What Equipment Do I Need for Pilates?

Half circle prop can be used as part of a Pilates workout

The half-circle can provide a number of challenges for a Pilates workout.

Using props during Pilates can help you do specific exercises without muscle strain or tension. Props are used in Pilates so that people of all different abilities, shapes, sizes, flexibilities and fitness levels can perform the exercise.

Props can help exercisers work around challenges such as spinal curvature, stiff joints, shorter limbs, tight or stiff muscles or joints.

Some advanced Pilates enthusiasts are able to do the exercises without any props at all, which can be great as well, but using props is not necessarily an indication of weakness. Often times, props actually challenge your body more than the exercises otherwise would. They can help you maintain form and prevent injury.

Props also add variety to any routine, and studies show that variety is a critical element in helping people stay committed to exercising.


Mats are the foundation of Pilates mat work. They are the one prop that should never be left out. A mat designed for Pilates or yoga is essential for targeting muscle groups and actively lengthening muscles while allowing joints extended range of motion.

There are many variations to every exercise when light equipment or ‘props’ are used to target peripheral muscles or allow the exerciser to focus in a slightly different way. Altering the way an exercise is performed allows the neuromuscular system to be challenged in a new way requiring new pathways be developed and even making the brain work harder.

For a variant in your Pilates workout, the balance ball is a good prop to use.

The balance ball is a favorite Pilates prop.

Other props are used to target lesser-used muscle groups or help narrow the focus of your movements.

Ab Prep With Props

The Ab Prep is one of the most fundamental exercises in Pilates, and you can take it up a notch with various props.

Balls and Circles

Ab Prep with a circle resistance ring between the knees puts the workout focus on your adductor area of your inner thighs. It also works other lower body areas.

Ab Prep with a balance ball helps stabilize your scapulae.

Ab Prep with a small stability ball allows your upper torso to extend into starting position, over the ball. This elongates the abdominal muscles and increases your range of motion.

Ab Prep done on a stability ball, in the supine-incline position provides for great range of motion and a bit of strength training. The hips should be in bridge position as your upper back and head support the ball for maximum effect. The glutes and hamstrings get a good workout here as well.

Bands, Boards and Rollers

Ab Prep on an incline board can either decrease or increase the level of challenge, and should be adjusted based on your skill and desired level of workout. With your head on an incline, the board supports your torso and spinal flexion. In the opposite direction, gravity increases resistance for a tougher workout.

Ab Prep with as single band around your feet or arms provides for resistance when flexing your limbs, while Ab Prep with the Foam Roller helps you increase both control and balance, working your legs and all abdominal muscles.

Pilates is quite effective for getting and staying in shape. Don’t let the same old routine get you down. By using props, you can create an endless variety in your workouts.

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