A Pilates ring, also called a magic circle, is a valuable tool that can help you elevate your Pilates practice and get more out of your workouts. But what can you use instead when you don't have one? We've done the research to find seven alternatives to a Pilates ring.
Seven alternatives you can use instead of a Pilates ring:
- Yoga block
- Foam roller
- Resistance band
Keep reading for more information on each Pilates ring alternative and which you should choose depending on the exercises you want to do. We'll also explore how and why to incorporate a Pilates ring in your workouts and what to consider when looking for one.
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What Is a Pilates Ring?
A Pilates ring is a lightweight, flexible circle, around 12 to 15 inches in diameter, with two pads on either side. It's often called a magic circle, probably because of the magical boost it can bring to your Pilates workouts while still keeping them low impact.
A Pilates ring is most often used to add resistance to various Pilates moves, but it can also help add stability to ensure you maintain proper form and target the desired muscles. Pilates rings can be used with a wide range of exercises, from those for the upper body to the core to the legs.
While you technically don't need any equipment besides your own body to perform Pilates, a Pilates ring is one of the simplest pieces of gear to incorporate if you're looking to take your Pilates workouts to the next level. It's inexpensive, small, easy to store, and relatively easy to use.
If you don't yet have a Pilates ring or don't have it with you all the time, you can still get some of the benefits by using one of our suggested alternatives instead.
Pilates Ring Alternatives
1. Yoga block
A yoga block is an ideal substitute for those Pilates exercises that require you to either squeeze or hold a Pilates ring between your legs or hands. These include bridge poses with the ring placed between your inner thighs or ab exercises where you lightly hold the ring in your hands and press against it.
While not quite as flexible as a Pilates ring, a foam block should give enough to allow you to press or pulse against it to create resistance.
2. Foam roller
Like a yoga block, a foam roller is a great substitute for Pilates exercises involving squeezing or holding a Pilates ring. It can help you create resistance when pushing against it while also being small and light enough to incorporate into your workout safely.
Some ab exercises require you to hold the Pilates ring as you do them to help ensure proper form, rather than applying a lot of pressure, and a foam roller will work great for that.
If you don't have access to either of the two options above, a small firm pillow can also be used for Pilates exercises that involve squeezing or holding a Pilates ring. While any pillow will technically work, firmer ones will help you achieve greater resistance than soft, fluffy ones. And smaller pillows will generally work better than larger ones, which might be unwieldy when performing specific exercises.
If all you have is a large hotel bed pillow, try folding it in half before placing it between your inner thighs, which should help increase the firmness and resistance and make it a more manageable size.
A ball is another common object that can make a great substitute for a Pilates ring when doing exercises designed to create resistance by squeezing the ring. A soccer ball, basketball, volleyball, or another ball of a similar size will work. Plus, you can deflate the ball as needed to adjust the tension.
5. Resistance band
A resistance band is an ideal alternative for those exercises that involve pulling or pressing outward from the Pilates ring rather than squeezing in. For instance, you would place either your legs or arms inside the circle and press out as you do the exercise instead of putting your legs or hands on the outside of the circle and pressing in.
You can create a loop out of your resistance band to better mimic a Pilates ring or wrap the band around your hands or feet to add resistance to almost any Pilates exercise.
A belt or long scarf are options that will work similarly to a resistance band when doing exercises that involve pulling against a Pilates ring to create extra resistance. You can easily buckle your belt to create a circle. You can tie the scarf to create either one large circle like the Pilates ring or smaller loops that fit around your hands or feet, or you can leave the scarf loose and hold it in your hands.
If you choose to use a belt or scarf, make sure it is made of a sturdy material that won't easily stretch or tear, especially if it's one of your favorites. You'll want to be careful not to pull as hard as you might with a Pilates ring or traditional resistance band to avoid damaging it.
A towel might be the most versatile Pilates ring alternative of all because it can be used for resistance in both squeezing and pulling exercises. You can roll up a thick towel and place it between your inner thighs when you need something to squeeze. Or you can stretch the towel out and grip it with your hands when you need something to pull against. You can even tie it in a circle.
Do Pilates Rings Work?
Pilates rings help increase the intensity of your workouts without the addition of weights or bulky and expensive equipment. Pilates is a low-impact exercise that relies primarily on your bodyweight to build muscle strength. The Pilates ring amplifies those effects by providing an easy and effective way to add more resistance.
A Pilates ring can also help you maintain proper form while performing various exercises. For instance, holding the ring between your hands while you do certain ab exercises keeps them at the desired parallel distance and makes you less likely to "cheat" by using them to push yourself up.
How Do Pilates Rings Work on Inner Thighs?
If you're looking to strengthen and tone your inner thighs, a Pilates ring is one of the best pieces of equipment to incorporate in your workouts. When you put the Pilates ring between your inner thighs, you automatically engage those muscles to hold it in place.
Simply holding the Pilates ring like this while performing an exercise like bridge pose will ensure you're using your inner thigh muscles more than you might otherwise. But you can increase the intensity even more by squeezing or pulsing the Pilates ring between your legs.
How Do You Use a Pilates Ring for Beginners?
If you are new to Pilates, one of the best ways to learn the proper form for any Pilates exercise, including those using a Pilates ring, is to take a class--whether virtually or in-person. You can find many Pilates classes to stream online, or check out this one:
How you use a Pilates ring will depend on the individual exercise. Sometimes you will place the ring between your inner thighs, calves, ankles, or hands and squeeze it to create resistance. Other times you might put your legs or arms inside the ring and push outward against the ring to target a different set of muscles.
You can also use the ring to help you achieve proper form with a particular exercise rather than provide resistance. For instance, to help you maintain stability and consistent height with leg lifts.
What Should I Look for in a Pilates Ring?
When looking for a Pilates ring, you'll want to consider the size, materials, and pads.
Most Pilates rings are 14 inches, but you can also find them in sizes ranging from 12 to 15 inches. Which size you choose will depend on your height and the types of exercises you plan to do.
Check out this article for tips on how to pick the right size for you, "What Sizes Do Pilates Rings Come In?"
Pilates rings are made from either metal, plastic, or fiberglass. Metal rings tend to be a bit sturdier and heavier, while plastic and fiberglass rings tend to be lighter and more flexible. The metal rings, commonly used in studios, will likely provide more resistance.
Beginners might want to select a lighter plastic ring when starting at-home workouts. As your Pilates practice advances, you can upgrade to a ring that provides more tension.
For the most versatility, you'll want to choose a Pilates ring that has pads on both the inside and the outside of the circle. A Pilates ring with pads only on the outside will limit the types of exercises you can do.
A Pilates ring is a terrific tool to incorporate in your Pilates workouts. While using an actual Pilates ring is the simplest solution and probably your first choice, it isn't always possible.
Whether you're streaming a Pilates video at home instead of attending your usual class at the gym, traveling and can't pack all your favorite workout gear, or new to Pilates and not ready to invest in a bunch of equipment, hopefully, one of our seven alternatives will work instead no matter where you are.
For more tips on Pilates gear, check out this article: