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Mat Pilates

Mat Pilates uses your own body weight to create resistance that tones your body, defines your muscles, and improves posture, agility, and flexibility.

Pilates Mat

It's a common misconception that yoga and Pilates mats can be used interchangeably. But Pilates mats are specifically constructed to be thicker and softer than a yoga mat to better protect your tailbone and spine. A cushier mat makes the rolling exercises common in Pilates more comfortable and easier to execute.

Pilates mats should be at least half an inch thick. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes, textures, and colors, ranging from 72 to 86 inches long and from 21 to 39 inches wide. The taller you are, the longer you'll need. Pilates mats can be made from rubber or foam, and feature either an open- or closed-cell construction (closed-cell is preferable because it is less porous and therefore more insulated).

Pilates mats cost $20 to $50 depending on how fancy a mat you choose. A mat with a built-in fastening strap and carrying case will inevitably cost more.

Pilates Ball

A Pilates ball is really no different than any other exercise ball. These large rubber balls were first popularized in Switzerland, hence its nickname, the "Swiss ball." Though the exercise ball has far more uses than in Pilates alone, many Pilates classes use these tools to increase core strength, improve balance, and rehabilitate knee and shoulder injuries.

Pilates balls are often used during mat Pilates classes to add resistance to the movements. Lying on an unsteady sphere engages the muscles that help stabilize the body each time weight is transferred (like when lifting an arm or leg). The Pilates ball encourages fluid movements, helps align the body, and isolates muscles.

Though Pilates balls can be purchased online, it might be a good idea to physically trek to a sporting goods store where you can test out the size and the texture of your equipment. The average Pilates ball is 55 centimeters, though if you're taller you may need to upgrade to one that is 65 centimeters. You'll want to make sure yours isn't too slippery, that it is burst-resistant, and that when you lay on the ball, your knees bend at a 90 degree angle.

Pilates Ring

The Pilates toning ring is an integral piece of equipment. The circular device is designed with two padded grips, making it easier to hold (and less slippery when you break a sweat). Pilates rings are also known as magic circles. They are flexible and are meant to be squeezed and released in regular intervals to work the muscles of the upper body. Using a Pilates ring can enhance the results of your workout, increasing lower back strength, improving balance, and shaping and firming your muscles.

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