Pilates is a popular workout that uses low-impact exercises to strengthen muscles and increase flexibility. It is suitable for all skill and fitness levels, but a beginner might be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of equipment options that are available to purchase. However, after some research, you will learn that some equipment is necessary while other options are just a matter of preference. We've broken down some of the most popular pieces of equipment to help you determine what you will need right away and what you can wait to purchase.
1. Exercise Mat
While you can use any exercise mat for your Pilates practice, the ones that are specifically for Pilates are the best choice. They are thicker than some other types of mats, so they better support your body when you complete moves on your belly or side. Also, because the mat is more cushioned, it activates more of your muscles when moving on it while standing up.
2. Resistance Bands
Resistance bands have many uses in Pilates practice. They can replace bulky exercise machines that may not fit your home or budget, and they can enhance your Pilates routine. Beginners can use resistance bands as a support to increase flexibility and focus on performing each move correctly. Those more advanced in Pilates or those who also want to incorporate strength training can use them for increased resistance and added weight during traditional activities.
3. Pilates Ring
The Pilate ring serves as both a support and a way to elevate your Pilates workout, depending on how it is used. You can use the ring to help you balance, allowing you to achieve deeper moves for longer. Like resistance bands, the ring can be incorporated into your regular movements to provide resistance. While the ring may not come in as many weights unless you buy each weight separately, it may be easier to maneuver than bands if you are a beginner.
4. Exercise/Stability Ball
Exercise balls come in a variety of sizes, depending on how tall you are. You will know that you have the right size exercise ball when you can sit on the ball with your feet on the floor and your knees are at a 90-degree angle. Follow these guidelines to get the right-sized ball for your height:
- Under 5 feet: 17 inch ball
- 5'1"-5'8": 21 inch ball
- 5'9"-6'2": 25 inch ball
- over 6'2": 29-33 inch ball
Large exercise balls are commonly used to perform core exercises such as sit-ups, crunches, pushups, and trunk twists.
5. Foam Roller
A foam roller serves two purposes at once in your Pilates routine. It is designed to stretch muscles and relieve aches or tension, but you also engage your muscles when using it. If you are balancing on top of the foam roller and rolling side to side, particularly, you are engaging your core muscles so that you don't fall off the roller. At the same time, it is effective at the end of a workout for recovery.
A word of caution—if you have never used a foam roller before, be sure to consult a trainer or do some research on the correct use of it first. You can damage your muscles or cause more pain if you use your roller incorrectly.
6. Foam Block
Foam blocks add a fun element to a Pilates workout by acting as props and providing a challenge. For example, you can rest your arm on a block instead of the floor when doing a side plank. The blocks can also provide some assistance for those that need exercise modifications. For example, if you cannot reach all the way to the floor when you are standing up, you can reach down to the block instead.
Smaller than a large exercise ball, the overball is about 7 to 10 inches. It can be used to support parts of your body while you are exercising them, such as your lower spine when you are doing sit-ups or crunches. You can also use an overball as resistance while doing leg exercises. For example, you can place the ball between your knees while you are lying down and squeeze the ball to work your thighs.
8. Massage Ball
Used during recovery after a Pilates workout, a massage ball is a small, spiky ball that can relieve sore muscles. They are particularly helpful with massaging out knots and relieving tension in the back and shoulders. Massage balls can also be used to massage tired feet after a workout by simply putting the ball on the floor and rolling it back and forth with your foot.
9. Ankle And Wrist Weights
Ankle and wrist weights add hands-free weight to a workout for extra strength training. They can be used while doing virtually any exercise, which makes them convenient and versatile. If you are a beginner, start with a lower weight and increase the weight as needed.
10. Ab Roller
An ab roller can be used as a regular part of your Pilates routine or added once in a while to provide a fun change of pace. A wheel with a handle on each side, the ab roller helps you perform an exercise that looks like a pushup on wheels. While simple to perform, the exercise targets many muscles from your abs to your hips and shoulders.
11. Stability Board
Also called a balance board or wobble board, stability boards have a flat side and a rounded side. Either side can be placed faced down on the floor with the opposite side being rested or lean on by the user. With either side facing down, the board can be stood on to increase resistance to improve balance. Similarly, either can be faced down with the user lying or sitting on the board. For beginners or those that struggle with balance, the stability board, with the flat part facing down, is an excellent alternative to a large exercise ball.
12. Reformer Machine
A reformer machine is a popular piece of equipment in the Pilates world. It looks similar to many of the exercise machines that can be found in a public gym, comprising of a bench for the exerciser to sit and lay on and a pulley system that allows the user to perform a variety of stretches and exercises.
More expensive than other types of equipment we've listed, this is a great investment for someone who is serious about their Pilates workouts and will use the equipment often enough to make it worth the cost. On the other hand, reformer machines don't require a user to be particularly fit before getting benefits from it, and it helps beginners work on their form. So even if you are a beginner, the machine may be a good choice for you as long as you plan on sticking to your workouts.
13. Sitting Box
The Pilates sitting box is the only piece of equipment requiring another piece of equipment to use. It is used to enhance your current reformer machine workout, allowing the user to perform a different set of exercises and deepen the exercises that are already being done. It is also a more comfortable seat to use when you are doing seated exercises on your machine.
While it's tempting to get caught up in the thrill of purchasing a lot of new equipment, not all of it is necessary to get started. So, not buying a lot of items outright shouldn't stop you from starting your Pilates practice. A mat is all you need to get started, and you can purchase a new one or break out your yoga mat and use that. If you can purchase more pieces, an exercise ball and resistance bands are next in order of importance. These are versatile and will allow you to add several different exercises to your routine.
As you continue in your Pilates practice, you'll better understand what you need and what you prefer. So whether you can turn your home into a mini gym from the beginning or need to add pieces to your collection little by little, all you need to get started is the motivation!