Study and train throughout COVID-19. Learn more

The Language of Pilates

When you take a Pilates class, you may notice that very particular language is used. The teacher has a vocabulary of specific Pilates terminology that not only helps you understand the movement but also to feel it most effectively.

It is important that even the average Joe can understand what you are talking about as a Pilates teacher using Pilates terminology. Let's use the concept of the Powerhouse, for example. If you are explaining an exercise and talk about the Powerhouse without explaining it, chances are the new guy in class is not going to have any idea what you are talking about. So it's necessary for you to get clear on what you're talking about!


3 Key Phrases Used In Pilates


The Powerhouse

An example of what you can do would be to explain what the Powerhouse is during the set-up of an exercise. It is great to do this at the beginning of a class, that way you can reference it later. A warm-up exercise you can use to illustrate this would be tabletop leg lifts. As you get the students into position by lining up the legs in tabletop and activating the core while stabilizing the hips and lifting through the pelvic floor, you can explain the concept of the Powerhouse, which is the combined work of the lower back, abdomen, hips, and pelvic floor. Through the synchronization of these areas, a deeper understanding of how they work together to stabilize and strengthen the entire body will occur.


The Abdominal Scoop

Another common term used is the word “scoop”. This is used in reference to the action of the abdominal muscles when activated during Pilates. Here, you can use imagery to help students understand what the action is. Imagine an ice cream scoop utensil that is carving out your abdomen. To perform this action, the navel will draw down to the spine and also slightly upward toward the rib cage so there is motion in 2 directions. This way, the transverse abdominus is activated instead of only the superficial “six-pack” abs that do not work as deeply to protect the spine. Additionally, it trains the body to tone the abs during both parts of the breath- inhale and exhale- and not sticking the belly out.


The C-Curve

When teaching and performing exercises such as Rolling Like a Ball, making what is called a “C-Curve” with the spine is taught. This is important because it emphasizes spinal mobility or stability depending on the exercise. Additionally, it helps recruit the abdominals so the spinal muscles are not overused but rather protected by the front body.

So, how does this work and how can you explain it? Rolling Like a Ball is a great first exercise to introduce this term because it is used in a stabilizing position. You can imagine the letter C with your head and tailbone as they very end of the letter curling inward and the spine/midsection of the body as the center of the letter.

Once this is understood, then it can also be used as the position that one moves through in spinal articulation exercises such as The Roll Up or Spine Stretch Forward. However, for all of these exercises, it is important to emphasize the action coming from the front body- that it is initiated through the abdominal scoop which then creates the C-curve of the spine.

Now you can begin to understand how all of the Pilates terminologies are connected, which means it is important to understand the language this system uses. A good Pilates teacher will always be clear in their language of Pilates so that no one is left behind! Join us today on your journey and help others learn Pilates.


Learn about these terms and more in our Pilates diploma course.