Pilates Cues


Clarity in Pilates Cues Sets You Up for Success

Lately I am having a lot of discussions about language and Pilates cues. Pilates teachers are asking me how to cue the spine, and clients are sharing with me how confusing they often find other teacher's cuing.

Verbal Cues Should be Clear

Communication is always best when it is clear, short, and to the point. For example, say I am teaching someone to squat. Once they are set up standing with feet at hip width or a little wider with a bench or chair behind them, I say, "You are going to sit down on a bench, which is behind you. All I ask is that you keep your heels down and that you don't move your spine. Just sit down and stand right back up."

Then I move the bench away. "Now, pretend the bench is there and do the same thing. Go to sit, and then stand right back up. Spine doesn't move." Now I can layer in breathing if necessary, I can introduce weights, and/or different leg positions.

Note that at no point did I discuss "differentiated movement at the hips" or "pressing your abs into your back" or even knee alignment. I didn't have to, because the original cues were clear and simple.

Because We Work With the Spine, Pilates Cues Should be Super Clear!

Most people, myself included, tend to compress their spines to stabilize. We push the lower back down, shove our shoulder blades together, tuck the pelvis, and wonder why everything is so hard!

I find that spine cuing can be easy if we just remember that in everything we do, we want to lengthen and decompress the spine. No matter where we are, in any position, we want a heavy sacrum and a long, lifted spine. I always say, "The trajectory of your spine from the sacrum should always be forward and up towards your skull!" Shoving the spine down is the exact opposite of what we want it to do.

This is how we maintain length without compression, which is a hallmark of Pilates. And yes, this concept works for flexion, extension, side-bending, and rotation!

How does cuing effect your workout? If you teach, how do your Pilates cues effect your clients' workout?

Hear some of my cues for pelvic stability in Pilates in this video:

Control Back Pain with Pelvic Stability


Control back pain with pelvic stability exercises.

While it is important to have a supple lower back that can move when needed, to control back pain it is equally (and I would argue, more) important to have a stable pelvis.


Glad you asked!

When you look at the structure of the human spine, it is pretty obvious that the spine has the most movement at the top and the least at the bottom. This makes sense in terms of engineering, since the bottom of the spine bears the most weight and should be expected to stay stable as the legs move below it and the ribs and shoulders move above it.

For most people, the pelvis and lower back moves every time they move their hips and ribs, leading to lower back pain and sometimes injury.

Control back pain by controlling the pelvis.

Basically, the old adage that we should "lift with our legs" and not our backs is very true! Our pelvis' should stay stable as we bend our hips and knees to engage the lower body during heavy lifting, or any lifting.

This skill can be taught with squats, neutral bridging, knee folds, knee ups, etc.

Here is my video explaining pelvic stability, why it is important, and how to strengthen your pelvis and lower back for greater stability. Control back pain with pelvic stability.