Your cart

Your cart is empty

Top 10 Barre Exercises with a Pilates Small Ball

Top 10 Barre Exercises with a Pilates Small Ball

The Pilates ball or small ball is used in barre to encourage extra engagement of specific muscles. There are dozens of ways it can be used, so it’s hard to list just 10! However, since barre derives a lot from Pilates, our list will stick to classic barre exercises that add the ball for a little extra flair, rather than Pilates exercises we often borrow. 


  1. Parallel with ball in inner thighs

With your feet under your hips, place the ball between your thighs above your knees.  Squeeze the ball to engage your inner-thigh muscles! Bend your knees and hover your heels an inch off the floor to find your demi-plié. From here variations include pliés, pulses, squeezes and more!


2. 2nd position with ball under heel

Similarly to #2, placing a ball under one heel in 2nd position encourages calf engagement in the supporting leg. This exercise should be done side-on to the barre, as variations can include lifting the working leg (furthest from the barre), so you’ll want the barre there for support! 



3. Chair Variations

Whilst it is not a traditional plié, chair is a signature exercise in barre, so we couldn't leave it out! The ball can be used here between the thighs, similar to #1, or for reverse chair with the ball between your back and the barre. This provides more comfort and mobility when working in reverse.



Ball behind knee

Placing a ball behind the knee immediately engages your hamstring muscle! Adding pulses and squeezes whilst in the hamstring curl position is a great way to build strength and burn. Here are some of our fav barre positions where you can add a ball behind your knee:

  1. Superman

This exercise is done with your arms fully extended, palms resting on the barre, or with forearms on the barre. Your back should be flat and supporting leg should be bent (this will give you major burn into your glutes!). You should look similar to a flying superhero, hence the name of the posture. The working leg with the ball can then lift and lower, pulse, squeeze, and more!  

  1. All 4’s

Working on your mat, your hands should be under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. As with the superman, your working leg can then then lift and lower, pulse, squeeze, and more! What differentiates all 4’s from the superman is the additional shoulder and upper back work you will get from supporting your body on the floor.

  1. Retiré/clamshell 

Lying on your side with your bottom leg extended, place the ball behind the knee of your top leg. This will automatically bring your knee into a retire position. There are several variations in this position that work both the top and bottom leg: for the former you can open and close the knee like Pilates clamshells, pulse your knee open, tap in front/behind and more. For the latter, place your top foot on the mat in front of your extended leg. With your bottom leg, flex your foot and squeeze your inner thigh to lift your leg off the mat. Then you can continue to lift and lower, pulse, draw circles, etc. You can even take these variations up to a side plank for an extra challenge!



Ab work

  1. 4th position leg raises with ball between feet

Lying on your back, bring your knees into tabletop, then turnout your legs to form a diamond. Place the ball between the ankles of each foot (so one foot is under the ball and the other is on top). This forms a small 4th position. From here, lift and lower your legs for lower ab strengthening, then hold low and extend/bend your knees, all while holding the ball!

  1. Changement leg raises with ball between feet

This exercise is similar to #7 and can even be done as a continuation. The ball is held the same way between the feet, however, your legs stay extended. As you lower your legs toward the mat, roll the ball to switch the foot that is on top. Keep repeating this roll and switch to form what is called a ‘changement.’ Changement is the French ballet term for change, simply meaning you are changing the front foot as you lift and lower your legs. 

Pilates Abs Exercise with Small Fit Ball. Two Pretty Girls Lying on ...

Bridge lifts

  1. Bridge lifts with feet on ball

This one is tough! Challenge you balance and your booty by placing your feet together on top of the ball. Then push into your feet to lift your hips into bridge, and lower. Variations include pulses, and the super tricky roll out and in of the ball. A simpler modification would be to place the ball under one foot only, so the other leg can support.


  1. Bridge lifts with ball in inner thighs

A true classic, this exercise encourages additional inner-thigh work by holding the ball between your thighs as you work in bridge. On top of the usual variations, don’t forget to add some squeezes for that inner-thigh burn!



Got a favourite exercise that we missed? Let us know! Comment here or tag us on Instagram

Want a Pilates ball of your own? Grab one from the Aleenta Club store.

Previous post
Next post