Many moons ago, as a young woman who was starting to take part in martial arts competitions, I took a fancy to the notion that I should probably “do Pilates or Yoga or something.”
So it was that I went along to the village hall to take part in my first Pilates class. I was the youngest by a good three decades. Full of the arrogance of youth I was expecting to be some kind of gift to Pilates. Easy. But there I was, supposedly in peak condition, stuck doing exercises that I felt were doing nothing for me, while the harder exercises - which the older participants accomplished with ease - were completely inaccessible to me. There seemed to be nothing in between. I went to Yoga instead - in a more humble frame of mind - and didn’t return to Pilates for another seven years.
Today, I would like to discuss how we can use progressions to form a bridge between the basic and the more advanced versions of any exercise. If we are to progress and improve our movement, we need to find our personal sweet spot for every exercise - where we are challenged, but can perform the exercise with good technique. We don't just have levels 1, 2 and 3, but instead a countless range of possibilities are open to us. These principles can be applied to any form of exercise.
To vary the intensity of an exercise we can adjust:
Because we have so many tools in our exercise kit, it should be possible to find a version of each exercise that will challenge you and which you can perform safely. In the video below I demonstrate how just using two of these principles - lever length and base of support - can progress a simple exercise into a more advanced one through a series of small steps. You would typically progress through these stages over the course of a few weeks or months. It may be that, due to injuries or your body composition, for example, that some versions of a particular exercise will always be unsuitable for you; however, there is always something we can do to make an exercise effective and challenging. Finally, don't be shy to tell your instructor if an exercise isn't working for you - their job is to tailor exercises for you and ensure that you can execute them safely and effectively.
Fitness and Pilates instructor with a passion for science.