Mini Flex-Ball Workout

Moira Stott Merrithew
Year Released: 2007

Categories: Pilates/Core Strength

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Workout time: 41 minutes including approx. 7 minutes warmup

Incidentals: the typical soft piano is replaced with a guitarish soundtrack; the background is refreshed with studio apparatus lined up just so, bright and airy set as always. A mat and Pilates mini ball are required (a 10 to 12”, soft and pliable ball, available at, also sold as TRIAD Ball, Bender Ball, or a cheap small “beach ball” would suffice). I don’t recommend it for someone unfamiliar with the fundamental Pilates matwork exercises, but it is suitable for experienced beginner to advanced.

Warmup – seated, a series of breathwork, rolling ball forward and sideways; imprinting with lumbar against ball; hip releases while leaning into ball, rotational reclining stretches; shoulder warm-ups while reclining on ball; Mermaid stretch over ball. (Sometimes I’ll skip Moira’s mat warm-ups but this one is worth doing.)

Main Workout:

- Crunches with ball behind mid-back then back extensions
- Footwork on ball while performing ab prep
- 100 with ball behind mid-back, legs moving in and out
- Rollups, rolling ball up bent thighs and down shins
- Single leg circles with down foot balancing on ball
- Rolling like a ball with ball clenched under the bent knees
- Ab series: ball behind mid-back for single leg stretch and obliques; then obliques while rolling ball under one foot; double leg stretch with ball being pushed and rolled under both feet
- Shoulder bridge flow – rolling forward to place ball between knees, rolling back and bridging, rolling forward to grab ball, rolling back with ball in hands and bridging
- Rollover preps, ball squeezed under bent knees
- Breaststroke while dragging ball toward you and bending knees in up position
- Saw with hands to one side rolling ball away across floor
- Neck Pull variation, performed while rolling ball up and down thighs and shins – a lot of reps!
- Oblique diagonal rollbacks, pushing ball along floor with forearm
- Short side series – kicks forward and back with ball propped under ribs; then a compound move of top leg bent to a 90 degree angle with ball under it, rolling the ball forward and back, then inner thigh lifts with bottom leg
- Spine stretch, rolling ball forward along floor
- Teaser variation, rolling ball up and down one straight leg then the other, with pulses
- Swan dive, pushing arms into ball while rolling up and down
- Swimming variation, legs only while pushing down into ball
- Fluid shell stretch, rolling ball in and out

Final stretches:
- Mermaids with pulses
- Lying side stretches over ball under waist

Critiques: I’m glad the routine is 40 minutes total, but would have liked some exercises with the ball under the hips and a little more for the side series. It is A LOT of ab work - as it draws toward the 40 minute mark I’ve really had enough. Per the Stott philosophy there is a great deal of instruction and attention to inhaling, exhaling, and besides my core is just plain screaming for a rest. For some exercises such as the single leg stretch, the ball uncannily forces all work into the abs, and the destabilizing nature of the ball fires the obliques. Conversely, in moves such as breast stroke, swan dive and side stretches, the ball helps you go deeper and stretch farther. After two tries, I’ve decided it has a place in my Pilates library. I give it the Healthy Back Seal of Approval so long as you have good Core strength to begin with and familiarity the basic mat routine. No plank moves, weight bearing flexion of toes, or wrist intensive work is required, a nice bonus for people with those concerns.

Instructor Comments:
Moira really is trying to break her “wooden” mold. How exciting can Pilates get? At this juncture in my Pilates career, effective and accurate directions are more important than glamour.