Many people have heard the term "Pilates", but, to most, it is almost meaningless. In fact, most do not have a good idea of what Pilates is, but it has been linked to fitness in so many ways, that the word has become little more than a marketing ploy. In fact, there are many different exercises and programs that get tagged with that name, but there is no official body to determine what is genuinely related to Pilates, and what is not. In fact, when it comes to Pilates, almost anything goes.
However, inside the tornado of advertising claims, there is a core set of values that requires specific equipment.
Sometimes that gear might have been used in one way or another and gone by another name in earlier decades. Still, whatever the name you use - exercise mat, Swiss ball, resistance ring and more - they are must-have Pilates exercise equipment if you wish to do any of the Pilates exercises.
A mat of some kind is a common piece of exercise equipment for many forms of exercise, but the specific style which works best for Pilates is a little bit different. Many think of using the type of mat used in yoga, but a yoga mat, is lighter and not built to stand the same stresses as a Pilates mat. A Pilates mat is thicker, more comfortable and provides a durable surface and cushion for Pilates exercises.
What's the difference? Well, with a yoga mat, you can probably feel the floor when standing on it. But, with a Pilates mat, even when lying on your spine and doing a Pilates exercise such as a pelvic curl you won't feel the wood of the gym floor. The Pilates mat is well padded and can stand up to use year after year.
A Pilates mat should be at bit wider than your body and about a foot longer. Common sizes can be anywhere from 72"-86" (162cm-194cm) long and about 21"-39" (47cm-88cm) wide. Mats which roll up easily and have carrying straps are very convenient.
An exercise ball used to be just called an exercise ball. Nothing special about it. It was a large, round rubber ball, and was sometimes misnamed as a medicine ball. But, a Pilates ball will be different from a medicine ball.
Exercise balls of yesteryear were designed for tossing or rolling. Pilates balls are designed to roll you. As you lie on your stomach or back to perform exercises, they provide a firm cushion but one with a lot of give. They're made of durable fabric that won't leak or wear after years of use.
One thing that makes a Pilates ball different is that it is often designed to accommodate accessories that are sometimes used with Pilates exercises. For example, bungee-cord style resistance bands are used with Pilates balls. They are wrapped around the ball, so you can lie on your back, grasp a handle in each hand and perform an exercise. That is more difficult with an simple exercise ball, since it could cause the ball to become unstable and the resistance bands might slip out of position.
Resistance rings used in Pilates (also sometimes referred to as magic rings and other names) are more specifically intended for Pilates programs. The Pilates ring incorporates some of the features of the common resistance band, but have other attributes which are unique to Pilates.
This piece of exercise equipment typically is a circular ring, about 10-14 inches in diameter, usually with a pair of cushions which serve as the handles on opposite sides. This is a piece of exercise equipment which can offer a wide variety of Pilates exercises for the hand and arm, and which allow the exerciser to stretch or compress the affected muscles, which helps tone and strengthen them.
Don't be disillusioned; like yoga, which Pilates is similar to, you can do a a great many Pilates exercises, and even complete routines, with no equipment at all. However, for safety, convenience, and, to get the optimum results from your Pilates workout, even if it takes some time, you should eventually acquire these pieces of exercise equipment over time if you cannot get them right away.
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