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How To Use Pilates Ring in a Workout: 7 Exercises For Beginners

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a woman is doing sit ups with pilates ring_how to use pilates ring
Natasha Caleel post Reviewer Natasha Caleel post Reviewer
Verified by Natasha Caleel
MS in Occupational Therapy, BS in Kinesiology, Certified Corrective Exercise Specialist, CrossFit Level 1 Coach

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Whether you’re a Pilates novice or expert, learning how to use a Pilates ring in a workout will help you activate, stretch, and strengthen your muscles all over. This compact, lightweight, and inexpensive piece of equipment known as “the magic circle” is capable of building glutes of steel, stretching out sore shoulders, and toning your inner thighs, but learning how to use it properly is key to getting the best results. 

Below, we’ve rounded up seven beginner Pilates ring exercises to help you master the basics and level up your Pilates practice at home or in studio — or wherever you take your resistance training. 

We also cover the benefits of Pilates rings and why using one properly can build a stronger, leaner, and more mobile body in no time. Remember, work to your current ability and modify the reps and sets as needed when practicing.

What Is a Pilates Ring?

A Pilates ring is a small circular piece of Pilates resistance equipment usually made from rubber. It has small cushions on either side and can be held between your hands, arms, thighs, or ankles to add resistance to Pilates exercises.

When regularly used in your fitness routine, a Pilates ring can help you build and strengthen muscle and tone your entire body, including the muscles in your arms, shoulders, back, core, chest, thighs, and glutes. It can also help you improve balance, stability, flexibility, and mobility.

This “magic ring” increases the intensity of a workout. 

Wherever you place it, your instructor will ask you to press firmly against it, activating multiple muscle groups instantly. And trust us, it burns. Oh, and the best part? You can switch on underused and weaker muscles that might not always get the attention they deserve. 

How to Use a Pilates Ring in a Workout?

A magic circle exercise ring offers plenty of bang for its buck and can be used to target most muscle groups. For example, you can press your hands against it to activate the arms and shoulders or place it between your ankles and inner thighs to switch on your adductor and glute muscles. To work your outer thighs and glutes, just place your legs inside the ring and push outwards to fire up the hip abductor muscles. 

The Pilates ring is commonly used in Reformer Pilates and mat Pilates classes but can be used in any and every workout to kick it up a notch. Here’s how to use a Pilates ring in your next workout.

Increase Intensity

If your muscles struggle to fire up, pilates ring exercises for beginners increase resistance for muscles by giving them something to contract against. By firmly squeezing your magic ring inwards or pushing outward against the inside of the circle, your muscles are met with resistance and will work harder. 

And those gains aren’t limited to Pilates. You could add a Pilates ring to any bodyweight workout, warm-up, or stretching session to increase activation and improve mobility.

Improve Posture

Using a magic ring during Pilates enhances your body’s awareness of its position. For example, holding a Pilates ring overhead during a squat can help strengthen your back, arm, and shoulder muscles and bring more awareness to the alignment of your upper body while helping you keep your shoulders pulled back as you lower into a squat. 

For Pilates, that is particularly important when working on posture and core strength through strength training.

Improve Balance And Stability

Weak or underused muscles could land you with an injury if not properly engaged during exercise. For example, the rotator cuff muscles help stabilize the shoulders through movement — the shoulder joint is notoriously the most unstable yet multidirectional joint in the body. Without activating and strengthening the rotator cuff muscles, you could increase the risk of a shoulder injury. 

Pilates ring shoulder exercises could help you switch on any neglected muscles in your back and shoulders, but this also translates to any muscle in your body, helping to build better balance and stability. 

