11 Best Pieces of Pilates Equipment You Can Use at Home
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These small props and pieces of Pilates equipment can add a little extra challenge and versatility to your at-home practice.
The growing accessibility of Pilates
Joseph Pilates may have created his strength and flexibility workout in the early 1900s, but you’d never know it from the popularity the practice is seeing today. A century later, and Americans are even bigger fans.
That may be thanks, in part, to the Covid-19. The rise of virtual Pilates classes during the pandemic has made Pilates more accessible to people who previously couldn’t afford to take a class in a studio, says Tabatha Koylass, owner and master teacher at TabPilates in Chicago.
Now, you can take a Pilates class via a fitness app in the comfort of your home—probably for a lower monthly subscription cost than a single in-person class would run you.
If you’re looking for an exercise regimen that’ll tone your core, strengthen and lengthen your muscles, improve your posture, and boost your mind-body connection, Pilates may be the workout for you.
Pilates is for everyone (yes, even you)
Pilates is a low-impact workout that has seemingly endless benefits.
With each Pilates class, you can expect a full-body workout that challenges and improves your strength, flexibility, stability, mobility, breath, and the mind-body connection, Koylass says.
Even in a beginner-level class, movements that look simple are actually quite challenging, says Davina Wong, master instructor at Club Pilates in Los Angeles. If you’re really concentrating on every movement and doing them in a slow, controlled manner with proper form, you’ll really feel the burn.
Yet despite the challenge, the workout works for all fitness levels. However intimidating Pilates may look, know that anyone can do it, says Koylass.
“It’s one of those fitness forms that is especially great for beginners because it teaches form and awareness, and the form that is being taught in Pilates is all based on the highly functional ways you move through your life in your body,” she explains.
Your mind on Pilates
The benefits of Pilates don’t end with body strengthening. It’s truly both a physical and mental workout, says Amanda Jenny, Pilates expert and founding instructor at Bande, a virtual fitness community.
There’s a big emphasis on moving intentionally and taking deep, intentional breaths when you do Pilates exercises, says Wong. This means the workout is also great for reducing stress and improving mental focus and body awareness.
Before you sign up for a class
Like any other workout, it’s important to check with your doctor before starting Pilates, especially if you have any injuries or other health conditions.
If you’re taking an in-person class, advise your instructor of any injuries or limitations before you begin, Koylass says. The teacher can give you modifications and keep an eye on you throughout the workout.
Make sure you’re working with an experienced instructor—and paying extra close attention if you’re taking a virtual class.
Pilates equipment and props
Pilates can be done with nothing except your body weight. That’s what’s known as mat Pilates (practitioners usually perform moves on a mat, like a yoga mat).
The more traditional form of Pilates—and the type of exercise Joseph Pilates created a century ago—takes place on a large piece of equipment called a reformer. The apparatus looks a little like a bed frame and has a moving carriage, straps, springs, and foot bar that allow you to add tension and perform Pilates moves.
There are also a lot of small props and equipment that you can add to your Pilates workout to change things up, modify, and progress your workout.
“As an instructor, I am able to use equipment and apparatuses and small props to the benefit of every single person that walks through the door,” Koylass says.
For one-on-one lessons, your instructor may add in props like a ball, magic circle, or even resistance bands to change up the way you challenge your muscles and keep your body and mind learning and growing.
The best Pilates equipment for home
Here are some of the most commonly used Pilates props and equipment.
They’re all relatively small, and some are pretty inexpensive, making them great additions to an at-home Pilates practice.
RitFit Pilates Ring
“A magic circle is a great tool to help you find your center and balance,” Jenny says.
You can use it many different ways, pressing it between your thighs, ankles, or hands, or using one hand to press it into the ground or against your body.
“Just like every exercise, the intention behind the movement is key when using the magic circle,” Jenny says. “When you actively and effectively press into the ring, your muscles can’t help but shake.”
Make sure to look for one that has a soft covering and padded handles (like this one from RitFit does) to avoid any accidental scratches or scrapes.
ProBody Pilates Mini Exercise Ball
Placing a small, soft Pilates ball between your thighs (and squeezing) can help with pelvic floor activation and pelvic alignment.
You can also put it between your tailbone and the floor during core exercises to add an extra stability challenge.
Since it’s quick to inflate (just use the included straw) and deflate, ProBody’s ball is really easy to pack up and travel with.
