer does. Likewise, the benefits are manifold – improved overall strength, more flexibility, better coordination and improved balance leading to a healthier posture and more efficient movement. This way, physical imbalances are tackled and back pain associated with these imbalances is alleviated or eliminated.
There is a good variety of reformers on the market, all very similar in design. However, when choosing a reformer for your home workout, there are a few things to consider. First of all, you need to establish how much space you have available as reformers differ in size and some models fold away for storage. Also, it is important to check out whether it is height adjustable and its carriage well padded. Furthermore, it is of paramount importance that the resistance level is adjustable – it should have at least three different levels. And finally have a look at the quality. The reformer should be of solid metal and good quality wood and it should be strong enough to support at least 300 pounds in weight.
When it comes to the price of reformers, again you need to remember that good quality has its price but works out cheaper in the long term as a quality machine will last longer than a cheaper one. However, it ultimately depends on your budget and what you are happy to spend.
Pilates equipment adds diversity
Although you don’t need much to do Pilates at home, having the right Pilates home equipment makes your Pilates exercises and workouts much more effective and also much more fun. Each piece of equipment adds another level of diversity to your workouts and will give you extra motivation to exercise regularly. Additionally, it helps targeting specific problems or problem areas, such as back or shoulder pain, thus accelerating or intensifying the positive effects of the exercise. So really, it should be part of every regular Pilates routine at home.
I hope this short overview has helped with the decision of what equipment to go for.