Is Lack of Pilates Equipment Getting You Down?

October 14, 2020
Author: Alisa Wyatt, NCPT, PMA Board of Directors

If you’re a Pilates teacher, you’ve spent much of the last six months teaching your clients online.

And by now, you’re struggling to find inspiration for yet another mat class for clients with:

  • individual body needs that are difficult to address without equipment
  • contraindications that restrict what they can do
  • short attention spans and need for variety

You’ve been hearing from your clients that they miss the equipment and yeah, so do you. What if you could reignite your enthusiasm for the mat with some simple home props?

These household items are great substitutes for Pilates equipment and make for a fresh, engaging class.

Hand Towel

  • As a hammock-like helper for clients who have difficulty lifting the head off the mat
  • In place of a bar when doing the roll up to give added stability to the shoulder girdle
  • On a hard floor as a way to slide the feet for exercises like Footwork, Stomach Massage or Long Stretch on the Reformer
  • To assist those with tight hamstrings or backs, on moves like Open Leg Rocker
  • To start your class off with the traditional Towel exercise for the feet

Cans of Soup or Water Bottles
Cans of soup or water bottles are great substitutes for arm weights. Here are some ideas for how to integrate them:

  • End class with standing arm weights series to bring your clients back to an upright posture.
  • Give the traditional Wall exercises with added weight, it’s more challenging than you think!
  • Create your own creative take on the mat exercises. You can add moves like Pull Straps from the Reformer or assist movements like Rolling Like a Ball.

Heavy Boots for Ankle Weights
Ankle weights or heavy boots work as a substitute for Joseph Pilates’ Iron Shoe.

  • If your clients have light ankle weights (start with 1⁄2 pound) they can really boost hip strength when added for the Side Kick Series.
  • Adding weight to the extremities can assist exercises like Rolling Like a Ball.
  • Build stability and understanding in exercises like Leg Circles.

Wine Bottle or Rolling Pin
A wine bottle or rolling pin for the feet feels amazing in place of a Foot Corrector.

  • Start class simply rolling the feet to wake up your client’s proprioception. It’s wonderful for older clients and can improve balance, pain, improve mood and more!
  • Assign rolling pin homework for clients at a desk all day.

Broccoli Rubber Bands
Thick rubber bands, like you would get on fresh broccoli, make a great substitute for a Toe Corrector. Plus, you’re encouraging good nutrition!

  • Place it around the big toes and work the traditional toe corrector exercises for better balance and alignment.
  • Use the band to help open the space between the toes for those who need it.
  • Work the ankle movements for those with weak ankles.

Furniture Sliders
Furniture sliders are an amazing tool for home practice and work on both hard flooring or carpets.

  • Use them to practice Reformer exercises like Footwork, Stomach Massage, Long Stretch, Down Stretch, Elephant, Up Stretch, Knee Stretches... create your own Reformer on the Mat class!

Pilates in a chair
If it’s difficult to get on the ground, your client can do Pilates in a chair. It’s obviously a great tool for seniors but also appropriate for people regaining strength after an illness.

  • Be sure the chair won’t slide on the floor.
  • Create your own seated mat class.
  • Use the chair as a balance assist for standing work.
  • 2 chairs can be a real challenge for more advanced clients for Push Ups, Wunda Chair exercises and more.

Clients with tight upper backs and shoulders and those working long hours on a computer will benefit from using a broom or mop stick in place of the long pole in a studio.

  • Place the pole on the shoulders or behind the back and wrap the arms around it for a chest opening in exercises like Spine Twist.
  • Stand with the pole overhead to stretch the waist, lengthen the spine and torso.

Posture fix on the Wall

  • The wall can take the place of teachers’ hands. It provides the feedback your client needs to lengthen the spine in an upright position, so the brain imprints good posture.
  • The Traditional Wall ending can be a great way to finish a mat class and can be quite challenging. (Think wall squats and wall squats one leg!)
  • Beyond the traditional wall exercises, a wall can assist your client with feedback on exercises like Spine Stretch Forward, Roll Over (press the feet into the wall to find length when legs are overhead).

A Thick Book

Have your client grab a thick, sturdy book as a substitute for the 2 x 4. They can stand in a doorway and hold both sides for balance. This simple series is great for restoring strength, balance and alignment to the legs and feet.

These tools are just a sampling of all you can do with your clients at home. Don’t be afraid to break exercises down and go back to basics. Even for the most advanced client, a return to a series like the Wall can be a needed and challenging refresher.

Above all, know that you are bringing vital movement and connection to your clients at a time when they need you more than ever.


DISCLAIMER: The Pilates Method Alliance assumes no liability or responsibility for any loss, injury or damage suffered by any person as a result of the use or misuse of any information available on this article. The content presented here is solely for informational purposes and all who decide to utilize the information presented here, assume to do so at their own risk.

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