Balanced Bodies Pilates Arc
Koylass likes Pilates arcs for people with back issues because they can be helpful in creating workouts around stretching and strengthening the back. Plus, they provide good lumbar support.
This arc from Balanced Bodies is made of high-density foam and weighs only four pounds.
Fit Simplify Resistance Loop Exercise Bands
“Resistance bands are a great way to take your workout to the next level,” Jenny says. You can use them to add extra resistance to some Pilates moves, making them a little more challenging.
For example, placing a band around your thighs for a bridge sequence makes it so you have to resist the band to avoid having your knees cave in.
Try using a band in place of weights for arm exercises or during stretching after class.
“Most bands come in a package with varying levels of intensity, so you can pick the right resistance for you depending on the move,” Jenny says.
This pack from Fit Simplify comes with five different bands, ranging from extra light to extra heavy.
ToeSox Full Toe Bellarina Grip Socks
We know, we know: socks aren’t technically equipment. But they’re worth mentioning for their usefulness.
Many Pilates studios will encourage you to wear socks with grips on the bottom. There are two reasons for that: it’s more hygienic, and it keeps you from slipping on the studio floors, Wong says.
Toe socks (like this women’s pair from ToeSox) are often used in Pilates because they won’t twist or bunch up as you move, and they allow you to spread your toes naturally on the floor for good grounding and stability.
Wong recommends having a few light weights on hand if you want to add an extra challenge to certain Pilates moves.
It’s best, though, to wait to add extra weight until you’re comfortable with doing a move properly. And you want to avoid going super heavy to prevent injuries, she says.
Slipping on a pair of wrist or ankle weights is an easy way to turn things up a notch without having to worry about holding onto anything.
This set from Bala Bangles includes two adjustable wrist and ankle weights that weigh in at one pound each.
Gaiam Essentials Thick Yoga Mat
You can use your regular yoga mat for Pilates workouts, but Koylass recommends investing in a mat that’s densely padded if you plan to do Pilates often. It’ll be a lot more comfortable and provide a substantial buffer between your knees and tailbone and the hard floor.
This one from Gaiam is 11 millimeters thick, comes in a variety of colors, and includes a strap to easily carry the mat with you.
ProsourceFit Flex Half-Round Foam Roller
A foam roller is another small tool that you can use to add an element of instability and give yourself a bigger core challenge. A half foam roller like this one is great because it won’t roll around on the floor, making it easier to use in a variety of moves.
“If you have a longer one, you can lay on it on your back and do some abs exercises with your feet on the ground,” says Wong. “Or lie with your legs up and do some balance action plus ab work or arm work.”
Lying on the foam roller can also help open up your chest. You can also place it under your hand as assistance for some stretches or slowly roll forward with it.
SKLZ Slidez Dual-Sided Exercise Glider Discs
Adding gliders to your at-home Pilates practice can help mimic the gliding motion of reformer moves without a machine. “The burn and soreness is just as intense,” Jenny says.
She loves these gliders from SKLZ because the padded tops are comfortable for kneeling moves, and the bottom slides easily on wood without leaving a scratch.
Balanced Body Wunda Chair
A Pilates chair is basically the step in between doing Pilates on the mat and doing it on a reformer. It’s small and not as complex as a reformer, but it offers spring-loaded resistance to challenge the body in different ways.
Balanced Body’s Wunda Chair was created based on Joseph Pilates’s original chair design and dimensions, so it’s not surprising it’s a favorite among many Pilates devotees.
It also features the widest range of resistance for any available single-pedal Pilates chair, with two springs adjustable to eight different resistances.
It’s fairly compact, making it a good choice for smaller spaces, is available in 35 colors, and comes with a 10-year warranty.
Stamina AeroPilates Reformer 287
If you can’t make the investment yet in a souped-up reformer (that’s fair; they’re expensive), AeroPilates‘ bare-bones option is a great place to start.
It has all the basic features, including three different springs, two straps, a foot bar, and padded carriage, and it folds up for easy storage.
Note: It’s important to work with a qualified Pilates instructor to learn how to use a reformer properly before using one on your own. That’s the best way to reduce your risk of hurting yourself, so you can reap all the benefits of Pilates from home.
If you’re looking for a bigger, more high-end reformer, check out Pilates reformer picks.