The Pilates exercise program is a wide ranging program that works the body and the mind. The Pilates ball is one of the most common tools used during many exercises, and Pilates ball exercises focus primarily on developing core strength that supports the spine, hips, and legs. Pilates ball exercises run the gamut from very easy warm-up exercises to extremely strenuous exercises that strengthen and tone the body's core muscles. Some Pilates ball exercises include the use of dumbbells as well, and such exercises can strengthen the core as well as other muscles such as the pectoral muscles, shoulder muscles, biceps, and triceps.
Some Pilates ball exercises are simply Pilates mat exercises accentuated with the ball. One example of such an exercise is the roll-up. One should start by lying flat on the ground with the arms extended backward in an upside-down Superman pose. Then, one should slowly rotate the arms forward. When the arms begin to progress past the face and toward the torso, the core muscles will engage and pull the body up and forward. The motion is complete when the fingers come close to touching the toes. To make this exercise even more strenuous, the user will hold a Pilates ball in his or her hands while executing the roll-up. This adds weight and resistance, which forces the core muscles to engage.
Simpler Pilates ball exercises include plank poses. A plank pose can also be done on a mat without the ball, and it resembles a push-up position at its highest point. It can also be done with the forearms resting on the ground instead of just the hands. To enhance the exercise, one should kick his or her feet up onto the top of the Pilates ball and perform the plank as usual. This places more force on core muscles once they are engaged.
When sitting on the ball, it is possible to roll forward so that the ball ends up supporting the upper back and shoulders. When in this position, the user can perform several different difficulty levels of Pilates ball exercises. A simple exercise involves getting into a bridge position: with the shoulders and upper back resting on the ball, one should engage the core muscles to create a flat, table-top surface with the rest of the body. The knees should be bent at a ninety degree angle, and the core muscles must be engaged to provide support for the body. Hold this position for several seconds, then release. To make the exercise more strenuous, the user can do dumbbell flies while holding the bridge position.