Flowing Pilates Exercises – As Easy as Riding a Bike

Rollup, Rolldown, Rollover.  How do we help clients flow these exercises?  What will help them see these as smooth, continuous movements?  Do you see them this way?

Let’s take a step back.  When performing these exercises, we can invoke images of diving up and over a beach ball, pumpkin, Pilates circle, [insert your favorite round object as space-holder here].  These cues get us the proper form on the end of the exercise where our spines are in the most flexion.  But, what about the rest of the movement?  Should it be staccato and choppy?  Does it have a clear starting and end point?  Well, maybe, but I’d argue that you can get more out of the exercise by making it a smooth, flowing, continuous movement.

So, how do we create this smooth, continuous flow and help clients see the segmental spine movement in these exercises as fluid?  I like the image of a pulley system.  The most recognizable example of this is a bike chain.  Have the client imagine that his or her entire body is the chain and it is continuously moving around the cogs of the bike (for those into cycling, you will most definitely take offense to me saying cog here – chain ring and cassette are the proper terms).  Each of the vertebrae is a link in the chain and the cogs take the place of the beach ball in our earlier discussions, maintaining space in the vertebrae as the client reaches the point of where the spine is in the most flexion, and then moves away as the direction of motion is reversed (backpedaling on the bike, in case anyone needs further imagery).  The chain is always in motion, either forwards or back, throughout the entire exercise, bringing rhythm and flow to these full body exercises.  You could even try flowing two of these exercises together: Rollover to Rollup and back again.


Copyright © 2017, Cueing Theory, All rights reserved.

Rolling Out the Red Carpet – Slowing Down the Descent

Every client loves the starting point for Roll Up – lying on the mat, heavy neutral spine.  Clients know that the rolling up part is a challenge, but are in such a hurry to get back down to that lovely inhale at the bottom, that they forget that some of the best benefits of this exercise come from the eccentric use of the muscles during the descent.  Maintaining the c-curve of the spine while slowly articulating each vertebrae individually into its place on the mat until, finally, the full length of the body is on the mat creates an incredibly challenging eccentric muscle contraction.  Not only are you asking the muscles to contract while in an elongated state, but you are also fighting the force of gravity.

For some clients, focusing on slowing down the descent is so challenging that the c-curve is lost or the segmental spinal movement becomes a bit muddled and rushed.  Try giving the clear, familiar image of slowly unrolling a long VIP red carpet (or yoga mat or other rolled up thing that comes to mind) to clients and see if the visualization of their spine as the unrolling carpet gives them a bit of perspective, helps maintain the c-curve and slows down the “rolling out” of the spine.

This cue can be useful anytime you have a client rolling down from a seated position and want them to both maintain a c-curve of the spine, and slow down the descent in order to achieve more length and control through the spine.

Copyright © 2017, Cueing Theory, All rights reserved.

Cutting Out Momentum in Challenging Supine Exercises

When it comes to Pilates and results, momentum is not usually our friend.  Momentum allows us to more easily complete some movements without having to utilize our bodies in the proper way – in other words, to cheat.  With momentum, we can fight against gravity with more than just our muscular recruitment and skeletal positioning.

But cueing to discourage using momentum is difficult and can sometimes be disheartening to a client who feels that it’s the only way they can accomplish the movement.  So, use this cue with a grain of salt.  If your client is ready to execute more challenging, gravity defying supine exercises, specifically, Roll Up, Neck Pull, and Teaser, then go ahead and challenge them with this cue.  If your client is just starting to get to these exercises without modification, try adding this cue to applicable modifications or regressions (Assisted Rollup, Teaser with bent knees, etc) prior to asking them to do the full exercises in slow motion.

The cue is simple: sticky tape.  Imagine that your spine is lying on a track of very sticky tape on the floor.  You must peel your spine off the sticky tape, vertebrae by vertebrae.  Imagine struggling against the sticky tape to free each knob of the spine.  This cue works a little bit like my previous post about moving through honey: it creates an imaginary hindrance to the client’s movement.

See if that cue doesn’t cut out momentum, slow things down, enhance segmental spine movement – all the while creating a crazy burn in the process!

Copyright © 2017, Cueing Theory, All rights reserved.

Pilates Reference Cues – Using Bridging to Perfect More Challenging Exercises

One of the most pertinent reference points for Pilates students is Pilates itself.  So many of the exercises build on each other and it is a great tool to be able to refer back to some of the movements achieved in an exercise the client knows well, in order to set the stage for a new or more challenging sequence.

Let’s start the discussion today with a gimme.  Bridging.  It’s one of the first exercises we learn and a staple in class planning.  I’ve mentioned the escalator cue for bridging in an earlier article, so let’s build on that.  As a client becomes more familiar with the segmental spine movement inherent to bridging, it is an easy one to refer back to when we introduce a new exercise or help the client improve upon an exercise that they find more challenging.

Any time we want the client to move bone by bone through the spine, we can always refer back to bridging.  The examples are diverse and plentiful.  To start with, this referral cue translates for Roll Down and Roll Up.  It’s great for seated exercises such as Spine Stretch, Saw.  It’s great for exercises that require movement from seated to lying down: Assisted Roll Up, Teaser. It’s even key to getting the most out of the descent of inversion exercises: Roll Over, Corkscrew, Jack Knife.

I could probably go on and list most exercises in the whole of the Pilates repertoire, but you get the point.  Use the Bridge.


Copyright © 2017, Cueing Theory, All rights reserved.