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How To Teach Pilates Group Classes That Accommodate All Levels

Structuring a class to accommodate all client abilities can be tough, probably one of the toughest things for a group instructor. However proper preparation and teaching skills can make any class run smoother. Even many experts don’t know how to teach a Pilates class that accommodates all levels.

As teachers we have all experienced those classes or lesson plans that “flopped”. They flopped because only 2 out of your 5 clients could properly perform the “Teaser” on the first try while you spent 15 minutes trying to get the other 3 clients up to speed.

During those 15 minutes the 2 clients that nailed it on the first try got bored and began to become impatient while waiting. So how do you avoid situations like this?

  • Briefly chat with your new clients before class starts to get a feel for their abilities and comfort level. I am not saying have a sit down interview but take a minute. Our studio requires new clients to arrive 10 minutes early to fill out paper work. This 1 minute chat allows me to quickly decide where I want to strategically place them in the studio. I try and put them on a reformer that has good visibility of me and next to experienced clients.
  • Teach in layers. Every “Flow” or sequence I teach progresses in difficulty. A “Flow” or sequence should consist of layers or variations. The first layer is easy, the second layer is moderately challenging and the third layer is very challenging. As we approach the second and third layers I give my clients options to stay with the current variation or continue onto the next variation for a greater challenge. The clients choosing to stick with the easier variations feel safe and comfortable while the more advanced clients are challenged with more challenging variations. Building blocks!
  • Know good modifications! Always, always have good modifications planned for every moderate to challenge exercise! Choose modifications that are simple and do not require lots of set up or lengthy explanations.
  • Keep your cueing simple to keep your class moving. Do not go on and on about a set up of a movement creating long pauses in the class flow. Clients hate this. Trust me, as a studio owner the # 1 complaint I hear from clients about other teachers is “the teacher takes too long to explain things”. Or “we stop too much during class so she can help the new clients”. Keep your cues and set up simple and do not let your corrections for other clients affect the class flow. This is so hard but with practice gets easy and smoother.

At my studio we do not level our classes. It’s just too hard to schedule.

Plus no one ever signs up for the “beginner” classes. We do offer private instruction classes but I honestly feel a group environment can be more motivating for clients. In many cases clients improve faster in a group class environment because their class mates inspire and challenge them to try movements outside of their comfort zone.

Therefore, it is important for us to know how to teach a Pilates class for every level. Using accommodations, communicating with our customers and teaching flow variations has helped us become experts in providing the best Pilates classes for everybody!

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