Decoding Your Pilates Class
If you’ve recently attended a Pilates class in a private studio or gym/health club setting, you may have heard a variety of phrases floating around.
Classical. Contemporary. Fusion. Mat. Apparatus. Advanced. Fundamental. Multi Level. These are a few examples of terms that studios use to describe their Pilates classes to give you an idea of what to expect. However, these terms can be confusing and misleading.
Let’s examine the basics and create some clarity.
Though every studio has their own system, the following are fairly standard designations when it comes to the difficulty level of a class.
The starting point is the Fundamental level upon which all the higher level Pilates exercises build. These exercises are meant to be the foundation of your Intermediate and Advanced work. You might start with the basic plank position or lying on your back with legs lifted in table top prior to intermediate work which may add in dynamic movement. As you work toward the advanced repertoire, the exercises become more complex, often moving the spine or torso and extremities together in more complex choreography. Some of the truly advanced exercises are not appropriate for group work as they require spotting from an instructor. Many group classes will be primarily a combination of the fundamental and intermediate work, with advanced level work sprinkled throughout.
At Tensile Strength Studio, all classes are Multi Level, consisting of a variety of levels which makes the class appropriate for most clients. Your instructor may challenge your class more or less by pushing the pacing of the class, adding extra variations or choreography to achieve a challenging, but accessible workout. Clients with preexisting conditions or injuries that may affect their ability to move fluidly through a class may be in private sessions where the instructor can tailor the workout to your specific conditions. Be sure to chat with studio staff prior to attending class if you are concerned about any movement restrictions.
Mat or Apparatus:
Historically, to find an apparatus based workout, it was necessary to go to a Pilates studio. However, in the last 10-15 years Pilates apparatus have become more commonplace in health clubs and fitness centers where Pilates Mat based classes were the norm.
The fundamentals of Pilates are the same whether you are on a mat or equipment. Mat Pilates is executed mostly with your own body weight and gravity as your resistance, occasionally incorporating bands, small weights, rings, balls, etc.
Pilates Apparatus classes are performed on specialized equipment, which may include the Reformer, Cadillac, Chair, Small or Large barrels in addition to smaller props previously mentioned. The use of equipment can either offer more support or more challenge depending on the design of the workout.
The Great Style Debate:
Which is the best style of Pilates? Classical? Contemporary? Fusion? You may get a different answer depending on who you talk to.
The Classical Pilates repertoire follows very closely to Joseph Pilates’ original work and order, created nearly 100 years ago. You may hear the words “first generation” or “second generation” when referring to certain instructors, the former being instructors who studied directly under Pilates himself and the latter being instructors that were trained from a first generation teacher. With each generation, the method changed a bit depending on the influences of the instructors. Today, the method has also evolved with the advancement of movement science/biomechanics.
Classical Pilates is often performed in a set order with a specific amount of reps for each exercise. To be considered Classical, strict protocols are followed for both Mat and Apparatus work.
One of the main distinctions of Contemporary Pilates is the introduction of variations in movement and the addition of props. Practitioners of contemporary Pilates believe it offers more challenge through variety, but the classical adherents find that same challenge through working deeper into the original work. Contemporary is a broad distinction and can incorporate most any modern form of the work that has developed over the years since Joseph Pilates, keeping in line with the spirit of the original method while integrating current knowledge of the body and biomechanics.
Fusion based classes combine Pilates with other forms of movement such as yoga, strength training, suspension training, boxing etc. Fusion classes may be performed on the apparatus or mat.
All of our instructors at Tensile Strength studio began their education with comprehensive Classical training and are NCPT’s (Nationally Certified Pilates Teachers). They have completed a minimum of 450 hours of in person learning, student teaching, observation and personal practice. In order to maintain their certification, our instructors complete 16 or more hours of continuing education every 2 years. These education hours may vary based on the instructor's interests, and will often shape how they teach in the future. Though our instructors begin their journey with the classical work, over time they develop their own perspective and approach to the work. We recommend that clients try a variety of classes as each instructor has unique areas of strength and focus.
Chat with us prior to class about any movement or health restrictions and your goals so we can maximize your experience at Tensile Strength Studio. Our collective 50 years of experience as instructors, teacher trainers, and industry leaders positions us to help you fulfill your Pilates goals.