Pilates Body Circles

Ana Caban
Year Released: 2003

Categories: Pilates/Core Strength

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I love my Gaiam Pilates Body Circles. The workout is short and fun, but can be quite challenging.

The first time I used the BCs, I was a little surprised on how quick the workout went - half of it is spent stretching. So, in reality, you're working your arms for a total of 8 minutes out of the 14-15 minutes of the video workout. But I've realized that the more you use it, the stronger your arms get and get more of a burn in the workout. The first time I used it, I was thinking to myself - "that's it?!" The workout went by so quickly and effortlessly. However, as my arms got stronger, I've eaten those words a multitude of times as my shoulders and triceps are screaming at me in total burn. Suddenly 8 minutes feels like forever...

In the VHS workout, you'll start with a stretch. Then you'll first do practice circles (going backwards) one arm at a time with your arm out to your side. Next, you'll do both arms spinning the circles backwards. After another stretch, you'll do the BCs circling forwards: first with hands facing backwards (to work triceps), then facing forwards (to work biceps). Then another stretch segment, this time including the overhead tricep stretch. Finally, in the most challenging segment, you'll spin the circles with your arms front of you. You'll lift up your arms then lower down again. You'll do this again, only this time Ana demonstrates a more advance version where you lift up onto your toes to challenge your balance and slowly come down again. After this, you're led with a final stretch, including an over head side stretch and the workout is over. (The final stretch segment has a faux pax - Ana refers to side stretching over to your right twice and never once your left although she stretches once on both sides. A minor goof she must wince at every times she hears or sees it.) The video is your typical voice-over instruction; Ana does not speak while demonstrating the exercises.

The comical aspect of the circles is the amount of coordination needed to keep the circles spinning and stay on your arms. I've have in more than one occasion flung a circle across the room. (I don't recommend doing this exercise in a china shop - you'll be the envy of bulls everywhere.) The circles also have a way of travelling up your arm. It can be a challenge just to keep them both going at the same time; I've had one stop spinning while the other is spinning happily. It may look easy at first when you preview the video, but when you try it just keep a good sense of humor of yourself and keep your breakables far away.

The circles are nicely made and padded, but not very thickly. It is possible to spin the circles too hard and bruise your arms. The challenge is to spin the circles to where you work your arms but not so hard to where you're hurting yourself. If you're interested in using your circles for other workouts, it works great for the Callanetics Inner Thigh Squeeze (I got heavier DOMS using the circle this way - go figure.) It's also makes for an adorable toddler hula hoop.

My only frustration with the workout is the VHS video itself - because the w/o is so short, I usually want to do and get it out of the way quickly. It would be perfect if this workout was on CD for that reason. No commercials to buzz through, etc. I guess if I had the DVD version, MAYBE I wouldn't be so picky about it. The Gaiam set does come with an instructional booklet about the exercises shown in the video, so one can always develop your own routine without the video.

Overall, this is a great workout to have on hand for sleek upper body work. You're adding strength without bulk, developing coordination, and having fun doing it.

Instructor Comments:
Very pleasant and encouraging.



The workout itself is preceded by an introduction of how to use the circles properly. The entire workout is done in standing pilates stance.

Then the workout begins with a brief stretch and warm up. First is shoulder stretching. With a circle in the hand of the arm to be stretched, you are directed to pull the arm across the chest, and press up into the stretch using the opposing hand over the arm. Then you switch sides.

The warm-up consists of a one arm backward motion of the circle, hand facing down of an outstretched arm. First the right side is worked, then the left. After this, the shoulder stretch sequence is performed again.

Next, both arms have circles at the same time. Stretch out the arms to the sides, and circle the arms backward with hands faced down. After 30 seconds, you have the option to rest or continue with Ana for the full minute. Then comes the shoulder stretch sequence again.

Next both arms rotate forward. The palms are facing to the back in order to work the triceps. Again, after 30 seconds, you can break or continue with Ana. After the full minute, still circling arms, or rejoining Ana, face palms up to work the biceps. This lasts for 30 seconds.

Then Ana does a tricep stretch sequence. Holding a circle in one hand, place the arm behind the head, bent at the elbow, and grab the circle with the other arm at the bottom of the back. Switch sides.

Next, Ana stretches arm out in front of the body and rotates the circles away from each other. After 30 seconds, break or continue with Ana for a minute. After the minute, you can add challenge by lowering and lifting your arms while rotating the circles. For ultimate challenge, after a second series of lifting and lowering the arms, you can raise up on your toes during the lifted arm section.

Ana finishes with the shoulder and tricep stretch sequence, and then a side bend on each side while holding the circle overhead. The entire workout takes about 8 minutes.

It takes a few tries to get the correct feel for rotating the circles. If you rotate too hard or fast, the wrists "feel" as though they are bruising. My wrists never bruised but were bothered the first 2 times doing the workout.

Instructor Comments:
Ana gives extremely good instruction in a voice over, reminding to keep the body perfectly still and tummy tucked through out the whole workout. She reminds the viewer of this several times, which really helps with the concentration and successful rotations. I'm already noticing a little definition in my arms after two weeks of use, and I like the pilates "feel" of the workout. In addition, it is fun to do. As always, Ana is encouraging and demonstrates fabulous form.

T aka Cowfishpro