Sample Class: Mat Pilates: Interchangeable Props

by Laura Sachs on Mar 16, 2010

Class Take-Out

If you don’t always have access to the same pieces of small equipment, improvise.

Most clubs have small pieces of equipment, or props, but not all have exactly the same props. This can be a good thing, as necessity gives you an opportunity to interchange props and jazz up your Pilates mat class—especially if you work at different facilities. This sample class outlines ways to use what you have and be creative.

Mat Pilates: Interchangeable Props Details

Format: Pilates mat class using small pieces of equipment

Total Time: 35 minutes

Equipment Needed: magic circle or one 3- to 5-pound handheld weight, two 2- to 3-pound weights or weighted balls, foam roller and inflatable miniball (Ask participants to place props within arm’s reach. Tip: Place the miniballs inside the circles.)

Music: any rhythmic music, 92–102 beats per minute with a smooth, even tempo

Warm-Up (10 minutes)

Start by having participants lie lengthwise on roller, head and pelvis supported, knees bent. If using miniball, have them place it between thighs. Hold magic circle in both hands; alternatively, use one 3- to 5-pound weight. Begin by cuing neutral spine: “Inhale 4 counts; exhale 4 counts. Feel the back of your rib cage and pelvis against the roller. Inhale and lightly release the back of your waist from the roller.”


  • With arms in first position (directly above shoulders), inhale. Exhale: curl up as you reach circle forward toward knees. Reach right (R), center, and left (L), center. Curl down using proper technique. Repeat 4x, alternating sides. Put circle down, and place ball inside it.
  • Hold one 2- to 3-pound weight in R hand, keeping L hand on floor. Lift L knee into tabletop position. For balance: inhale to prepare; exhale: bring R hand down and L knee inward. The object is not to touch, but simply to bring both toward midline. Inhale: with head down, return to starting position. Repeat 8x, and switch sides.
  • Challenge balance by bringing nonweighted arm off floor, and progress to holding weights in both hands.
  • Hold both weights in hands, palms up (supinated). Inhale to prepare. Exhale: bring arms together in “hug a tree” position. Hold as you lift one leg to tabletop. Lower leg, lower arms. Repeat 4x, alternating legs. Repeat 4 more times, lifting leg to tabletop at same time as you “hug a tree.”
  • Come off roller; place it aside.

Work Phase (approximately 20 minutes)

One-Third Curl-Down With Weights, Knees Bent. Begin seated with knees bent, miniball between legs, weights in hands. Palms are facing, and weights are together at forehead height. Inhale to prepare. Exhale: curl back, bringing weights down and out. Inhale: bring weights in and up in scooping action, contracting pectoralis muscles. Repeat 4x, then twist R, L, R, L, and come back up. Repeat 3 more times, alternating twisting action. Place weights down.

One-Third Curl-Down With Magic Circle or One Weight. With circle (or weight) in hands and ball between bent knees, chop on diagonal to R as you curl back toward top of sacrum. Knees go L as arms go R. Alternate sides 4x. As you chop R on 5th repetition, extend R leg to add load. Add single twist, alternating sides, 4x. To progress, extend both legs and hold. Place ring down; miniball stays between knees.

Place hands behind knees and curl back. Refer to three markers: toward top of sacrum (one-third), waist (two-thirds) and bottom of shoulder blades (final third). Pause at each marker, reach hands out and hold for 2 counts.

One-Third Curl-Up, Tracing Triangle. Lie on back with ring or one weight in hands, miniball between knees, and trace a triangle shape. Inhale to prepare. Exhale: trace from top of triangle down R side, across base. Inhale: trace up L side. Repeat 4x each side.

One-Third Curl-Up With Weights. Place both weights (or weighted balls) in hands with butts of weights touching, arms in first position, miniball between bent knees. Inhale to prepare. Exhale: bring both weights forward as you curl up head, neck and shoulders. Inhale: turn palms up, lifting even more; sweep weights wide at shoulder height. Exhale: bring weights back to center as you turn wrists downward. Inhale: reach weights back to starting position. Repeat 8x.

Bridging With “Ha” Breath. Place roller above head (not under), arms by sides, miniball between knees. Inhale to prepare. Exhale: come to low bridge. Squeeze ball 20 times. Inhale. Exhale and come into high bridge. Squeeze ball 20 times. Go back to low bridge, inhale and bring arms overhead onto roller. Inhale and exhale, making a “ha” sound, 4x. Reach arms to edges of roller. Inhale to prepare. Exhale: curl up to bottom of shoulder blades with roller between palms, 4x. As you curl up, focus on peeling upper spine off mat. As you curl down, focus on pressing upper spine onto mat.

One-Third Curl-Up With Second-Position Arms. Hold both weights (or weighted balls) in hands, arms in second position—in front of ears, but not directly above shoulders. Miniball is between bent knees. Inhale to prepare. Exhale: bring both weights forward as you curl up head, neck and shoulders. Inhale: turn palms up and sweep weights wide at shoulder height. Exhale: bring arms to side of head, just in front of ears. Inhale: lower head.

At this point add any side- lying, plank or “on all fours” exercises.

Two-Thirds Curl-Up With Magic Circle and Roller With Stretch.

  • Lying on back, place L ankle on roller, and holding circle with both hands, place R foot inside.
  • Inhale: prepare and curl up to back of waist (two-thirds of roll-up). Repeat 4x.
  • Curl up, hold and lift L leg off roller. Move it L to R 2x. Replace L leg and curl down, keeping pelvis stable. Repeat 4x.
  • Curl up, bringing L leg up to meet body, 4x. Replace L leg on roller. With hips squared, draw R leg inward, lengthening back of leg. Point and flex R foot 4x. Move R leg away from midline to lessen stretch factor.
  • Bring R leg to R; look L. Cross R leg over body; look R. Repeat 4x. Hold leg to L. Breathe and relax. Gently bend knee and bring leg back to center.
  • Switch legs and repeat.

Conclusion (5 minutes)

Roll over to all-fours position. Perform two cat stretches. Draw knees up toward chest; inhale and exhale as you turn head side to side. Lift pelvis and drop heels down into elephant position, breathing deeply. Walk hands up to feet, grasp elbows and dangle, head framed. Knees can be soft. Squat, look forward and straighten up out of squat. Finish by reaching arms overhead and down to sides.

IDEA Fitness Journal, Volume 7, Issue 4

© 2010 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.

About the Author

Laura Sachs

Laura Sachs IDEA Author/Presenter

Laura Sachs is the creator of the The E-MOTION® Video: A Mind/Body Fitness Program, a mind-body fitness relaxation CD and a Yoga Walk CD. She has 20 years’ experience in the health and fitne...

1 Comment

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  • Beth Alexander

    Love this! Thank you Laura--I love the incorporation of the foam rollers as a balance challenge and plan on using them to stretch out at the end and extend class to 45 minutes!
    Commented Nov 07, 2012

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