As a Pilates instructor, the core is my thang … I have learned over the years to work it every which way possible. I’m also a big fan of props. They can keep things interesting, can help with form, or take a basic move and make it a lot harder. Here is a round-up of my favorite props for core exercises.
These are one of my favorite props period. You can recreate a lot of Pilates arc barrel moves on exercise cushions and they only cost $13 on Amazon. That’s cheaper than what I was paying for them “wholesale” at my studio. You can sit on the cushions and roll back into a hover position for a trembling ab connection or lie down, place it under your bum/lower back, and, with your legs in the air, do a series of challenging exercises. They’re great.
Developed in physical therapy circles, foam rollers are amazing. They hit the Pilates world over 10 years ago and instructors have been having fun with them ever since. You can do all kinds of mat and reformer moves that are really challenging. Rollers are great for balance and core work and I use them for arms and legs too. The possibilities are endless; I’ve got a great foam roller ab series here. The cost runs from $15 to $40 for a roller, the one I linked to is a pro-model so it will stand up to regular use and it won’t shrivel up after a few months like the cheaper ones do.
Fit Circle / Magic Circle
The fitness circle (also called a magic circle) is a great piece of equipment and it travels well. A flexible band of steel with pads on it, you can use it for ab work, leg work (killer for side leg work!), and arms. I’ve tried a bunch of them over the years and my favorite one is from Balanced Body (the one I link to above; it costs about $35). You can see a quick video demo of magic circle moves for FitStudio.com.
I had a big debate about linking to an exercise ball. I like them and they’re inexpensive, but the issue is you almost never have anywhere to put it. They kind of roam around a spare bedroom or lunge at you when you open a closet. If you have the storage space, by all means get one.
You also might be interested in the BOSU; it’s a very fun piece of equipment to work with. You can stand on it, lie on it, jump on it, etc. for a great total body workout.
My only problem with the BOSU? The price. I just don’t think a piece of plastic stapled to a piece of plywood should cost $100. I applaud the guy who invented it for having such a killer profit margin, but I won’t be adding to his wallet anytime soon. You can buy all of the props I linked above for less than the price of a BOSU and they’ll provide as much, if not more, variety.
Those are the props that I recommend and use regularly at my Boston Pilates studio. What props do you use to work your core? I’d love to hear, especially from other instructors.