Do you Make Your Clients do Exercises You Know They Dislike?

When I first started Pilates, my teachers would respond to the “I hate this exercise” complaint with something their mentor, Romana Kryzanowska, used to say: “If you hate it, it means you need it.” After years of teaching, I can assure you that nothing could be truer. Generally, students hate exercises that force them to work through maladaptive movement patterns.

Do you Make Your Clients do Exercises You Know They Dislike? Photo Gallery



One exercise that commonly evokes groans is the Tree. We all sit far too much and have shortened, tight hip flexors as a result, and that is exactly why we need the exercise. Break down and explain each step as you go—the many steps are partly what cause the frustration. Don’t be afraid to use props; they exist to make the exercise accessible and can greatly impact the student’s physical understanding by providing tactile feedback. Another tactic: Try explaining the exercise in a new way.

(I like to have three different ones in my back pocket.) Consider what other exercise in the system makes the difficult one accessible. If a student dislikes Elephant, for example, I have them do the Double Straight-Leg Stretch. They always feel their abs, and it’s essentially the same movement, reoriented; what’s different is the body’s relationship to gravity and the ability to feel the back against the mat. A fresh perspective provides a way in, a new focus. If the exercise aggravates an injury, consider whether that version is good for the student in front of you. Can you modify the movement, isolate parts of it, or have them do it on another apparatus to make it less awful? Be creative and keep smiling!

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