The Pilates method developed by Joseph Pilates focuses on strengthening the core, increasing flexibility, and improving general fitness. Pilates exercises are incredibly versatile. Since most basic exercises don’t require a lot of equipment, you can do them anytime and anywhere.
If you want to add more challenge to your Pilates workouts, you can use a special tool like the Pilates magic circle. Simple mat Pilates without any equipment is great for a quick at-home Pilates class or when you’re traveling, but incorporating new equipment can help you accelerate your Pilates skills.
The magic circle is a simple yet effective way to level up your routine and increase the benefits of your Pilates workout. If you’re curious about the magic circle, this post is for you. Today, we’re going to talk all about what a magic circle is, how it works, what benefits you can get, and what Pilates moves you can do with it. Let’s go!
Magic Circle Exercises
What is the Magic Circle?
The magic circle is a versatile tool that adds resistance to your Pilates workout. Also known as the Pilates ring, fitness circle, or exercise ring, the original magic circle was invented by Joseph Pilates.
While the story goes that he fashioned his original ring from an old keg, today’s magic circles are made out of sturdy yet flexible rubber or metal. Most magic circles also have padded grips for your hands or legs.
This lightweight Pilates tool is small but mighty. By adding resistance, you can make your workouts more effective. The magic circle is also accessible and affordable for beginners!
How does the Magic Circle work?
The magic circle’s flexible resistance is designed to make it easier to find a connection to your powerhouse. When you incorporate the magic circle, you wake up muscles you might not previously have been able to feel. Depending on what Pilates exercises you use the magic circle for, you may hold it in your hands in a variety of positions or even use it for leg exercises.
The ring provides gentle to moderate resistance. It’s not an intense strength workout, but it’s enough to make you really aware of your muscles and how they’re working. It is such an effective teacher and as Pilates instructors, we just love incorporating the magic circle into our workouts.
Benefits of the Magic Circle
Increases the intensity of your exercises.
The magic circle has many benefits in addition to the usual benefits of Pilates. Firstly, by increasing the resistance in your Pilates workouts, you’ll be getting a more intense and challenging workout. If you only have a few minutes to get in some basic Pilates moves, using a magic circle during them will help you benefit more from the exercise.
Identifies muscle imbalances and posture errors.
The magic circle will also identify imbalances in your Pilates movements. You or your Pilates instructor may be able to see how your shoulders round or if your feet turn outwards during a move. However, these slight modifications from proper Pilates form may not be evident without using the magic circle.
Connects with your core for full-body activation.
Using a magic circle for your Pilates ring exercises can also help you connect more with your core. One of the key principles of Pilates is flow, which requires all of your muscles to move and work in unison. Incorporating the magic circle in a Pilates move can help activate underused muscles and work on your full-body strength.
At-Home Moves with the Magic Circle
1. Magic Circle Squeezes
Start lying on the mat with your knees bent and feet flat on the mat. Place the magic circle between your inner thighs. Exhale and squeeze the circle, trying to get your knees in line with your hips. Inhale as you release the circle all the way.
Make sure you are squeezing the circle from your hips and inner thighs, focusing on drawing the stomach in and up as you squeeze and release the circle. Repeat 10 times.
2. Bridge with the Magic Circle
Get into a bridge position. Place your magic circle in between your inner thighs. Squeeze the circle so that your knees are in line with your hips. Keeping the circle squeezed, inhale and roll up into a bridge. Exhale and roll down, releasing the magic circle completely.
Place your magic circle end-on-end in front of you. Place both heels on top of the circle in Pilates stance. Then, lie on your back with your arms stretched alongside your body. Bring your chin to your chest, making sure your back remains completely flat on the mat. Press the magic circle down and feel your powerhouse engage.
Now, raise both arms directly about your thighs. Pump the arms up and down vigorously 6 to 8 inches to the count of 5 while inhaling through the nose. Continue to pump the arms up and down while you exhale through the nose to the count of 5. Repeat 10 times, bringing you to a count of 100.
