Pilates is a great way to strengthen your core, improve balance, and boost overall health. If you are looking for a new addition to your workouts or have just earned your instructor certificate, there are a few considerations you should keep in mind for a good class plan.
Here are 5 things every good pilates class plan consists of:
- Time management
- Clear expectations
- Proper use of equipment
- Focused goals
It’s normal to not know where to start when you’re just beginning your Pilates journey, or you’re struggling to plan your first class. But don’t worry: these tips will give you the confidence you need.
A good Pilates class will make you feel energized and inspired. Part of the teacher’s job is to motivate the student to continue exercising and reach their goals. Creating an atmosphere of encouragement and acceptance will improve the students’ outcomes and give them a reason to return to the next class.
A good Pilates teacher takes a moment at the beginning of each class to excite students and build up energy, which sets the tone for the remainder of the workout. They also explain how the different moves benefit us. For example, improving core strength, muscular strength or range of motion.
Remember that people of all fitness levels can do Pilates exercises, but there will be students who struggle with specific exercises and might need some lifting from the instructor in order to stay motivated.
The key to staying motivated in Pilates is to enjoy your health and fitness journey instead of focusing solely on specific goals. A good teacher reminds students to stay present instead of doing their exercises mindlessly.
2. Time Management
Most classes will last 30-50 minutes, including warm-up and cool down. Whether you are a new instructor or a new student, it is vital to arrive at the studio early to set up and be ready to go from the beginning.
As a Pilates instructor, if you’re running late, your whole class is late too. Besides, you should arrive early to set up the equipment and studio space.
Students should arrive early to lay out their mats and personal gear and be ready to receive instructions for the day’s class. Classes usually have a designated time limit, so you’ll want to make good use of your time.
Here are a few key things you should always make time for in a Pilates class.
- Always provide time for a warm-up. Warm-up exercises are essential to avoiding injuries. A solid warm-up shouldn’t be excessively difficult for the students, but it should get their hearts pumping. Skipping warm-up leads to increased muscle soreness and risk of injury during the more challenging exercises.
- After the warm-up, designate a time for specific exercises and poses. As a student, you should always go at your own pace. If the class is moving too fast, you can always perform fewer reps.
- Set a time for higher intensity workouts. As you progress, you’ll need to hold poses for longer, add movements, or increase the weight. As an instructor, it is crucial to consider your class’s overall experience and adjust the exercises accordingly. A good instructor will regularly check how students are doing and provide modifications to the exercise as required.
- Finally, allow at least 5 minutes for a cool-down. A cool-down can include the same exercises as the warm-up. You can also design a specific segment of low-impact and low-intensity stretches to allow the muscles to relax.
I usually end my classes asking my clients to focus on their breathing while in a relaxed position. They’ve just had a full body workout, they appreciate a moment to just relax and breath.
3. Clear Expectations
Setting expectations helps the instructor and the students stay focused and motivated. A new student may not know what to bring to class, how to use the equipment or even basic studio etiquette.
A Pilates instructor should give the class clear expectations about the following:
- Goal and intention for the class. The instructor should give a description of the class, including experience level, required equipment, and the focus of the class. It can be helpful to set small goals for each class.
- Use of equipment. An instructor should demonstrate how to use Pilates equipment, such as reformers, bands, blocks, and weighted items, to avoid potential injury.
- Sanitization. If the equipment belongs to the studio, the instructor should demonstrate how to properly clean it and how to preserve it as well as possible.
- Courtesy: A student entering the program may not know the basic rules of the studio. The instructor should take a moment to guide the student as they need it. For example, a new student may need to learn not to place their mat too close to other students.
Some of this information may be included in the booking confirmation, be sure to read it over if it’s your first time. Also check out: Starting Pilates as a total beginner: Things you need to know
4. Proper Use of Equipment
At a minimum, you will require a mat. In theory, you could get away with performing the movements on the bare floor, but a mat gives you a cushion between you and the ground. The AmazonBasics Yoga Mat is perfect for hard surfaces and gentle knees.
The good news is that you can perform a wide variety of exercises just with a mat. And, of course, you can do all of them at home. Most beginners start on the mat and then progress to adding in different equipment to provide additional challenge and variety..
If you attend a class at a studio, you will usually be provided with any equipment required, and you may have the option of accessing specialist equipment such as the Pilates Reformer or Wunda Chair.
These large pieces of equipment are more complicated to use and can even be risky for beginners who don’t know how to handle them properly. They are also quite expensive, which is the main reason why you rarely see them outside a studio.
At-home Pilates will start with just using your own body weight. As you progress, you can build up a collection of basic equipment, such as blocks, bands, balls, and rings. These pieces of equipment have the advantage of either being adjustable or working with your own weight, which means they’ll remain useful as you progress in your Pilates journey.
A great option that has all the basics covered is the LUSHFIT 25 Piece Pilates Kit (available on Amazon). It’s excellent for students of all levels, providing multiple resistance bands and several types of handles, jump rope and a ring.
5. Focused Goals
We talked about how staying motivated means enjoying the journey, but that doesn’t mean you should leave goals aside. In fact, setting yourself achievable goals is key for keeping your motivation.
Students should set specific goals, and if you’re a teacher, it’s part of your job to help them set the correct goals.
When I take on new clients and discuss goals, they often revolve around losing weight, strengthening core muscles, or increasing muscle tone. I try to move away from these and move towards goals focusing on a Pilates exercise, for example, to being able to do 10 perfect push-ups.
To achieve that goal, my client will need to commit to a fitness routine, and in doing so, the results of their initial goal, e.g. weight loss, will happen naturally. Once they hit that initial goal, we adjust it to make it harder.
Besides these types of overarching goals, it’s good to have smaller goals, even goals that are specific to a single class, such as being able to hold a position for longer than previously.
We all eventually run into a pose or exercise that challenges us. Focusing on doing that one thing right can be a great way to stay motivated and in tune during a class.
Considerations for Online Classes
Whether because of social distancing or a busy lifestyle, many people opt for watching streamed or recorded classes from the comfort of their homes. New students who don’t enjoy group settings as much may value the privacy and convenience of this format.
While having a Pilates class over Zoom makes it more challenging to correct posture and monitor the progress of each student, an online class should show the same care and planning.
A virtual Pilates class should still motivate the students, manage its time, set clear expectations, explain how to use equipment, and provide a variety of exercises to meet the focused goals of the class.
The tricky part for us instructors is being able to easily monitor and provide feedback to the entire class. Before starting, check that everyone is visible on camera and consider if any part of the routine might take them off camera, asking students to adjust as required so you can maintain a close eye on them.
If you want to learn more about online classes, see: Can you learn Pilates online?
- Body Harmonics: Pilates class planning: Helpful Hints on How to Plan a Class
- Self Magazine: 5 Things to Know Before You Take Pilates Classes
- Complete Pilates: Types of Pilates Equipment
- Body Harmonics: Step by Step Pilates Class Design Process
- Pilates Bridge: How to Teach Virtual Pilates Classes
- Very Well Fit: Preparing for Your Beginners Pilates Class
- Very Well Fit: What is Pilates?
- Complete Pilates: Types of Pilates
- HFE: A Guide to Pilates Equipment