If Pilates Feels Easy, You’re Doing It Wrong

Pilates is a seriously good, muscle-building, mind-body workout. So it baffles me when someone says it’s simply a good stretch or a nice warm-up. While there are some stretching elements, they usually happen after first working a muscle and many exercises are a combination of flexibility AND strength.

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Perhaps there are some classes out there that are done at a more gentle pace, especially a beginner class, but mine is not one of them. What I’ve found from teaching Pilates classes is that it’s usually the people doing the exercises incorrectly that are the first to demote it to a warmup. Chances are, if Pilates feels easy to you, you’re doing it wrong.

As a group fitness instructor, there are only so many times I can repeat the same cue or hands-on correct someone before I move on and hope it clicks for them next time. With other people in class, I can’t spend the whole time with one person. That’s the benefit of taking private classes.

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Whether you’re a workout newbie or experienced gym-goer, it really doesn’t matter. I have had people in my classes who, based on their muscle tone, obviously workout regularly, but do the exercises incorrectly, continuing to do so even after I’ve corrected them. I can only assume it’s because they think they’re going to get a better workout doing it their way.

Listen, if you’re not doing the exercise with proper form and control, it will not work your body like it should. Even if it’s one that seems familiar such as Side Lying Leg Lifts, if your movements aren’t strong, you’re bringing your hips out of alignment to get your leg higher and moving your torso with the leg, please do not come up to me after class and thank me for the warmup.

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I admit that there are some exercises that might appear to be nothing to a person walking by the class, but if you’re the one doing it, it’s definitely something.

Take Spine Stretch Forward, for instance.

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It takes a lot of strength to sit straight up on top of your hip bones with your shoulders down and pull your abs in super tight to round out forward over your legs. There’s a lot that could go wrong here to make it feel like nothing, but anyone who is at least trying to hold proper form could tell you exactly where they feel it.

Pilates can make you feel lean and strong, but it takes work to get there. Pilates instructors want you to get the maximum benefit from the class and enjoy it too. If you truly weren’t feeling it in your last class and you’re not sure why, take a moment with your instructor before the next one and ask for some pointers. We’re here to help!

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Also, if you’re looking for cute, quality, comfortable new workout clothes to do Pilates in (or yoga or running or weight lifting), head over to Cory Vines and enter code fitmama10 for $10 of your next purchase! Offer good through April 1, one use per customer. Referral link.

What has been your experience with Pilates classes?

Photos by rosanne parket photography.

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Comments 14

  • Agree that it’s not a walk in the park. It’s fun but it’s also hard.

  • Pilates always seems difficult to me. I am not used to those types of movement and it can be a real challenge! I bet your class is awesome, wish I lived closer so I could take it!

    • That’s how it should be! Even if you’re used to working out, it can be very challenging to someone not used to the movements. That would be so fun to have you in class!

  • I sub for pilates group classes a lot and I’m always shocked when I’m shaking during 100’s and my class are like no struggle and not feeling it at all. I think a lot of them try to use momentum rather than the core to do a lot of the moves. I’m always shaking during pilates.

    • Yes, waving their arms too much or putting too much in their neck. Or maybe they’re just used to the hundreds?? Usually those take people off guard at first!

  • As a group ex instructor I agree that there are always some people that don’t get it, even after you’ve explained and corrected a million times. I don’t teach mat Pilates, but this goes for all group ex classes.

  • I agree that Pilates is difficult! I can only do Pilates workouts online, and find it like barre workouts that it looks easy, but is not at all. It targets muscles that are not normally used in that way. I can do weights most days then do a Pilates workout and be sore for days and because my body is used to weights more, I’m rarely that sore.

    • Changing it up is always good! That’s why I like to try and get at least one weight lifting session per week, but it find it really difficult with my teaching schedule.

  • That is the same way I feel about yoga–if you aren’t constantly checking in with yourself and making sure that your alignments and engagement are on point, then you aren’t doing it right! But I also think that certain poses don’t need to be as hard as people make them, haha.

    • They are both mind/body, so it probably is very similar. Sometimes I sub for yoga classes, but teach Pilates to them and usually they aren’t so sure about it when I start out, but then they are glad they stayed. 🙂

  • As a fellow teacher I know what you are talking about! I find that varying my cueing and finding new ways to say the same thing is helpful, one cue won’t work for every person. Also hands in corrections and also demonstrating to show what is right and what to watch out for can help. People all learn in different ways so I am always saying new things and challenging myself to find cues that reach those people who don’t seem to “get it”. Also if someone is struggling or finding it too easy I will recommend some private sessions to help them really connect and get the most out of the work. I remind student that it’s not enough to go through the motions but it’s how you do the exercise that creates the benefit. And lastly I manage my own expectations by accepting when a student just refuses to listen or engage and focus more on helping the ones who are present and available to learn and not just go through mindless motions.

    • Good tips, thank you! I always hope the students that it just doesn’t click for come back, but sadly they usually don’t.

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