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STUDIO NEWS - Pilates & Props - Why Do We Use Them?

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Pilates & Props
Oftentimes in a Pilates session your instructor will have you use a prop – an Arc Barrel, toning balls, a fitness circle, etc. You may wonder why, & you may be given an explanation as to why. But to clarify, props are used for several reasons. The prop may make the exercise more accessible; it may make it more challenging; it may change the focus of the exercise.
If you practice Pilates with me, you know that I often use props, especially lately, having just completed some continuing education workshops that involved different props.
To give you some examples: toning balls are used in Obliques Roll Back to add weight at the end of a lever. That in turn develops muscular endurance in the shoulders to support the weight. It also adds focus to pelvic stability because if you pull the arm(s) back too far, the weight will pull your torso & then your pelvis beyond a point that you can stabilize. So the balls make the exercise more challenging.
Another example is the fitness circle. Using it in the palms of your hands when you do Spine Twist causes you to focus on what is happening in the scapulae, developing scapular stabilization. And using the fitness circle between the ankles while practicing Bend & Stretch or Lift & Lower on the Reformer adds adductor work – changing the focus & increasing the challenge at the same time.
The Arc Barrel is another great example. Using the Arc Barrel in Roll Over decreases the range of motion, thereby making the exercise less difficult & more accessible. But using an Arc Barrel in the inverted position, supine with head & shoulder blades on the mat & pelvis on top of the barrel, creates more “negative space” than doing the exercises on the mat without the barrel. To translate, that means you have a larger possible range of motion & the demand on your abs & hip flexors as they lengthen (eccentric contraction) is greater. So for example, doing Frog on the Arc Barrel focuses more on abs & hip flexors, whereas doing the same exercise on the Reformer focuses more on adductor length & contraction. So you’ve not only changed the focus, in some senses you’ve also made the exercise more challenging.
Those are but a few examples of how props change the exercise, and there are always options in Pilates. I’ve always focused on making a workout challenging but also interesting. I don’t want you to get bored by doing the same exercises every session, & also making the same exercises slightly different by adding the props. And because modifying exercises is often not difficult, I may take a prop variation I’ve been taught & change it up a bit to add another layer to the work.
If you ever wonder why I’ve added a prop, just ask me. I’m more than happy to explain. If you’ve practiced Pilates with me for any length of time, you know how much I love it & love sharing my knowledge of its wonder!

 


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Newsletter Archive
Remember, you can always find past issues of the newsletter by following this link. You'll never know what stimulating articles you've missed until you do!

Video Highlight - Teaser on the Tower
While not exactly using a prop, this is an example of how an exercise is changed slightly to make it more accessible by using the springs of the Tower/Cadillac to complete it.
To see more videos, visit YouTube & subscribe!
Teaser on the Tower
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