Blog Fitness Pilates How to Use a Pilates Ring To Get The Most Out Of Your Mat Workout

How to Use a Pilates Ring To Get The Most Out Of Your Mat Workout

Contrology (what we call Pilates) is all about control—the artful mastery of body movements. The idea is to integrate the mind with the body, to achieve a harmonious balance and strengthen the core by utilizing precise, flowing motions (1). 

With consistent practice—four times per week as per Joseph Pilates’ recommendation in his foundational texts—profound body awareness and muscular symmetry can be cultivated.

Adding props to your Pilates practice can amplify your routine by challenging your muscles in new, effective ways.

The Pilates ring is one such prop. This circular band can intensify your mat workouts, target often-overlooked muscle groups, and offer tactile feedback to ensure proper form.

Here’s what you need to know to seamlessly integrate the Pilates ring into your mat routine for maximum benefit.

What Is The Point of a Pilates Ring?

The point of the Pilates ring aka the magic circle is to add challenge and resistance to your Pilates workout. Think of it as a physical cue that helps you tap into your inner strength while also providing feedback on areas of weakness and imbalance.

Some notable Pilates ring benefits include:

Resistance

Resistance in exercise refers to the force that muscles must overcome in order to achieve full range of motion in a given movement. Resistance facilitates muscle growth and strength (2). 

The Pilates ring is made from flexible metal or rubber and creates resistance through compression. It offers light to moderate resistance, which can be increased or decreased by squeezing the ring more or less tightly.

Our push-up muscle groups blog explains how you can use your body as resistance to build muscle.

Focus

One of the core principles of Pilates is concentration—being fully present with each movement (1). When you’ve mastered your routine, it’s easy to go into autopilot mode.

The Pilates ring requires focused attention to maintain control, tension, and stability. You’re more likely to stay present and engaged in your workout, maximizing its benefits.

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Mind-Body Connection

The Pilates ring is an extension of your body. It provides sensory feedback to help you connect with specific muscle groups, enhancing your mind-body connection. For example, when using the ring between your legs for a bridge exercise, you’ll feel it engage the inner thighs.

See also
Can You Do Pilates At Home? A Quick Guide To Pilates Without A Studio

It also helps you to become aware of any imbalances or weaknesses in your body. By working with the ring, you can strengthen these areas and achieve more balanced muscle development.

Activation of Hard-to-Reach Muscles

The Pilates ring can be used to target and activate muscles that are often overlooked or underutilized in traditional exercises. These include the deep, stabilizing muscles of the core, as well as smaller muscle groups in the arms, legs, and glutes.

Whereas a mat workout might have you repeating the same movements over and over again, adding the ring may call your attention to muscles that you don’t normally focus on, resulting in a more well-rounded and efficient workout.

Variety and Versatility

The Pilates ring adds variety and versatility to your mat routine. It can be used in countless ways to modify or intensify exercises, making it a valuable tool for all levels of practitioners.

While performing Pilates ring exercises for beginners, the ring can provide support and stability. More advanced students can use it to add challenge and resistance to their already-established routines.

how to use a pilates ring  

Is Pilates Ring Effective?

The Pilates ring can be effective when used correctly and consistently as part of a comprehensive Pilates ring workout. Like any other prop, it shouldn’t be seen as a replacement for proper form and technique, but rather as an enhancement to your existing routine.

How Do You Use a Pilates Ring for Beginners?

If you’re new to Pilates or have never used the Pilates ring before, here are a few tips to help you get started:

  • Familiarize yourself with the ring: Take some time to explore and experiment with the ring before beginning your workout. Get a feel for its size, shape, and resistance level.
  • Use it in basic Pilates ring exercises for beginners: Start with exercises that are familiar to you, such as the hundred or single leg stretch. Incorporate the ring by placing it between your thighs or arms and squeezing gently.
  • Focus on form: As always, proper form is essential for getting the most out of your Pilates practice. Pay attention to alignment and engage your core muscles throughout each exercise.
  • Don’t overdo it: The Pilates ring may seem deceptively easy, but don’t underestimate its potential to challenge your muscles. Start with light resistance and gradually increase as you become more comfortable.
See also
20 Wall Pilates Benefits: You'll Wish You Knew About These Sooner!

Be consistent: To see results, it’s important to use the Pilates ring regularly and consistently. Aim for 2-3 times per week at a minimum.

Read more: Wall Pilates for Butt: A Quick Guide for Beginners

How To Use a Pilates Ring for Arms?

To use a Pilates ring for arms, you may either incorporate the ring into your mat routine or use it in a standalone arm workout.