4. Half-Roll Down with Magic Circle
Sit on your mat with your legs stretched in front of you, knees bent and feet on the mat. Place the magic circle between your thighs, just above your knees. Squeeze the ring with your thighs as you curl your tailbone and start to lean backward.
Slowly roll back up, one vertebra at a time, keeping your core engaged and chest open. Repeat 3-5 times.
5. The Swan using the Magic Circle
Lie on your stomach on your mat with your forehead on the mat and your legs hip-width apart. Place the magic circle at the top of your mat, with one grip on the floor and the other pointed to the ceiling.
Reach your arms in front of you, stacking your hands with the heels on top of the magic circle. Pressing the heels of your hands down on the magic circle, lift your head, chest, and ribs up as high as they will go. Keep your chest open and long. Slowly lower back to starting position and repeat 3-5 times.
6. Push-ups using the Magic Circle
Get into a plank position with your legs in Pilates stance. Bend your elbows, trying to keep them close to your sides. Keep your core engaged throughout the whole exercise. Place your magic circle on your breastbone and lower down into a push-up. Push back up and repeat 4 times. Repeat the set of 5 push-ups for a total of 3 sets.
The magic circle gives you support so you can maintain better form while doing your push-ups. Make sure to take your time and focus on moving your whole body in alignment.
7. Planks using the Magic Circle
In a plank position with your legs in Pilates stance, place the magic circle under your breastbone with your shoulders directly over your wrists. Engage your powerhouse as you hold the plank position for 30 seconds. Repeat 3 times.
8. Side-Lying Leg Press
Start by lying on your side on the mat. Stack your shoulders and hips on top of each other. They should be aligned. Move your legs slightly in front of your torso, keeping them straight. Place the magic circle in between your legs, just above your ankles.
Raise yourself up onto your forearm, pressing into the mat with the elbow of your bottom arm and lengthening your spine. Keeping your hips square, exhale as you compress the circle with your legs. Inhale and release the circle.
Your core and back keep you stable while your glutes and thighs activate to control the circle. Repeat 8-10 times on each side.
9. Standing Leg Press
Stand with your legs hip-width apart, feet and legs parallel, knees straight but not locked. Pull your core up and in and lengthen your spine. Now, place the Pilates magic circle in between your legs, just above your ankle bones. Readjust your posture to the width of the ring.
Shift your weight onto one foot, engaging your core to stay balanced. From that position, activate your inner thighs to squeeze the magic circle in slowly and then release. Repeat 3 times.
Return to your center balanced posture, then shift your weight onto the other foot. Do the same movement 3 times. Repeat this exercise for a total of 3 sets.
10. Magic Circle Arms Series – Halo
Start in a standing position. Hold the magic circle with the heels of your hands and bring the circle overhead so that it is parallel with the ceiling. Pull your abs in to retain your posture with shoulders low and elbows bent wide.
Inhale and squeeze the ring. Exhale as you release and come back to the starting position, staying in control throughout the entire movement. Repeat 8-10 times.
Standing in Pilates stance, hold the circle in the heels of your palms, with the circle of the ring directly in front of your thighs. Your elbows should be wide and slightly bent. Engage your biceps and triceps while drawing your stomach in and up. Then, squeeze the circle and slowly release. Repeat 10 times.
Start standing in Pilates stance. Place your hands behind your back, holding the circle in between your hands, with your hands along the pads of the circle. As you slightly bend your elbow, feel your upper arms wrapping towards each other. Then, try to squeeze the circle. Repeat 10 times.
The Magic Circle is a great addition to your at-home Pilates studio.
Because of its relatively small size and affordable price, the magic circle is a great piece of Pilates equipment for any beginner or advanced Pilates practitioner. It can be used in a variety of Pilates moves to intensify the movement, give you a better workout, and improve your connection to your muscles.
We have a variety of magic circle Pilates classes available through our virtual Pilates studio, or you can browse our available Pilates workouts on our Youtube channel! For more Pilates tips, check out our Instagram and blog.