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  • fayburchell

What prop?

We use a lot of small equipment in Pilates and some are similar or have similar names. Props are a great way to add variety to your workouts as well as increasing resistance and helping us with proprioception (the feedback our bodies get from objects around us).

Here’s your guide to props, as well as things you can substitute in your home workouts.


Pilates ball - we use the 7 inch squishy ball in classes. It’s the ideal size to align our legs and is great for lots of different exercises. You can also get Pilates balls in 9” and 12”. The largest is especially good for putting under your back. This makes it useful if you need to support or elevate your spine for example if you are pregnant, have reflux or need to support your upper back more. I recommend 66fit or Pilates Mad balls.

Home substitutes: other similar size soft balls that your kids or grandkids might have are fine (footballs are probably a bit heavy and hard). You could also use a fat cushion for some exercises when you’re squeezing it between your legs for example.

Toning balls - these are the small weighted balls we use in classes. I love these because as well as adding weight to our workouts they are incredibly versatile compared to normal hand weights. We use 0.5kg balls in class, but you can get 1kg or 1.5kg versions. Increasingly these are being made bigger and bigger, which makes them difficult to hold. Brands I recommend are Merrithew and APPI.

Home substitutes: two tins of beans, bottles of water, or any two small matching weighted objects that you can comfortably hold.

Massage balls - there are so many different types of massage balls. If you’re thinking of getting some for home, the prickly sort are good (available in different hardnesses), as is something like a lacrosse or tennis ball. If you’re really keen I’d recommend acupressure/trigger point balls which usually come in a three pack of different hardnesses. You can also get a massage peanut which is like two balls together and is a bit more stable, especially if you’re rolling on it. These are available to buy but you can also make them by taping two tennis balls together. A great way to use a ball is standing against a wall where you can massage your shoulders or back by rolling it with your body, and it’s less pressure than doing the same thing on the floor which can feel a bit uncomfortable.

Swiss ball - this is the giant ball! We don’t use these in classes as they’re not the most portable..! They can be great for home workouts but a word of caution - if you struggle with motion sickness you might not get on that well with these type of workouts. They also make a decent seat if you need to get moving a bit more at your desk (though try not to do this all day as they encourage a wide leg position and you might get sore or tight hips if you overdo it. If you’re buying a Swiss ball pay attention to the size - they are height based.


Flexbands - these are the long resistance bands. In my classes we generally use a 6ft heavy weight band which gives you the most options for a full body workout and a good level of resistance. I LOVE the band - it’s a great way to add resistance, support, and increase range of movement. Plus you can fit it in your pocket!

Home substitutes: an old pair of leggings or heavyweight tights, or a dressing gown belt.

Loopbands - the circular bands. Again we most often use a heavy weight but we do also use a lighter weight sometimes which are better for more arm exercises. You can easily buy a multipack now with a range of weights. Some people don’t find these very comfortable as they can be a bit tight - if that’s the case you can use a long band and tie a knot in it, and you can also buy fabric bands which are wider and might dig in less.

Home substitutes: shorts with an elasticated waist or a sports bra.

Fitness circles - AKA the magic circle or the ring of fire!!! I love these - they give great resistance and really add to a workout. But they can burn a bit. ;)

Home substitutes: this is the hardest thing to replicate and not all exercises will work, but you could use a ball or cushion for pushing inwards and a band, shorts or a pillowcase for pushing outwards.

What’s your favourite prop?

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