Our love-hate relationship with the Pilates Fitness Circle

By: Carla Ricalis

Fun fact: Joseph Pilates created the original Magic Circle (aka the Fitness Circle or Ring of Hell) from, wait for it, the steel rings around beer kegs and attached both ends to two wooden blocks.

I don’t know about you, but the idea of squeezing something that intense while doing any one of the Pilates exercises where you can incorporate a Fitness Circle, already has me coming up with at least a dozen different excuses of why I won’t use it.

But with the evolution of all the Pilates equipment since Joe’s time, we have some great options available. Circles have far more support, varying resistances, come in different sizes and have padding on both the inner and outer sides for exercise variety and the ability to target different muscle groups.

It’s a great add-on for almost every piece of Pilates equipment but where the Fitness Circle really shines is in Pilates mat work.

It seems that for every client who loves to add the Fitness Circle into their workouts, there are just as many who hate it. So, here are 3 great reasons (that maybe will replace excuses) of why we love adding it in at Studio3. Hopefully these will help change your mind!

1) Balance….

If you’ve ever quietly cursed your Pilates instructor as they’re repeatedly cueing you to work your right leg ‘a little more’ in a Shoulder Bridge prep or to roll down ‘more evenly’ through both sides of the spine in the Rollup, and you simply can’t sense the imbalance that they’re seeing, the Fitness Circle is the tool you’ll want to grab to feel what they’re seeing.

Because so many of the exercises we do in Pilates are bilateral – meaning that both sides of the body are working at the same time – our imbalances are bound to appear, if not to us, then to our instructors.

Placing the Fitness Circle above bent knees as we do abdominal preps or The Hundred, is a great way to actually see and feel those imbalances ourselves. Or by holding it between our hands as we do a Rollup or, The Saw, we’ll get more help engaging that weaker side.

And that’s a huge bonus because realizing our weaknesses immediately strengthens our awareness. And that equals a better connection to our body and movement.

2) Connection…

Connecting into our movement and bodies is a huge part of why we do Pilates and Yoga.

But very often the connection we need to engage deeper into a particular exercise or movement is not where we think it might be.

For example, if you’re being cued to stand on one leg with your arms overhead, the challenge isn’t so much standing on one foot but rather engaging everything above it; your knee, hip, pelvis, ribs, shoulder girdle, arms and spine – whew!

Not to mention your gaze and proprioceptive awareness. By adding a Fitness Circle in between your hands as you reach overhead, you’re giving your body an external force to work against; it’s something to gently squeeze, reach higher with AND feel if perhaps that side to side imbalance can be minimized by keeping the circle even as you lengthen your spine and balance.

It makes the work harder but so much more rewarding,

3) Proprioception…

This is a subtle one. But for better balance, connection and progression into some of the more challenging Pilates and Yoga exercises, proprioception strength is needed.

What is proprioception, exactly? It’s the ability to sense our movement in space and the position of our body and joints. Sometimes called the sixth sense, proprioception strength is a key component to progress your exercise routine. And the Fitness Circle is the perfect tool to help with that!

If you’re doing the Pilates Side Leg Lift series and constantly being reminded to keep your hips level, having the circle placed between your ankles is going to really make you think of your entire body (think how far your ankles are from your brain!). That external resistance is providing you with something to work around, against and with, in order to strengthen, mobilize and keep your form your focus!

Interested in getting some great use out of your Fitness Circle? Join Alexandra this Sunday, May 16 at 9:30am for a virtual 60 minutes Pop Up Power Fitness Circle Class and be ready to move and be challenged in a fun, safe, progressive Pilates environment.

2 Replies to “Our love-hate relationship with the Pilates Fitness Circle”

  1. christine field says:

    Very interesting article and informative. I like using the Fitness Circle. It really does make you focus and work deeper.

    Reply
    1. Carla Ricalis says:

      It’s such a versatile piece of equipment – let us know if you’d like to see more Fitness Circle classes on the class schedule – and hope to see you in the pop up class this Sunday!

      Reply

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