Here are a few Pilates ring arm exercises to try:

The Hundred with Pilates Ring

The Hundred is a classic Pilates exercise designed to boost cardiovascular endurance and engage the core muscles, particularly the rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, and the obliques. When integrated with the Pilates ring, it can also target the inner arms and chest, adding an upper body strength challenge to this core-focused move.

Our  Push Day Workout blog has more upper body exercises you can try.

To execute the Hundred with the Pilates ring:

  1. Lie flat on your back with your legs extended and arms by your sides.
  2. Hold the Pilates ring with both hands on the padded handles, arms fully extended towards the ceiling.
  3. Lift your head, neck, and shoulders off the mat, gazing towards your belly.
  4. Extend your legs straight up towards the ceiling or at a 45-degree angle, keeping them pressed firmly together.
  5. Squeeze the Pilates ring slightly with your hands to activate the arm muscles.
  6. Pump your arms up and down in small motions at your sides while breathing in for five arm pumps and out for five.
  7. Perform 10 sets of in-and-out breaths, totaling 100 arm pumps.

The Teaser with Pilates Ring

The Teaser is a challenging Pilates exercise that works the core, spinal erectors, hip flexors, and helps improve balance. When performed with a Pilates ring, it places additional emphasis on the chest and arm muscles, enhancing the upper body engagement and improving strength.

To perform the Teaser with the Pilates ring:

  1. Begin reclined, lying on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  2. Hold the Pilates ring above the chest with both hands, keeping the arms straight.
  3. As you inhale, prepare by engaging your core muscles.
  4. Exhale, put your legs at a 45-degree angle as you roll your upper body off the floor, bringing the Pilates ring towards your toes, keeping your arms straight.
  5. Balance on your sit bones at the top of the move, forming a ‘V’ shape with your body.
  6. Inhale and hold the position, squeezing the ring slightly to activate your upper body muscles.
  7. Slowly roll to the starting position as you exhale, controlling the movement with your abs.
  8. Repeat for 3-5 reps, maintaining fluidity and control throughout the exercise.
See also
How Often Should You Do Pilates? Get Fit With The Best Pilates Schedule

Arm Circles with Pilates Ring

Arm circles are a simple yet effective way to work the shoulders, biceps, and triceps. When using a Pilates ring, this exercise becomes more challenging as the resistance from the ring intensifies the muscle engagement.

Our Pull-ups: Muscles Worked blog details how pull-ups are an effective way to work the arms and upper body too.

To perform Arm Circles with Pilates Ring:

  1. Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms extended straight out in front of you, holding the Pilates ring with both hands.
  2. Engage your core and keep your shoulders relaxed as you start to make small circles with your arms, moving the ring in a clockwise direction.
  3. Continue for 30 seconds, then switch directions and repeat for another 30 seconds.

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How Do You Use a Pilates Ring for Pelvic Floor Exercise?

To use the Pilates ring for pelvic floor exercise, you can hold it in between your thighs for mat work that involves pelvic floor engagement or hold it between your knees to activate the inner thigh muscles.

Here are a few Pilates ring pelvic floor exercises to try:

Inner Thigh Squeeze

  1. Begin lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the mat, hip-distance apart.
  2. Place the Pilates ring between your knees, squeezing lightly to hold it in place.
  3. Inhale and engage your pelvic floor muscles as you slowly press your knees together, squeezing the ring.
  4. Exhale and release the squeeze, returning to the starting position.
  5. Repeat for 10-15 reps, focusing on keeping your core engaged and maintaining a steady pace.
See also
These Wall Pilates Arms Exercises Are Perfect for an At-Home Upper Body Workout

Bridge with Inner Thigh Squeeze

  1. Begin lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the mat, hip-distance apart.
  2. Place the Pilates ring between your inner thighs and squeeze lightly to hold it in place.
  3. Engage your pelvic floor muscles as you lift your hips off the mat, creating a straight line from your knees to shoulders.
  4. Hold for 10-15 seconds, squeezing the ring slightly with your thighs for added resistance.
  5. Slowly lower back down to the mat, releasing the squeeze as you do so.
  6. Repeat for 8-10 reps, focusing on maintaining proper form and engaging your core throughout the movement.

how to use a pilates ring  

Plies with Pilates Ring

  1. Begin standing with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart, toes turned out slightly.
  2. Hold the Pilates ring between your hands at chest level, elbows bent and pressed against your ribcage.
  3. Inhale and sink into a deep plie squat, keeping your knees aligned with your toes.
  4. As you exhale, push through your heels to stand back up, straightening your legs and squeezing the ring with your hands.
  5. Repeat for 10-12 reps, focusing on keeping your core engaged and maintaining proper alignment throughout the movement.