7 Pilates Ring Exercises For Beginners

Ready to level up your Pilates or workout routine? These are the seven best magic circle exercises for beginners to build a strong, more mobile body. You can expand your pilates workout library with our yoga app

#1 Pilates Ring Exercise For Hamstrings: Hamstring Press

an illustration of a female model doing Hamstring press_how to use pilates ring

Targets the muscles in your hamstrings, including the semimembranosus, semitendinosus, and biceps femoris

3 sets: 10-15 reps per leg 

  • Lie face down on your mat
  • Raise one foot, then place one of the Pilates ring cushions on the inside of your ankle
  • Place the second cushion on the fold of your lower glute
  • As you exhale, press your ankle towards your glute and hold
  • Inhale, release
  • On every exhale, practice raising your upper leg off the floor by lifting your knee and squeezing

#2 Pilates Ring Exercise For Glutes: Pilates Bridge

an illustration of a female model doing Pilates bridge_how to use pilates ring

Targets the inner thigh muscles (adductors), glutes, hamstrings, abdominals, erector spinae (back), and quads

3 sets: 10-15 reps

  • Lie on your back and place the Pilates ring just above your knees between your legs
  • Step your feet hip-width apart
  • Micro-tuck your pelvis under to flatten your lower back
  • Gently press the ring inward as you press through your heels
  • Raise your hips toward the ceiling
  • Pause, squeeze your glutes, then slowly lower from the top of your spine to the bottom

#3 Pilates Ring Exercise For Core: Curl-Ups

an illustration of a female model doing Curl-ups_how to use pilates ring

Targets the upper and lower abdominal muscles, erector spinae (back), and glutes

3 sets: 8-12 reps

  • Lie on your back with your heels close to your hips
  • Place your head through the ring, then place your hands opposite, pressing against the inside of the ring
  • Exhale, slowly lift your head and shoulders off the mat, gazing between your knees
  • Inhale and slowly lower

#4 Pilates Ring Exercise For Chest And Shoulders: Around The World

an illustration of a female model doing Around the world_how to use pilates ring

Targets the pectoral muscles, shoulders, arms, upper back, erector spinae (back), and core muscles

3 sets: 30 seconds

  • Lie on the floor with your legs extended in front of you
  • Hold the ring between your hands and press against it, arms extended over thighs
  • Engage your core, twist to the left, then lift your back and come to a tall, seated position
  • Lean back to your shoulder blades, roll to the right, and back to center
  • Repeat in circular motions

#5 Pilates Ring Exercise For Back: Swan

an illustration of a female model doing Swan_how to use pilates ring

3 sets: 8-12 reps

Targets the muscles in your shoulders, arms, and upper, mid, and lower back. That includes the trapezius and erector spinae, and glutes

  • Lie on your stomach and balance your ring upright in front of you
  • Place both hands on the cushion at the top of the ring and press down to activate your arms and lats
  • Inhale as you push down on the ring and lift your chest and upper abs off the mat
  • Look ahead and squeeze your glutes and back
  • Slowly lower on the exhale
  • For variation, hold the ring between your hands and lift as you lift your chest

#6 Pilates Ring Exercise For Hips And Core: Leg Extensions

an illustration of a female model doing Leg extensions_how to use pilates ring

Targets your hip flexor muscles, thighs, and core, including the deeper core — transverse abdominals

3 sets: 8-12 reps

  • Lie on your back and hold the ring above your chest with your arms extended
  • Bend your knees to tabletop
  • Exhale and squeeze your knees together, then extend both legs away from you
  • Reach your arms behind your head at the same time
  • Keep a neutral spine, then inhale to return to tabletop with the ring above your chest 

#7 Pilates Ring Exercise For Arms: Chest Expansions

an illustration of a female model doing Chest expansions_how to use pilates ring

Targets the biceps, triceps, forearms, shoulders, and pectoral muscles

  • Stand with your feet together and toes apart
  • Hold the ring between your hands behind your back and press against both cushions
  • Engage your core and stand tall
  • Inhale as you lift the ring and squeeze against it
  • Exhale, release. Add pulses for extra fire


  • Magic circle exercises are great for strengthening multiple muscle groups, building stability and balance, and improving flexibility and mobility
  • The ring is compact, lightweight, and adds resistance during Pilates exercises or other workout styles
  • Anyone can use a Pilates ring, regardless of experience level
  • Our Pilates ring exercises for beginners include seven exercises you can do anywhere
Disclaimer This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

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