Pilates Miniball

Juliana Afram
Year Released: 2004

Categories: Pilates/Core Strength

I’m reviewing this workout after previewing it once and doing it once.

N.B. Juliana also calls this the Pilates Coach Intermediate Ball Workout.

General workout breakdown: This approximately 55 min. Pilates workout integrates the mini ball into traditional Pilates exercises.
The exercises include pre-Pilates (half roll-down, which is really more of seated lower back release, breathing, and pelvic placement or tilt); shoulder girdle placement (including shoulder shrugs and arm circles); cervical nod; knee folds, hip circles, spinal rotation (which involves moving the arms rather than the legs); half roll up (which is more of a crunch with roll up arms); hundreds; roll over; full roll up (although she doesn’t go all the way up – again, it’s more like a crunch); scissors (single straight leg stretch); teaser; bridging on the ball; bicycle on the ball; helicopter; double straight leg; side lateral twist (N.B. the other side is not shown, despite the fact the next exercise begins with Juliana in the appropriate position); inner thigh squeeze into can can variation; saw; leg pull supine; leg pull prone; swan; and Pilates push up with pause in elephant. Juliana usually does a prep for the move, especially earlier on in the workout, before executing the full move. Sometimes she suggests variations to increase or decrease the challenge, too.
It’s worth noting that the warm-up takes approximately 20 min. You don’t start incorporating the ball until the workout proper begins. Also, Juliana puts the ball aside for the last 8 min. or so.
The pace is deliberate. There are brief pauses between exercises and some delays for instruction and set up, but you’re never left hanging around for minutes at a time. Most exercises are performed with 5-8 reps, although a couple go as high as 10 and a few others only have about 3-4.

Level: I’d recommend this to experienced exercisers practicing at least at an intermediate through intermediate / advanced level of Pilates. I think this would be a great one for an intermediate working her way up to advanced because the ball adds an extra challenge to the usual exercises, even though Juliana doesn’t necessarily do the full move (e.g. your legs are bent to come up into Teaser, and you don’t start playing with straightening the legs until near the end of the set). Also, Juliana does a few exercises normally done in a shoulderstand (scissors and helicopter) while on the ball, thus providing an excellent transition to the full exercise. The exercises done without the ball are fairly challenging full body moves that ought to be mastered as is before calling oneself an advanced Pilates students anyway.

Class: Juliana alone, with “live” instruction.

Music: softly jazzy instrumental.

Set: mat on slats overlooking the ocean in Greece.

Production: clear picture and sound. The camera operate is quite zoom-happy. I appreciate the close details for the precise form that Pilates requires, but I need to see the big picture (i.e. the whole human body) more.
Every so often “Move ya!,” the name of Juliana’s production company, appears in the corner of the screen.

Equipment: mat (or equivalent), mini ball (a slightly squishy ball of about 8” in diameter. I used a 3 lb., approximately 6” diameter Reebok Green Genie knockoff, which was OK, but I could have done without the weight in a few exercises and needed an extra inch or two of diameter for others. Those of you with YBB Squishy Balls will be all set. Otherwise you could probably pick up a mini children’s play ball at your local discount store for cheap if you don’t have anything suitable. If you’re particularly creative, you could adapt many of the exercises to the Pilates ring, aka magic circle.) Juliana is barefoot.

Space Requirements: enough room to lie down with arms and legs extended and to sweep limbs around

DVD Notes: The main menu allows you to play the entire program or to choose one of the chapters (Introduction, Intro, Warm Up, Cardio Workouts, Outro). It’s a shame this isn’t chaptered by exercise, especially since between exercises a scenic shot with the name of the upcoming exercise appears.

Comments: Juliana’s warm-ups remind me very strongly of the ones used in the Stott Pilates method. Her manner of instruction and the production also remind me of Rael Isacowitz and Allan Menezes. In other words, if you don’t like slower Pilates practices with a lot of instruction and a good amount of reps, stay away.
The ball adds an extra little bit of resistance, and it also intensifies the workout in surprising ways (even if you don’t use a weighted one). Somehow the ball, just like the ring, makes you more aware of your powerhouse.

Instructor Comments:
Juliana demonstrates great form. She includes some very helpful and insightful form tips. She cues decently, although there were times when I was a little confused as to what exactly she meant. I do appreciate her use of technical terms and more specific, detailed-oriented approach. She’s mostly on her side, so mirror cueing doesn’t come into much play. It’s worth noting that she sometimes says, “Two more,” and then a few reps later, “Two more,” and then four reps later the exercise is over, so know that “more” means “keep going,” not “these are the last ones.” Juliana is slightly hesitant in front of the camera, but there are signs of a pleasant, sweet personality behind the knowledgeable Pilates instructor. After previewing I found I had little trouble understanding her accent when I practiced with the DVD. (She’s based out of Germany, or at least was when the video was made.)