Soft Ball and Resistance Band

by Markella Kefallonitou

This is the second part of Pilates at Home Series. You may read the first part at: Pilates at Home with Gym Ball and Pilates Ring 

People became more aware of the physical and mental benefits of exercise during the pandemic lockdowns last year. Increased sedentary lifestyle and working long hours on the computer can affect posture and increase the load in the lower back and the neck. Pilates is an ideal form of exercise to practice at home that emphasises on good posture throughout the workout. Having the advantage of technology and the internet, many people were able to continue their weekly workouts and other started fresh and engaged with a new healthy hobby.

Pilates can be effective with or without equipment:

Pilates is a very versatile form of exercise. Using just a mat, small props, or the apparatus in a Pilates studio can have a positive effect in good posture, muscles strength and muscle endurance. When practising Pilates at home, you can either use only a mat where all the exercises will be body weight focused, or use small props to add extra resistance that encourages more muscle strength gains. Small props such as a soft ball and a resistance band are very affordable to buy, easy to store without taking too much space and useful to carry with you when working out outdoors. In addition to the extra resistance, small props can also provide support and encourage better placement for the body when executing an exercise. In other words, they can make an exercise both easier and more difficult when necessary, so it is a win-win!

Professional advice and instruction:

When exercising from home, it is important to ensure the workout is of appropriate level for you and there are no contraindications for your body (regarding any injuries or pathologies etc). It is recommended to seek advice from a medical professional when necessary. If you are new to Pilates it is advised to seek for professional instruction from a qualified Pilates instructor to guide your through the workout and ensure you gain the maximum benefits of this practice. Even if you are an experienced Pilates enthusiast you can also benefit more from taking live classes or one-to-one sessions with a Pilates instructor, tailoring the session to your needs.

Find out more about online Pilates with Markella at thepilatesclinic.com

What props are we going to use for this workout?

We will use a soft ball and a resistance band. You can find Pilates props from Sveltus at gladform.com

Soft ball

The soft ball (or Pilates ball, or overball) is a small ball of about 20-30cm that is widely used in Pilates classes. It is made of soft material (as the name implies!) and it is adaptable because you can inflate and deflate it according to the size and firmness you want. It helps to:

  • encourage muscle strength when pressing against it
  • assist with alignment as it gives feedback to the brain where the limbs are in space and provides better understanding on good placement and posture
  • provide support for the head, feet, pelvis and more when necessary
  • create instability when necessary to challenge balance and proprioception
  • increase range of motion by lifting different segments of the body away from the floor and giving more space for the body to move

Soft ball exercises

Inner thigh squeeze

Pilates soft ball exercise inner thigh

 Start: lying on the back, knees bent, ball between knees, and arms by sides

Exhale: press the ball with the knees and draw the abdominals in

Inhale: release and repeat

Notes: keep the spine steady while squeezing the ball

Chest opening

Pilates chest opening

Start: lying with the upper back on the ball, hands behind the head, knees bent

Inhale: lower the head and shoulders over the ball supporting the head

Exhale: lift the head and shoulders drawing the abdominals in

Note: keep the lower spine steady throughout

Basic swan (upper back)

Pilates basi swan with soft ball

Start: lying on the stomach, ball under the chest, hands by shoulders

Inhale: lift the head to extend the upper back on the ball

Exhale: lower the upper back and head over the ball

Notes: look towards the floor to keep the neck long – keep the lower back steady

Book opener (spine twist)

Pilates Book opener with Soft Ball

Start: side lying, knee bent, ball between knees, arms straight in front

Inhale: lift the top arm to the ceiling and twist the spine to the back

Exhale: return to the front

Notes: press the ball and keep the knee steady as you rotate

Resistance band

The resistance band (or elastic band) is a piece of equipment widely used in the fitness world as well as in physiotherapy. Resistance bands have a wide variety of elasticity accompanied by different colours that define their resistance. There can be light, medium, heavy and very heavy resistance, with some brands making extra light and extra heavy versions too. It is advised to try the elasticity of a resistance band to find the appropriate for you as it can vary between brands. A medium resistance is usually appropriate for most people and most exercises. It helps to:

  • encourage muscle strength for the arms and legs
  • assist with flexibility in stretching exercises
  • challenge stability in the hips and the shoulders when used in functional exercises

Resistance band exercises

Arm extension (triceps and shoulders)

Pilates arm extension with resistance band

Start: kneeling, band under the knees, arms straight

Exhale: pull the band to the back keeping the arms straight

Inhale: return to starting position

Notes: keep the chest open and the palms facing in

Arms overhead

Pilates arms overhead with resistance band

Start: kneeling (or standing), hold the band in front of body

Inhale: lift the arms overhead

Exhale: stretch the band sideways and circle the arms to the back

Inhale: lift the arms to the ceiling

Exhale: lower the arms in front of the body

Notes: keep the torso steady, stretch the band as much as necessary to the sides to do a circle with elbows straight

Glutes side lying

Pilates glutes side lying with resistance band

Start: side lying, band around thighs, knees bent, hand on hip

Exhale: lift the top leg up stretching the band

Inhale: lower the leg slowly down

Notes: do not touch the bottom leg, keep the waist elongated and steady

Single leg squat (footwork)

Pilates Single Leg squat with resistance band

Start: standing on one leg, band around thighs, opposite leg bent behind

Inhale: bend the standing leg and imagine you sit down on a chair

Exhale: straighten the standing leg to come upright

Notes: keep the knees apart pulling the band to the sides

Markella Kefallonitou is a BASI Pilates instructor and Faculty member. She teaches the BASI Global Comprehensive Program and her own BASI workshop ‘The Foot – our base of support’ focusing on foot strength and mobility. Markella is also a dance specialist – she holds a BA degree in Dance Education, an MSc in Dance Science and a Certificate of Accomplishment in Cunningham Technique. She teaches the BASI Advanced Education Certificate Course ‘Pilates for the Dancer’ that she created being very passionate to help dancers be strong, prevent injury risk and have a long, healthy career. Markella works at the Royal Ballet School and The Pilates Clinic in London. She is an Onassis Foundation Scholar.

www.markellakefallonitou.com