From what I hear anecdotally when teaching Pilates and advising on Rehab, many people have bits and pieces of equipment at home under the stairs or bed gathering dust rather than being used for the purpose for which they were bought. All were bought with good intentions of starting a new routine, but sometimes life gets in the way.
As we’re all going to be at home a lot over the next month or so, with very little to distract us, now is a good time to take these out and dust them down!
Here’s a couple of ideas to help you make use of them.
A foam roller is a cylinder usually made of compressed foam. There are many variations from simple lightweight smooth cylinders to denser rollers comprising ridges and troughs. Foam rollers are often used as an effective self-massage tool, especially by sports people but they can also be used for exercise to improve balance and core strength.
An example of this is to place the roller under arches of the feet when performing a shoulder bridge. The challenge is to control the movement and the roller while still keeping good form, you’ll feel your glutes, hamstrings and core muscles working.
To perform the exercise, start lying on your back with your knees bent, arches of feet on the foam roller, hip distance apart.
Arms by your side palms down.
Take a breath in to begin.
As you breathe out, lift your hips up until you lift as high as your shoulder blades.
As you breathe in, lower back down.
2. Resistance Band.
A resistance band is a length of flexible material most often used to provide resistance to a body movement and therefore strengthen the movement. The bands come in various colours and strengths. They can also be used to improve flexibility and range of motion.
For example, you can improve the range of motion at your hips by using the band to control hip circles.
To perform this exercise, start lying on your back with your legs stretched out.
Place the middle of the band across the base of one foot and take hold of either end of the band at knee level.
Keep holding the band and rest your elbows and upper arms on the mat/floor.
Allow your leg to circle slowly at the hip. Keep the rest of your body stable, don’t rock from side to side and keep your neck relaxed.
The band will provide some support so you can allow your leg muscles to really relax and get a good rotation of the hip.
Circle 4/5 times in one direction and then 4/5 times in the opposite direction.
Repeat with the other leg.
3. Pilates/yoga block.
These are small rectangular shaped blocks of compressed foam of varying thickness most often used in pilates and yoga classes. The blocks are most often used to correct posture at the head and neck or the hip/pelvis, however they can also be used to challenge balance and improve strength in more advanced exercises.
A common use for the pilates/yoga block is to improve seated posture. Many people find it difficult to sit up without falling back slightly, if they sit on the block it improves alignment and posture and allows them to carry out the exercise they’re doing more easily.
An example of a seated exercise that can be done on the pilates block is the spine twist.
4. Balance Board.
Also known as a wobble board, this is a circular object with an uneven base that is used to balance on. These are used to improve balance and coordination and build postural muscle strength. They’re used often as a rehab tool for lower body injuries and are a great way to build and maintain balance for older adults to reduce the risk of falls.
To start using your balance board, place it on the floor and stand on it with your feet on either side of the board. Try to stand tall and keep your balance for 20 seconds. Make sure you stand close to something that you can use for support if needed.
Most people have weights of some sort lying about the house and there are many, many uses for these. A nice easy exercise to try if you’re not used to weights is a lying chest fly. This exercise helps to stretch out the front of the chest, but also strengthens the chest muscles. Use weights appropriate to your strength. Start with low weights and build up to heavier weights if you wish.
To perform this exercise, lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
Hold a weight in each hand.
Engage your core, by pulling your belly button in towards your spine.
Hold your arms up towards the ceiling so that the weights are above your chest, keep a slight bend on your elbows.
Inhale and slowly lower your arms out to the side and allow the chest muscles to stretch out.
As you exhale, slowly bring your arms back in bringing the weights back over your chest.
Start with 3 – 5 reps and build up.
6. Fitness Circle.
These were developed for use in Pilates classes. They’re also referred to as Pilates circles or magic circles. The circle has pads on either side for handling. The fitness circle can be used to add extra weight or resistance to exercises as well as to improve flexibility or deepen a stretch.
One lovely way to use the circle is to stretch out the hamstrings & calves.
To do this, lie on your back with your legs stretched out.
Hold the circle in your right hand and put one pad of the circle just below the toes on the right foot.
Use the circle to pull your leg up as far as you can while keeping your knee straight.
Hold for 20 – 30 seconds to allow your leg to stretch out.
Repeat on the left.
This large ball is also known as an exercise ball or a gym ball. They are available in different sizes and ideally you’ll use one suited best to your height. These exercise accessories have many uses including improving flexibility, improving balance and coordination, core strengthening and providing support for difficult exercises.
For example, the swiss ball can be used to support a squat movement.
Stand with the ball behind your back and pressed to a wall, feel flat on the ground.
Inhale, lower down into a squat, keeping your heels down flat. You can hold your arms out in front for balance if you like.
Exhale, stand up returning to the start point.
These do exactly what they say on the tin! They are small, about the size of a tennis ball (which can also be used for the same purpose) and are either smooth or covered in small spikes. They are used to release tension in muscles and are useful for getting at difficult to reach places such as the upper back, but can be used on any muscle.
They’re easy to use, place them between your body and the wall/floor/chair and lean into them using gentle pressure to ease into the tight spots in your muscles, or you can hold them in your hand and roll them over easier to reach muscles.
9. Push-up Grips.
Push-up grips look like small handles that you place on the floor/mat and hold onto while doing a plank or push-up exercise. They have the advantage of increasing the range of motion of a push-up exercise but are also useful for those who have wrist or hand pain when doing push-ups or planks as they can take some of the weight and pressure off the wrist/hand.
To use, simply place on the floor/mat and hold while doing your plank or push-up exercises.
10. Pilates Small Ball.
The small ball is used in pilates routines to improve posture, support weaker areas or add challenge to certain exercises. The ball can be used partially or fully inflated, depending on requirements.
I use this often for exercises where there is a requirement to lift the head, neck and shoulders (for example the 100s exercise – you can see how to do this here). For some people this is a challenge due to neck and shoulder pain and weakness. The solution is to place a partially inflated small ball under your head rather than lifting up head, neck and shoulders. In this way, you’re still curled up a little bit, therefore challenging core muscles without straining at the neck.
Time to get going!
Hopefully these tips will help you get some more use out of your small pieces of home equipment. Remember there’s plenty of pilates exercises to try in the news section of the website. You can incorporate the equipment into many of these exercises.
If you haven’t exercised in a while or are injured, ill or elderly please consult your doctor before starting a new exercise regime.
If you would like further information on one-to-one pilates or rehab sessions, please get in contact.