From Point A to Point B… Progressions

I’m filming a progressions workshop next week, and the subject got me to thinking.

There are progressions, and then there are progressions (try to keep up). First of all, there are progressions of an exercise from one place to another, not just on one apparatus, but also across many.

Then there are progressions that help your client improve in certain areas. Both of these are important to know, and to understand.

Let’s take an exercise like Pull-Ups on the Wunda Chair. A real doozy, on a good day, and one of the first places your clients get to experience going upside down, against gravity. So we do it first facing front, both hands on the chair, both feet on the pedal. But then this becomes “manageable”. So then we say, “okay, let’s try with just one foot on the pedal!”. Umm, what? Changing the center of balance, decreasing the point of contact from four to three. That becomes manageable, so then we decide to try it with one arm only. Whoa! Changing the center of balance yet again, and continuing to decrease the point of contact (really where we need it the most!) by removing one hand. Yikes. Gulp. So a few weeks/months/years go by and then we turn it to the side, adding a twist. Our beloved Front Pull-Up has just morphed into a monster to be tamed! Sideways, you say? One leg? One arm? Bring it on.

So there you have a lovely little progression of ONE exercise on ONE piece of apparatus into MANY ways to torture challenge your client.

Oh yes, speaking of our client. How do we pick and choose the right exercises to help them make a progression? From Point A to Point B. From Beginner to Intermediate. From Intermediate to Advanced. And in-between. And beyond.

The most common mistake Pilates teachers make with progressions is just adding more exercises. And this is especially problematic when the client might not be ready for a new exercise. Maybe the client is still working on Exercise #1. Doesn’t really need to be confused by Exercise #2. Remember your job as a Pilates teacher is not to entertain your clients with bright, new shiny things every session (trust me on this one). Continuity and consistency are key. As a favorite teacher of mine says, “Do not go horizontal with your teaching. Go vertical.” Go deeper into the exercises and be sure that your client understands the basics of the movement. And not just the basics, but can perform and move in the exercise with control. The last thing this client needs is MORE EXERCISES.

They need time to fine-tune the ones they already know. The ones they’re currently working on. Some clients will need a LOT of time. Some will need less. That’s where your skillz (yes I just said that) as a Pilates teacher come into play. Talk with your client, and understand their fitness goals. Understand how they learn, how they move, how they process information. Remember, you are not there to entertain. You are there to teach. To have your client move safely, understand the work, and know why they’re doing what they’re doing, before you add new exercises.

In my training, we progress by looking at four components – stability, stretch, strength, and stamina. What does your client need to work on? What exercise can you give them that will help them work on that component? Keep your matwork and reformer work basic. Go to your other apparatus (Wunda Chair, High Chair, Cadillac, Barrels). From there, make a decision and stick with it. Stick with it. Stick with it. Be consistent in your sessions, from one day/week to the next. Continue to work on the ins and outs of that exercise. Trust me, your client will not get bored. With consistency, they will master that exercise, and then be ready to move on to another one.

And that my friends, is true progression. Try it, and let me know how it works for you.

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