The small ball is probably my most favourite piece of equipment with which to practise Pilates as not only does it helps to keep the spine in neutral, it also prevents the tendency to squeeze the buttock muscles instead of the pelvic floor.
Before you start...there are a few things you should be aware of in order to get the most out of these exercises.
- Try and maintain a neutral pelvis. In other words, don't clench your buttock muscles or try and tilt or "tuck" your pelvis under
- Use the small ball as your guide. If you are standing doing these exercises with the small ball between your knees and you clench the buttock muscles and tuck your pelvis under, chances are the ball will shoot out from between your knees. That will teach you that you are definitely doing the exercise incorrectly!
How often should I perform these exercises and for how long?Every day if you can or if not at least three times and week and, as I tell all my clients once they enter my studio, what they do is not just for that hour but for the rest of their lives. So pelvic floor muscles should be exercised forever!
The more you practice actively engaging these muscles in the beginning the more the muscles will remember to engage on their own. Research tells us that muscle memory takes anywhere up to 6 weeks to kick in, but it is up to you to active these muscles and keep practising.
Exercise 1: The Pelvic Squeeze - Slow
- Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor, arms at your sides.
- Place the Small Ball between your knees.
- Inhale through the nose and squeeze the ball. Really squeeze it so you feel your inner thigh muscles engage but don't let you pelvis move.
- Now exhale through the mouth and squeeze the front of your pelvic floor.
- Inhale and now pull in through your belly button to engage your TA, keep your pelvic floor muscles squeezed and the small ball.
- Exhale and try to squeeze the pelvic floor muscles a little harder. Keep the pressure on the small ball and the belly button pulled in.
- Stay like this for 5 more breaths, head, neck & shoulders relaxed, the only tension is in your inner thighs, pelvic floor and TA. Inhale into the ribcage, exhale and gently squeeze inner thighs, pelvic floor and TA muscles.
- On the last breath, relax. When you release the small ball, you should feel the lower back relax. This is because a muscle called the Multifidus should engage when we fire up the pelvic floor and TA muscles. You should NOT have felt your buttock muscles relax as we don't want them to engage at all in this exercise. If you felt your buttock muscles relaxing then keep trying the exercise until you are able to engage your inner thighs, pelvic floor and TA without moving, tilting or tucking your pelvis under. As soon as you tuck under, you are engaging the buttock muscles and not properly working the muscles of the pelvic floor.
Repeat 5 times
Exercise 2: Pelvic Squeezes – FastWith this exercise you have to think "sniff & blow" for your breath. The breathing is sniffing in through the nose for 5 counts, and blowing out through the mouth for 5 counts.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor, arms relaxed at your sides.
- Place the Small Ball between your knees. Squeeze the ball a little so you feel tension in the inner thighs.
- Inhale through the nose for 5 counts (sniff 5 times), with each sniff you squeeze the pelvic floor a little harder and imagine that you are travel up towards the belly button.
- Then release the inner thighs and relax the pelvic floor muscles little by little as you exhale blowing out through the mouth five times.
Repeat 5 times
- Try not to squeeze the buttock muscles or tilt the pelvis. Stay in neutral with the rest of the body relaxed.
- Use the breath to work the muscles. This will ensure you keep breathing and don't hold your breath.
Don't rush your developmentRemember it takes time to find, recruit and engage new muscles and this is especially true if a muscle group has been damaged through childbirth and surgery or not used for a particularly long period of time.
So be patient. Don't give up. Using your small ball, practise the exercises from my DVDs or iPhone app, and in less than 6 months or so you will forget that you ever had a problem with your pelvic floor. Visit Pilates online to practise your Pilates technique and sample a 10 minute workout taken from our DVDs.