Adding different props to a workout program is a convenient and easy way to challenge the muscles and the mind. By changing up a fitness routine it’s easier to stay motivated and stimulated (mentally and physically) and is a way to introduce different muscles to a new way of moving. Keep it simple by adding a prop to a familiar exercise to experience a new fitness dynamic.
The Pilates single leg criss cross can be done on a mat successfully without any props. For a challenge, add a 10 inch Pilates ball and roll it under the foot while rotating side to side. This will challenge the core to activate a little deeper. The ball will also stimulate deeper intrinsic muscles, improve control, coordination, balance, strength and bring the criss cross to an entirely new level.
Try these challenging Pilates exercises below using a 10 inch Pilates ball, yoga block and 2-3 pound hand weights.
Pilates Stomach Massage with Ball: works core, rhomboids, lats, hips, and quads
Begin seated on sitz bones. Place legs in a frog, bent knee position and feet in a narrow “V” position, heels together, toes turned out on top of the 10 inch Pilates mini physio ball. Arms are extended in front of the body and forward slight flexion of spine. Inhale, extend legs out, rolling ball forward with control, lift arms up. Sitting tall in upright posture, exhale, arms flow out to the side and around, pulling ball back in with the feet. Return to starting position while hugging arms around, inhale, roll ball back out with feet and legs extended arms up. Exhale arms around and finish. Repeat 8-10 times.
Pilates Double Leg Stretch with Ball and Neck Support: works core and quads
Lying on the back with neutral spine, place hands behind the head, elbows wide, to support the neck. With legs extended and feet/heels on the ball, inhale and roll ball in. Bend the knees and lift head up (chin is fist width from the chest.) Exhale, draw navel to the spine. Inhale, extend back out, exhale roll ball back in and lift head. Repeat 8-10 times.
Pilates Criss Cross with Ball: works core, obliques, hips, quads, and hamstrings
Begin by lying on the back with the right leg extended and heel and Achilles on the ball.
Left knee is bent to 90 degrees and hands are behind the head. Start with the right elbow towards the left knee. Inhale, roll the ball in with the right leg and bend the knee. Exhale, twist left elbow toward the right knee and extend the left leg up above the hip. Inhale, roll ball in and bend left knee. Rotate right elbow to left knee and extend right leg out again with ball.
Repeat this sequence 8-10 times.
Pilates Leg Circles with Ball Under Lumbar Spine: supports low back, works abs, adductors and abductors, inner and outer thigh
Place ball under lumber lower back near tailbone. Legs are straight up, heels together, toes turned out in narrow “V”. Inhale and open legs outside the tip of the shoulder, flow legs down and around, exhale and bring the heels back together and up to starting position. Repeat 10 times out and then reverse the circle 10 times in and around. Circles should be slow and controlled. Refrain from arching the back.
Single Leg Scissors on Ball: works quads and abs, opens up the hips
Lying on the back with ball under the lumbar, begin with right leg up and left leg extended over ball. Inhale, and lower the right leg over the ball and lift left leg, exhale. Switch legs slowly and repeat 10 times.
Pilates Bicep Curls with Light Weights: works transversus, rectus abdominus, and biceps
Begin by sitting on a Yoga block, pulling navel to spine lower abs in to support low back. Shoulders are stabilized down. Holding 2-3 pound weights in a hammer curl position, extended forward. Inhale and curl the arms in, contract abs, navel to spine. Exhale. Inhale and curl, exhale. Repeat 10-12 times.
Triceps with Weights on the Block: activates triceps and core
Begin by sitting on the block and hold weights in hands. Bend elbows close to rib cage, inhale and bend elbows back widely to feel scapulae shoulder blade and triceps muscles activate and contract. Exhale, navel to spine. Inhale, bend elbows, exhale extend. Repeat 10-12 times.
Forward Fold on Block: stretches low back and hamstrings
Begin by sitting on the block with legs extended and toes flexed. Inhale, lift arms and lower over legs, exhale. Relax the back, neck and shoulders completely. Stay in this relaxed position. Inhale and exhale deeply three more times.