Changing Up Pelvic Tilts

Pelvic tilts.  Performed on the back with feet flat on the floor, pelvic tilts are a basic, yet incredibly useful exercise for drawing awareness to the client’s pelvic region and the musculature that supports it.  While it’s a very simple movement, the pelvic tilt still can be difficult for clients with less body awareness.  For stronger, more experienced clients, though, this exercise can feel like down time (even though it’s not!).

Here’s a solution to the latter problem.  Add a tad more difficulty and deepen the abdominal work by performing pelvic tilts in a modified teaser.  With the client seated, legs bent to 90 degrees, hands behind the knees, feet flat on the floor, ask the client to find their longest and tallest neutral spine. Then prompt the client to maintain that axial elongation while tilting off the sit bones and lifting the legs to a tabletop position.

Once the balance point is reached at the back of the sit bones, cue the client to begin moving through the forward and back motion of the pelvic tilt.  The key with this version of the exercise is isolating the movement to the pelvis only.  Just like in the traditional version, you want only the pelvis to move.

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Remember that top hat cue from ages ago?  Reintroduce it here but alter the cue to encourage the client to maintain contact with the top hat throughout the exercise and not let the height of the head and shoulders change.

Try it yourself first while looking in the mirror – it’s an incredible challenge to maintain the height of the head and shoulders.  Not only do you feel intense engagement through the low abdominals and counterwork through the glutes, but the exercise is a great balance and stability challenge as well.

Take the challenge a step further by releasing the hands from the backs of the knees or even attempting pelvic tilts while is full Teaser!

March MATness Day 27: Boomerang

I can’t help but geek out over Boomerang.  If anything is more my passion than Pilates, it’s MOVEMENT in general.  Boomerang is such a great movement integration exercise.  It’s one of the few in Pilates’ original mat work that explicitly calls for a sequence of previous exercises in a choreographed movement.  Spine Stretch, Rollover, Teaser. All mashed together, yet beautifully highlighted.

Photo by Markus Spiske from Pexels

That’s where today’s cue comes in.  Break it down to the building blocks.  Any time you create a movement sequence for a client to work through – and I LOVE to do this for clients – it is really helpful to start with the pieces and string them together for a final few reps of pure flowing movement.  You can refer to earlier exercises in the class if you’ve done a piece of the sequence already, or you can do the exercises in order just before stacking them together to create a fluid a movement.

Be sure to follow us on Instagram (@worldisyourstudio) to find yours truly taking on the March MATness challenge day by day.  And sign up for our Cuesletter to get these cues sent directly to your inbox and be the first to hear about them!

Copyright © 2018, Cueing Theory, All rights reserved.

March MATness Day 21: Teaser

Today’s cue is purely tactile.  The most challenging part of the original version of the Teaser is keeping your legs still and suspended while moving the torso from the v-shape to the floor and back again.  Most clients don’t even realize that their feet are moving!

To help them practice doing the exercise without any foot movement, try a simple tactile cue.

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In a one-on-one setting, use your hands to act as a cup for the heels of your client’s feet (hopefully you won’t need to hold your breath!), once they are suspended in the right position.  As the client rolls his spine down onto the floor and then back up again, it will be clear when the leg movement happens due to the tactile feedback and he can work to edit out the impulse.

In a group setting, clients can line up with their feet towards a wall or mirror.  They can scoot their sit bones close enough to the wall for their feet to barely touch the wall once they’re in the Teaser position.  The wall feedback will work the same way as your hands worked for the single client.

A note about adjustments – to begin with, the client may need to take a lower leg position than they are used to (either at the wall or in your hands).  The higher up the feet are suspended, the more challenging the movement will be. To avoid frustration, consider starting with the heels about four inches below the client’s natural Teaser pose.

Be sure to follow us on Instagram (@worldisyourstudio) to find yours truly taking on the March MATness challenge day by day.  And sign up for our Cuesletter to get these cues sent directly to your inbox and be the first to hear about them!

Copyright © 2018, Cueing Theory, All rights reserved.

Highlighting the Natural Symmetry in Teaser

Teaser is a pretty iconic exercise – the challenge immense, but the symmetry, really beautiful.  Like Hundreds, it asks the body to defy gravity, and to do so, recruit the long muscles across whole body.  From start to finish, this exercise hinges on both concentric and eccentric muscle contractions.  On the way up, the anterior trunk muscles contract, along with the quads and the inner thigh muscles (and glutes if you’re really resourceful) to lift the body away from the floor.  They remain contracted as the body holds the posture at the top and balances just behind the sit bones. Then, on the descent, we ask those same muscles to slow down the pull of gravity and to work (really hard!) in an elongated state as they gradually lengthen back to their resting place.

This exercise is just awesome and awe-inspiring, when done well.  Teaser is one of those exercises where the instructor becomes cheerleader as well.  Given the proper encouragement, modifications and progressions, students will feel a real sense of achievement when they finally master the Teaser.


To highlight the natural symmetry of this movement, I always think of one of the strangest, but coolest natural phenomena: the Venus Fly Trap.  Really.  It starts open, then upon trigger, both sides perfectly close into the middle and hold that shape before eventually releasing back to its resting state.


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 Hundreds to Cue the Pilates Repertoire

Earlier this week, we talked about how Pilates exercises themselves are sometimes the best cues for more difficult or complicated movements in the repertoire.  Bridging came to mind first, but there’s another that is imbedded in SO many exercises.  The Hundred.


The Hundred teaches us a ton about how to organize our whole bodies, including the breath.  Many clients think about this as an intense, nearly impossible ab workout, but what’s really going on is a lot more central to Pilates and the overarching benefits we preach about.

The Hundred is all about organization of the body and recruiting the total body, including the breath to perform an incredibly difficult task.  The Hundred cannot be performed without the body engaging toward the midline from the toes all the way to the neck.  Try it.  Attempt Hundreds without hugging the legs together, without lifting through the pelvic floor and lower abdominals and without using the oblique slings to pull it all together.  Now try it without organizing your head neck and shoulders.  Now try breathing into your abdomen instead of into the sides of your ribcage.  It’s near impossible.  Your legs won’t lift, your lower back arches, your head seems to weigh 100 pounds and it all falls apart even further when you try to inhale.

Mastering body organization and breath is imperative for the success of Hundreds, but it is also necessary in order to gain the most from other exercises as well.  Referring back to the body organization and muscle recruitment that made clients successful with Hundreds, can help them understand the proper organization and alignment that many other exercises require.

These exercises run the gamut from the obvious – other supine abdominal exercises (Chest Lift, Assisted Roll Up and Roll Up, Single Leg Stretch, Single Straight Leg Stretch, Double Straight Leg Stretch, Criss Cross, Neck Pull) to full body (Teaser and Leg Pull; you can even make an argument for Leg Pull Front, Push Up, Plank) and inversion (Jack Knife, Controlled Balance, etc.) exercises.

It all comes back to Hundreds.

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.


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