Pilates Training Questions: How Advanced Should I Be?

by | Aug 26, 2014 | Pilates, Pilates Exercises, Techniques & Teaching Tips | 2 comments

Advanced Pilates Exercise - Control BalanceEvery student wants an answer to their Pilates training questions, and this curious question  was asked by a client of mine recently.

“How advanced should I be after one year of Pilates training?”

I love Pilates training questions!  The answer to this one hinges on many factors:

1. What your health status was when you started?  Are you 100% healthy with no injuries, chronic aches and pains, or medical limitations?

2. How many days a week are you doing Pilates either privately, or in a group, and working with a well-qualified Pilates teacher?

3. How much you are working on your own in addition to participating in lessons and classes?  Are you able to take what you’re learning about your body and how to improve posture, breathing, and functional movement, and take it out the door with you to practice and apply throughout the day, at work, at home, while you walk, play sports, etc…  Is putting your Pilates principles to work making your life easier and you’re discovering ways to apply what you know with everything you do?

I don’t believe Pilates students should be in a race to get to an “Advanced” level, but instead should focus more on doing what is safe and appropriate for your body, and doing it well to best meet your current health status and wellness goals.  Just because you’re healthy, doesn’t mean it’s wise to gloss over the basics and dive right into more “challenging” exercises.  Learning fundamentals and focusing on form and proper firing patterns with the beginner Pilates exercises lays the foundation for balanced muscle development and ultimately better whole-body health.

I believe that with a year of training you should:

  • Know what you need to be working on and have a good idea of the exercises that are helping you reach your goals.
  • Be familiar with solid basics and fundamentals for breathing, posture, and body alignment and know what exercises are safe and how to modify or adapt if needed.
  • Be confident to workout and do Pilates on your own (at least some of the time!)

Please note that some of the beginner Pilates Matwork exercises like Roll Up, Teaser, Neck Pull can be challenging for many clients for years and years –its body mechanics as well as getting the right muscles strong and the tight ones to let go that will make these exercises easier.  All of the exercises in your Pilates program give you the opportunity to work on this – but if you’re doing them incorrectly and nobody’s helping you fine-tune your form and improve your awareness of what to use and what to release so you can learn to do things better – progress will be minimal.

And if you’ve been a Pilates student for a while, you’ve realized that regardless of how “advanced” you get, going back to basics is always an opportunity to learn something new and find deeper levels of understanding between your brain and your body.

Yes it’s about the progress, but more importantly it’s about the PROCESS.  It takes time to process information, exercises, and new movement patterns,  and get all of this to sink into the deep unconscious layers of our cells.  With every Pilates workout, you’re reinforcing the memory of your muscles.  Want to reinforce good habits, focus on form and making every repetition better than the last.

There are so many wild and wacky workout programs out there on the market.  Workouts where you never do the same exercise twice, or touting the scientifically designed “muscle confusion” system!  You can’t confuse your muscles and expect them to work correctly!  You can’t overly fatigue your muscles and recruit the right ones for healthy movement!  You can’t focus on the surface muscles and expect to have good posture and core support.

A key part of the Pilates system is developing muscle memory through the repetition of doing the same exercises over and over, and over again for a lifetime of good health.  If you are truly focused on what you’re doing, and paying close attention to your body while executing each Pilates exercise, the exercises never really get easier!  Your Pilates workout will always be a workout – regardless of whether you’re just sticking with the basics, or doing a more intermediate or advanced “routine.”

You can enjoy a lifetime of fun and fitness with Pilates – and getting to the “advanced” exercises is not a requirement. 

I do have clients that have been with me for years and we stick to a basic level workout because that’s safest for their bodies.  But they learn something new EVERY time the come thru the door, and are happy with their progress.  Then there are other folks who thrive on more of a challenge…But they’re just as challenged the days I take them back to basics as when we do more of an “advanced” Pilates workout.

With more than 500 exercises in the classical Pilates repetoire, and hundreds of thousands of modifications, adaptations, props, and contemporary exercises there is no limit to the options or variety that can be explored with Pilates, but it will be safest to take your training to the next level with very strong basics under your belt.

Who really cares what “level” you’re working at, as long as you’re MOVING, and enjoying your Pilates workouts.

If you want to get to the wild-side of Pilates and do some of the upside down, flippy exercises you’ve got to have a 100% healthy whole body – no neck, back, shoulder, hip, knee, or feet problems.  And honestly – these are not typically the people walking thru the door to do Pilates.   Even most of us who are Pilates teachers, came to Pilates thru an injury or health challenge.  It would be fabulous if every body was in perfect health, but the average Pilates student waltzes thru the door because they have issues, are recovering from an injury, or  are sick and tired of hurting, and not being able to participate in traditional exercise programs.

The knowledge, experience, and expertise of your Pilates teacher, as well as your commitment to participate will dictate the “pace” for your progress.  And goals help immensely too!  What do you want to accomplish?  The answer to this is a key part in determining the exercises in your Pilates program.  Not every exercise is appropriate for every body.  Knowing what’s safe and what’s stupid for you to try is knowing and listening to your body to stay safe and injury free.   I’ve seen clients do amazing things that I never thought it would be possible for their body to achieve, with time, patience, and dedication to their Pilates training program, but did it all happen in the first year of their journey… nope…  for most of them the journey continues, and their happy with how Pilates makes them feel and ultimately that’s what really matters.

My short and condensed answer to this great Pilates training question: 

Don’t worry about what level you’re working at!  Ask yourself this, “Does my body feel better today than it did yesterday?”   And are you confident that your Pilates training program is a contributing factor to your success?  If your answers are YES, then you are on the right path, and have the right Pilates exercises in your training program.


Aliesa George: Over the past three decades, Aliesa George has helped assist people with their personal health journeys by sharing, teaching, and developing Pilates, Foot Fitness, and other Mind-Body programs.


  1. John Lee

    Thank you for the list of Pilates equipment mfg. it’s always hard to weed through and digest everything your shopping for these days. I have purchased equipment from Teague Pilates equipment and discovered a gem of a deal of 30 % off everything they sell, plus the quality is right there with the best. They have just introduced something very unique and beautiful, what they’re calling the “Hide-A-Way Reformer” very practical for home use. Here’s a link. http://www.teaguepilates.com

    John L.

    • Aliesa George

      Thanks for sharing this John. It’s hard for me to recommend Pilates equipment that I have never used. Would be great if Teague would be at the PMA conference so those of us that aren’t familiar with their equipment could try it. I’m not sure how it compares to the “big name” manufacturers. I do love the “Hide-A-Way Reformer” design – great concept!


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