3 Essential Pilates Tips to Use in your Next Workout

3 Essential Pilates Tips to Use in your Next Workout


1. The IN: A positive spin on ‘suck'

I strive to be clear and concise with the words I choose. Experienced teachers are brilliant communicators and develop a knack for using words and concepts that speak to us universally.

In my first Pilates class, the action of the stomach, the scoop, as it was explained to me, is a pulling or “scooping” in of the belly while simultaneously lifting up. It is in this way that I would properly sculpt the stomach muscles. However, if I fail to pull inward and let my stomach push out, then a pushed-out-stomach aesthetic is what I would create. Eeek!

It is possible this is just my paranoid memory of wanting to do everything right, but I do often see clients tightening and bracing their abs outward instead of pulling in and up.

“No, in.”


“Suck it IN!”

I say let’s put a positive spin on ‘suck’. It is clearly communicative, but usually reserved for put downs. Sadly, it is often deep in negative land. ‘You suck,’ ‘That sucks,’ ‘Suck it.’ Yeah, not so positive.

But Suck it IN and you feel lifted and light and tall. Which brings me to #2…

Photo courtesy of Fredrik Prag of Pilates Scandinavia

Photo courtesy of Fredrik Prag of Pilates Scandinavia

2. The UP: Lift!

Pilates is positive. Everything is up and forward. Lift is inherent in all the Pilates exercises as you urge your muscles to to defy gravity. You can never go wrong if you get busy lifting.

However, in exercises like the Roll Up on the Mat, the lift can get lost. When rolling down, the ‘unrolling' part, in Rolling Back on the Cadillac and in the Hug (Round) on the Short Box it's easy to be distracted by what appears to be ‘down and backward' movement.

Let's examine what's going on on the inside: the Round shape of the body must have lift in there and it must not go away as you unroll your body. The lift must be in there to stretch and decompress the back as well as work your stomach.

3. The Springs: “How can we help?”

Joe Pilates designed his full complement of apparatus as a help to improve your Mat exercises. Much has been said about Joe Pilates' temperament, but it sure was swell of him to give us those springs. What a nice guy.

Proficient use of the spring(s) can make a huge difference in the exercise. The Springs can give you greater access to your Lift (Remember #2?) as well as good information.

The springs answer these questions and so many more:

  1. Are you in control?
  2. Are you working evenly on both sides?
  3. Are you pooping out before the exercise has finished?

Your primary objective on every apparatus is to control the closing of the spring(s). Yes, every apparatus! This is why we must practice. Keep in mind that the springs are a direct reflection of what's going on in the Suck/Lift of your Stomach.

So for example, let's take a look at lovely Fredrik up there on the Electric Chair in Going Up Front. His Lift is controlling the close of the springs and bringing the pedal up. This is an action shot. Bravo!

Do you have any favorite Pilates tips that you use in your workouts? I hope you'll consider sharing them by commenting below. I would love to hear from you. Thanks so much!

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