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What you need for the ultimate Pilates ring workout

Expertly reviewed by Judd Nesmith

What do you need for the ultimate Pilates ring workout?

If you’ve daydreamed of owning a Pilates machine but can’t justify the expense or space, explore a Pilates ring. This workout targets and sculpts muscles without needing an at-home machine. It’s also a fraction of the cost.

Pilates rings are a workout tool invented by Joseph Pilates to add moderate resistance, body awareness, support and stability to various mat and standing Pilates exercises. Alongside a few other tools, a Pilates ring can add a bit of challenge to your Pilates exercise routine, correct your posture and tone your core, butt, arms and thighs. 

This article was reviewed and approved by Judd NeSmith, the BestReviews Fitness Expert.

What is a Pilates ring?

A Pilates ring is a relatively simple, unintimidating workout tool that packs a huge punch. Use Pilates rings in conjunction with ab-burning, thigh-targeting or full-body Pilates workouts to see some serious sweat and experience rapid improvement in your muscle strength and body toning. 

While you can do many Pilates exercises on a mat without a Pilates ring, the ring turns mat exercises into approximations of the same exercises on machines, where weights are used for added resistance. Incorporating a Pilates ring into a set of “reverse abs” reps or side-lying leg presses, for example, can turn a moderate flexibility and strength-building workout into an intense, fully engaging challenge. 

Pilates rings also bring consciousness into your mat routine by making you more aware of your body and the muscle groups engaged during a workout. It gives you a center on which to focus, letting you remain rooted and ensuring that you’re engaging muscles evenly on both sides of your body. 

Pilates rings are made of a relatively flexible rubber and are less expensive than Pilates machines. This makes them an accessible way to get into Pilates and replicate at home the experience of taking a machine class in a studio. 

How to use a Pilates ring

To get the most out of your Pilates ring workout, start by selecting a ring that works well for you. If your Pilates studio has multiple types of rings, try out a few before committing to one to buy. 

When you use your Pilates ring during your workout, focus on taking deep breaths into your core. Avoid creating tension in your shoulders, jaw and neck. Focus on your breathing, core and posture. 

Avoid a weighted ring 

Avoid using weighted rings when you first start doing Pilates ring workouts unless you’re already athletic and have a good idea of proper Pilates forms. Using a heavy ring when you don’t yet have proper alignment or foundational muscle strength can result in injuries. Instead, use a Pilates ring with a normal level of resistance. 

Don’t put too much pressure on your Pilates ring

Pilates rings are intended to provide a variable amount of resistance and should only be squeezed gently or moderately hard. Their design supports your body and adds small amounts of tension to the muscles engaged during an exercise; it can't handle maximum force or intense strength training. Use the ring as a gentle guide for maintaining good form and keeping your core engaged.

How to get the most out of your Pilates ring workout 

Some of the most common exercises in a Pilates ring workout are standing leg presses, side-lying presses, Pilates ring side-presses, high diagonal rings and halo rings. When deciding which exercises to start with, consult an instructor or follow a Pilates instructional video. 

Because Pilates tends to lead to rapid strength changes, be sure to care for your body as you would anytime you introduce a workout regime. Think about your fitness goals when deciding which Pilates ring workouts to try.  And consider increasing protein intake, Epsom salts baths, acupressure and deep muscle massage to provide relief any time you’re feeling sore. 

Tone and sculpt your abs

You can modify most mat and standing exercises that involve leg work by placing a Pilates ring between your legs to add a level of resistance and challenge your core. Target your core with a Pilates ring by adding it into exercises like bridges, side-lying thigh lifts, frog-circle combos, crunch series, tabletop controls and more. 

Target your inner thighs 

Add the Pilates ring as a supplement to exercises targeting your inner thighs. 

In the bridge position, hold your Pilates ring between your inner thighs above your knees. Squeeze and release the ring in a series of reps. 

Next, hold the ring between your thighs and practice lifting your pelvis to the bridge position, then lowering it back down while maintaining pressure on the ring. 

Repeat these movements with the Pilates ring on the outside of your legs by putting your legs through the ring and letting the pads rest on your outer thighs. 

Strengthen your arms

There are a variety of ways to strengthen your arms using a Pilates ring. Simply hold the ring above your head in a halo position any time you perform an exercise in which you would otherwise have your arms straight out or passive. You can also hold it in front of you in a steering wheel position or complete targeted exercises called front and side press downs to burn arm fat and build lean muscle.

Use a Pilates ring passively 

Use Pilates rings passively for seated workouts while watching TV or working at a desk by performing a series of leg lifts while clenching the ring, which will target your core strength. You can also try balancing the ring on the floor and pushing down on it with one foot, then the other, to keep your core engaged when you would otherwise be inactive.

What do I need to buy for the ultimate pilates ring workout?

AeroPilates Magic Circle Pilates Ring

This versatile Pilates ring lets you bring all the benefits of a Pilates machine into your home. It's lightweight enough to travel with or bring into the office with you for discreet under-desk exercises, and comfort-designed padded grips allow a wide range of motion during Pilates exercise circuits. It comes with a nylon travel pouch.

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Trideer Extra Thick Exercise Ball for Balance and Stability 

Get more out of your ring workout by adding this exercise ball for additional stability. This anti-burst exercise ball can be used in conjunction with your ring in a series of movements to provide better posture. It's helpful in supporting your legs while curling upward to perform upper-body workouts with a Pilates ring.

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TopPlus Yoga and Pilates Mat

A comfortable mat is essential for an effective Pilates ring workout routine. This thick, anti-slip mat is lightweight, great for travel and eco-friendly.

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Sportneer Workout Sets for Women 2 Piece

This stylish, functional Pilates outfit won’t get in the way of your flexibility and mobility while performing a wide range of Pilates exercises. It provides good coverage and comfort for a variety of active uses.

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Evelyn Waugh writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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