Training Principles, General Pilates Education, Course Spotlight

Benefits of Using the Small Pilates Ball

Inexpensive and Easily Transported

The small Pilates ball is a relatively inexpensive piece of Pilates equipment, and can easily be used for both individual and group classes. The balls are also good for home practice, and most clients can purchase a ball for home use. As the ball is lightweight, it is relatively easily to transport for classes on the go. You can also quickly inflate or deflate the balls for transport if required.

Adds Variety and Fun to Your Classes

The small Pilates ball adds an element of fun to the workout. It increases the variety of exercises in your classes, and clients love incorporating the equipment into their workouts.

Stability Training

The small Pilates ball adds instability to the body when performing the exercises and increases the work performed by the stabilising muscles. Improving the body’s stability is incredibly important in preventing injuries. Poor stability and poor activation of the core stabilising muscles has been proven to lead to a higher risk of injury. Exercise programs to improve core stability should focus on muscle activation, neuromuscular control, static stabilisation, and dynamic stability, and all of these elements are worked on in the small Pilates ball repertoire (Huxel Bliven and Anderson, 2013).

Improved Core Muscle Activation

The small Pilates ball helps to activate the core stabilising muscles. The instability which the ball provides facilitates activation of the core stabilising muscles. Using the small stability ball for abdominal exercises has been shown to dramatically increase the Rectus Abdominus muscle activation and decreases the back extensor muscle activation, allowing for better isolation of the abdominal muscles and less stress on the back muscles (Jerrold S et al., 2007). The small Pilates ball has also been shown to increase the activation and work of the Oblique Muscles compared to performing exercises on the mat.

Balance Training

Using the stability ball works on improving the clients’ balance. Balance training has been shown to decrease falls in the elderly, as well as prevent or rehabilitate injuries and improve muscle imbalances. Performing exercise that incorporates both balance and resistance training has been shown to provide the best results (Heitkamp et al., 2001) (Gusi et al., 2012) (Nam, Kim and Yun, 2016).

Resistance Training

Resistance training has a huge variety of benefits, including increased muscle mass, increased metabolic rate, improved bone density, improved cognitive abilities, improved self-esteem and also in preventing certain injuries and diseases (Westcott, 2012).

The ball provides additional resistance to exercises which are traditionally performed on the mat. For example, the small Pilates ball works the Adductor (inner thigh) muscles when placed between the thighs or shins and the Hamstring muscles when placed behind the knee.

Reciprocal Inhibition of Muscles

When a muscle contracts and moves a joint through its range of motion, the opposing or antagonistic muscle relaxes (Bandy, Sanders and Morris, 2013). The addition of the small Pilates ball into certain exercises utilises this principle to assist in correct muscle activation throughout the movement. An example of this is when you place the ball between the legs in the supine abdominal exercises. Squeezing in on the ball causes the Adductor muscles to work, which in turn inhibits the Adductor muscles, including the Tensor Fascia Latae (TFL). This is important as the TFL can cramp and cause hip pain, and it can also pull on its attachment to the pelvis and arch the lower back.

Another example of this is when you place the ball behind the knee to perform side lying buttock exercises. The Hamstrings have to work to hold the ball in place, which in turn inhibits the Quadriceps muscles which can be overactive for some clients in these exercises.

Makes Some Exercises More Accessible to Clients

The small Pilates ball can assist clients by making certain exercises easier and providing more support to the whole body. For example, it can make prone lying exercises more accessible to clients who are uncomfortable lying on the floor due to pain or movement restriction. Another example is that it can prevent hip pain and Hip Flexor cramping by taking some load off the thigh and hip muscles, which can become overactive in abdominal exercises, particularly when the legs are in tabletop position or extended straight. In addition to this, the movement of the ball can also help to facilitate stretching.

Makes Some Exercises More Challenging

The small Pilates ball can easily be added to matwork exercises to challenge specific clients within the class. For certain exercises, the ball can challenge clients due to the increased control and strength required (compared to performing the same exercise on the mat). Additional exercises which are not included in the matwork repertoire can challenge the stronger or more advanced clients.

Provides Feedback to Clients

If clients do not perform an exercise correctly, they will see or feel the ball move – this gives the client more feedback about their control which they can correct accordingly. The ball can also assist with correct body positioning, for example it keeps the knees in alignment when placed between the thighs when performing Squats.





Bandy, W., Sanders, B. and Morris, M. (2013). Therapeutic exercise for physical therapist assistants.
Philadelphia [etc.]: Wolters Kluwer.

Gusi, N., Carmelo Adsuar, J., Corzo, H., del Pozo-Cruz, B., Olivares, P. and Parraca, J. (2012). Balance
training reduces fear of falling and improves dynamic balance and isometric strength in institutionalised
older people: a randomised trial. Journal of Physiotherapy, [online] 58(2), pp.97-104.

Heitkamp, H., Horstmann, T., Mayer, F., Weller, J. and Dickhuth, H. (2001). Gain in Strength and Muscular
Balance After Balance Training. International Journal of Sports Medicine, 22(4), pp.285-290.

Huxel Bliven, K. and Anderson, B. (2013). Core Stability Training for Injury Prevention. Sports Health: A
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Jerrold S, P., Batt, J., Davis, N., Lohman, E., Laymon, M., De Leon, G., Roark, H., Tran, T., Ayson, E.,
Vigeland, K. and Payken, C. (2007). Core Muscle Activity During Exercise on a Mini Stability Ball Compared
With Abdominal Crunches on the Floor and on a Swiss Ball. The Journal of Applied Research, [online] 7(3),

Nam, S., Kim, W. and Yun, C. (2016). Effects of balance training by knee joint motions on muscle activity
in adult men with functional ankle instability. Journal of Physical Therapy Science, [online] 28(5), pp.1629-

Westcott, W. (2012). Resistance Training is Medicine. Current Sports Medicine Reports, [online] 11(4),