What Is a Pilates Ring?

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on August 24, 2022
5 min read

A pilates ring is a tool that you can incorporate into your normal pilates exercise routine. It’s circular in shape and should be both flexible and lightweight. You can use them both at home and in the gym.

There are many different varieties of rings that are commercially available. This means that you should spend some time figuring out which one is best for you. 

Pilates is a popular exercise program that was created by a man named Joseph Pilates. Joseph worked with soldiers who were wounded in World War I. He developed a number of repetitive movements to help keep their muscles moving. Eventually, he turned these early ideas into a specific set of exercises. 

Pilates includes about fifty fundamental types of exercises. The movements are all meant to be simple and repetitive. You begin each movement by stabilizing your core. Then, you perform a wide variety of controlled movements with the rest of your body. Each movement is typically repeated three to five times before you move on to the next one. 

The main goal of these exercises is to work on: 

  • Flexibility
  • Posture
  • Balance 
  • Muscle tone — the normal exercises don’t provide enough resistance to truly build a lot of muscle, but you can supplement them with tools like pilates rings to switch the focus to building muscles.

The main point of a pilates ring is to add more resistance to your normal pilates exercises. It’s a very adaptable piece of equipment and can be used for exercises that involve many different body parts, including your: 

  • Thighs
  • Calves
  • Ankles
  • Torso
  • Palms 
  • Arms 

Exactly how you use your ring depends on which parts of your body you want to work out. Many pilates exercises work on a few different muscle groups at once. Some are better at engaging your upper body while others are aimed at your lower body

There are a number of different types of pilates rings available for purchase. Before you buy one, it’s best to figure out the kind that will work well with your exercise routine. Some options to consider include: 

  • Handles. Some types of rings have a handle on each side. These can help with some exercises but can also interfere with others. You should decide what types of moves you want to prioritize before deciding whether or not to get a ring with handles. 
  • Size. Pilates rings can come in different sizes. You ideally want to be able to use your ring with many different body parts, which means that you should be able to hold it comfortably and fit it between your legs. The size that’s right for you depends on your particular body type. 
  • Weight. Some rings weigh more than others. In general, a lightweight ring is better than a heavy one.
  • Resistance. This is one of the most important features of your ring because it will directly impact the quality of your workouts. Make sure that your ring provides adequate resistance, or there’s no point in using it. On the other hand, your workouts can become too difficult if the ring provides too much resistance. You need to find the resistance level that’s best for you. 
  • Overall quality. Some pilates rings are cheaper than others. While saving money is always nice, you want to make sure that you end up with a high-quality ring. Otherwise, it won’t actually make a difference during your workout. 

If you can, it’s a good idea to test out your ring in person before you buy it. That way, you can get a good idea of how the resistance feels and how the ring fits your body. 

Most of the benefits of a pilates ring come from the added resistance. This resistance makes your muscles work even harder than they normally do when you’re engaging in pilates exercises. 

The main benefits of the ring’s added resistance include: 

  • Stronger muscles. The pilates ring makes your muscles work harder. Resistance exercises are the best kind for actually building muscle, and you normally don’t build a lot of new muscle when you do pilates without a ring. 
  • Better balance. Like all pilates exercises, ones that involve a ring focus on core strength. In this case, your core muscles are getting even more of a workout than normal because most ring exercises force you to constantly engage your core. Your core muscles are necessary for balance and stability both when you’re standing still and walking around.   
  • Better heart healthThe added resistance makes your heart muscles work harder throughout your exercise routine. This builds a stronger organ that’s less likely to prematurely cause you health problems. 

A pilates ring also allows you to work out more muscles at the exact same time. For example, certain pilates ring exercises can work out your entire arm with just one type of motion. This includes muscles like your: 

  • Biceps
  • Triceps
  • Forearms 

Many different pilates exercises can be adapted to incorporate a ring. The rings can be used when you’re sitting, lying down, or standing up. 

Whenever you’re exercising with your ring, make sure to keep your breathing slow and even. Keep breathing throughout every exercise. You should also make sure that you start slowly and gradually build up to a more intense workout routine. This will lower your chances of injuring yourself. 

Keep in mind that pilates with a ring is more intense than pilates without a ring. Even if you’re a pilates expert, you should take it easy the first few times you incorporate a pilates ring into your routine.

Some rings will come with specific instructions for use. If yours do not, examples of good exercises to try with a pilates ring include the halo and the pilates bridge. 

To perform the halo exercise with a pilates ring, you should: 

  • Hold the ring horizontally over your head with one hand on each side.
  • Squeeze the ring twice when you exhale and twice when you inhale — this counts as one set.
  • Perform 10 sets. 
  • You can make the move more difficult by bending your elbows and bringing the ring closer to your head for two sets of breaths, then back up to your starting position during two more breathing sets.
  • Try this variation five times before lowering your arms to rest.

To perform a pilates bridge, you should: 

  • Lie on your back and bend your knees. Place your feet flat on the floor with the ring between your thighs, a few inches above your knee.
  • Test the tension by squeezing and relaxing your thighs a few times but stop with them squeezed together and the ring in a compressed oval shape.
  • Move into a traditional bridge position by lifting your back off the ground one vertebrae at a time.
  • Make sure to keep your hips even and your heels down. Continue lifting until your body becomes a long, neutral line.
  • Slowly lower your body back to your starting position. Try to complete three sets of ten repetitions.