Did That Teaching Tip Just Push Your Client Over A Cliff?


Hey Pilates Teachers how do you know if that one cue or tip to your client has gone too far? The words we use as Pilates teachers are so  vital to our Pilates clients.They get them to move and understand the Pilates work. But maybe that cue or those words took the client over the edge and did the exact opposite. What if our cues are over exaggerated?



I always think of my client who spends her summers out of state, away from the heat here in Texas. She had a Pilates teacher up there who she worked with during that time and so she kept up on her Pilates and this teacher and I worked together to make sure she was getting the work she needed.  It was a Pilates match made in Heaven, each of us communicating to each other at the start and end of the “season” to share what the client had been working on and any changes or issues that had occurred. One year she returned for the fall and she had been working with a new teacher for the last half of the summer. When we got to chest expansion she suddenly jerked her shoulder blades down her back which then made her pop her ribs out, go into almost a back bend and her head was off behind her body.  To say I was shocked and thrown off is an understatement. I wasn’t sure what to do or say at this point as I had never seen that happen with her.



I used a few tactile cues and words to get her back where I wanted her in space and I told her to just reach her arms down as if trying to touch the floor and grow tall. She did and then told me “oh that feels so much better!”. It turns out she had been told to “lock her shoulders down”. Now, I am not saying that is a bad cue for all clients but, for this client it was! For her that meant “slamming” those shoulders so far down her back it threw her whole body backward.



How can you make sure your clients take that Teaching tip or cue to their connection and not to  far? I have a couple of tips on how you can make sure that you don’t take that client off that cliff!



  1. Think more words of action! Instead of “lock those shoulders down” try reach your arms and grow taller or instead of “squeeze your glutes” try “pull your legs together and lengthen them as if pushing the wall away, keep pressing those heels together”. Give them an action for that body part to get it where you can for that movement you are asking.

  2. Be specific- give simple and specific directions to get your client where you want. Instead of “lock your shoulders” tell the client to “pull the bar down” or “ instead of “squeeze those glutes” for example on Back Bending or the Short Box Series “Reach those legs and push that strap out wide” saying  “Pull into that strap” to come back up.

  3. Take out most of the Anatomy! Let’s be honest. Most clients don’t know where the latissimus Dorsi are or where the Transverse abdominis is so, take out the Anatomy and use tip #1. Give simple terms of arms, legs, shoulders, head, feet etc.

  4. Positive feedback!- This is so important as a teacher to remember. Try not to say what the client is doing wrong but, what they are doing right. Address the “issues” with “can you bring those shoulders more forward? “ or “can you bring that right hip a bit more back?” Let them do it and say “Better“ even if it isn’t perfect they moved how they could in that moment. Let them know it is good! Use words that are more in that positive “Reach the arms as those legs lengthen so much they float up”  rather than “ Lock those shoulders down and squeeze the glutes as you curl up”.




Because we teachers see everything it can be too much for the client to take in. The cues aren’t bad but, they may take that client into a position or a way of movement that is like pushing them off a cliff instead of reigning them in. Keeping them simple and direct for the client in a positive way gets the client to understand easier, move fully and doing what they can in that moment.

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