Anterior Tilt with Pilates Ring

  1. Lay on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the mat, hip-distance apart.
  2. Place the Pilates ring between your thighs, squeezing lightly to hold it in place.
  3. Inhale and engage your pelvic floor muscles as you gently tilt your pelvis towards your belly button, pressing your lower back into the mat.
  4. Exhale and release the tilt, returning to the neutral spine.
  5. Repeat for 10-12 reps, focusing on keeping your core engaged and maintaining a slow and controlled movement.

How Do You Use Pilates Ring for Legs?

Using a Pilates ring for your legs may be as simple as holding it between your hands or squeezing it between your legs during leg exercises. Here are a few Pilates ring leg exercises to try:

Single Leg Stretch with Pilates Ring

The single leg stretch is a classic Pilates move that targets the abdominals, hip flexors, and thighs. Adding a Pilates ring to this exercise increases the resistance and challenges your balance.

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the mat, hip-distance apart.
  2. Hold the Pilates ring between your hands at chest level.
  3. Inhale and extend one leg straight out at a 45-degree angle while keeping your other knee bent.
  4. As you exhale, switch legs, bringing the extended leg back in and extending the other leg out.
  5. Continue to alternate legs for 8-10 reps, focusing on keeping your core engaged and maintaining proper form.
See also
Pilates For Posture: How It Works And The Best Exercises To Do

Double Leg Stretch with Pilates Ring

Similar to the single leg stretch, the double leg stretch targets the abdominals and thighs while adding in a challenge for the upper body with the Pilates ring.

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the mat, hip-distance apart.
  2. Hold the Pilates ring between your hands, arms extended at chest level.
  3. Inhale and extend both legs straight out at a 45-degree angle while keeping your arms extended overhead, holding onto the ring.
  4. As you exhale, bring your legs and arms in towards each other, bending your knees and holding the ring between your hands.
  5. Repeat for 8-10 reps, focusing on keeping your core engaged and maintaining a steady pace.

Clamshell with Pilates Ring

The clamshell exercise targets the gluteus medius muscle and helps improve hip stability. Adding a Pilates ring between your thighs adds resistance and further engages the inner thigh muscles.

  1. Begin lying on your side with your knees bent and stacked on top of each other.
  2. Place the Pilates ring between your thighs, squeezing lightly to hold it in place.
  3. Engage your core as you lift your top knee up towards the ceiling, keeping your feet together and maintaining a 90-degree angle at your hips.
  4. Slowly lower yourself back down to the starting position.
  5. Repeat for 10-12 reps on one side before switching to the other side, focusing on keeping your core engaged and maintaining proper form throughout the movement.

Read more: Pilates Full Body Workout for Beginners (No Equipment Needed)

how to use a pilates ring 

FAQs

  • Is Pilates Good for Inner Thighs?

Yes, Pilates can be beneficial for strengthening and toning the inner thigh muscles. By incorporating exercises like the Inner Thigh Squeeze or Plies with Pilates Ring into your routine, you can target this specific area and see results.

  • Do Pilates Rings Come In Different Strengths?

Pilates rings come in different strengths and resistance levels, similar to other fitness equipment like resistance bands. It’s important to choose a ring that is appropriate for your current fitness level and goals.

  • How Do You Set Up a Ring Workout?

You set up a ring workout by choosing a variety of Pilates ring exercises that target different muscles and body parts. Find a comfortable and open space to work out in, and make sure you have your ring and any other equipment or props needed. Start with a warm-up before moving onto the main exercises, and always listen to your body and modify as needed. 

  • How Can a Beginner Start Pilates At Home?

A beginner can start Pilates at home by mastering the fundamental principles of Pilates, such as proper breathing and engaging the core. 

It’s also important to start with beginner-friendly exercises and to gradually increase the difficulty as you become more comfortable with the movements. Using online resources or instructional videos can also be helpful for beginners starting Pilates at home.

Our Push-Day Workout guide can be a helpful resource for beginners.

The Bottom Line

Using a Pilates ring can add resistance and challenge to your workout, helping you target specific muscles and improve overall strength and stability. It can be useful for arm, core, pelvic floor, and leg exercises. Remember to always engage your core and maintain proper form when using the Pilates ring for maximum effectiveness and safety.

DISCLAIMER:

This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

SOURCES:

  1. Pilates: how does it work and who needs it? (2011,nih.gov)
  2. The role of resistance exercise intensity on muscle fibre adaptations (2004,nih.gov)