An Ode To The Mini Pilates Ball

The fitness tool is small but mighty.

Originally Published: 
How a mere mini Pilates ball has benefited my at-home workout routine.

If you’re a fan of at-home workouts, chances are you have an ever-growing collection of fitness tools and workout gear. This might include a pile of dumbbells, various resistance bands, a yoga mat, and perhaps a step platform or ankle weights. I have all of the above and cycle through them depending on the workout I’m doing. One thing that was missing, though? A mini Pilates ball.

While I’ve done my fair share of Pilates workouts at home, it’s usually just been me, a mat, and my slightly wobbly rendition of bird dogs and one hundreds. Then I got my hands on the obé barre ball from obé fitness — a squishy, inflated ball that’s seven inches in diameter — and it totally changed the game.

I noticed that mini Pilates balls were having a moment on TikTok, where the topic has over 3.5 million views and videos showing folks using the tool while doing Pilates, barre, and regular strength training workouts. All of that variety combined with the glowing reviews finally inspired me to add a Pilates ball into my routine — and I absolutely love it.

If you’re not familiar, mini Pilates balls are meant to add a little extra tension to your usual exercises, whether you’re doing actual Pilates or not. Think glute bridges with the ball clenched between your thighs, donkey kicks with the ball squeezed up against your booty, or crunches with the ball tucked under your mid-back. Mini Pilates balls are affordable, easy to store, and super versatile, so it makes sense why they’re a staple in so many home gyms. And now I’m a convert, too. Read on for how the small but mighty fitness tool has upgraded my workout routine.

Why Mini Pilates Balls Are The Best

When I began adding a mini Pilates ball to my usual exercises like glute bridges and crunches, it instantly took each move up a notch — in a good way. The ball brings in a new element that your muscles (and brain) have to navigate, which not only makes workouts more challenging but also a tiny bit more fun.

Instead of doing a regular donkey kick, suddenly you have to think about squeezing your glutes and hamstrings during the leg lift in order to keep the ball in place. I noticed that exercising with the ball forced me to pay extra attention to my form since I had to stay steady and aligned to keep the ball from rolling away. Plus, the extra squeeze made everything burn exponentially more. (Read: My butt was on fire.)

I love that the mini Pilates ball adds a stability element to my workouts, which is great for working all of the little stabilizer muscles that help hold you steady. I know push-ups are hard enough as it is, but hear me out: If you put one hand on the ground and the other on a Pilates ball, it suddenly changes the whole game. The unstable, squishy surface of the ball makes you engage your arms and core even more than when you have both hands on solid ground.

I’m also a fan of the same challenge during crunches. Sure, I could do a normal crunch with my back flat on the mat, but doing crunches on a Pilates ball magically engages muscles I didn’t even know I had as I attempt to stay balanced.

A Pilates ball can also add some cardio to your workout, like when you swiftly pass the ball between your legs during scissor kicks. In my opinion, tossing this tiny ball around is a fun way to turn a tough move into one that almost feels like a game, which inspires me to keep going — all while I spike my heart rate.

As if that isn’t a long enough list of perks, I’ll just add that a Pilates ball can help you get a deeper stretch. During Pilates workouts, instructors often encourage you to reach and lengthen, which is way easier to do when you have something to hold onto, push forward, or lean over. Hold the ball between your outstretched hands, and it’ll inspire you to stretch just a little bit further. It certainly does that for me, and my chronically tight muscles are grateful.

Whether I’m doing more formal Pilates workouts or adding the mini Pilates ball to a set of random exercises, I love that adding this simple fitness tool makes such a big difference. I’m adding it to my pile of workout gear and plan to bring it out on the regular.

Studies referenced:

Obuz, T. (2022). The effects of exercises with a Pilates ball on balance, reaction time and dual-task performance of kindergarten children. J Comp Eff Res. doi: 10.2217/cer-2021-0293.

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