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How to leverage the STOTT PILATES® Biomechanical Principles to improve virtual teaching and cueing

Improve virtual teaching and cueing with Biomechanical Principles

The STOTT PILATES® Biomechanical Principles are the foundation of the STOTT PILATES method of exercise and are key to performing exercises safely and effectively.

These principles provide instructors with a guide for when they’re cueing and correcting clients, and it’s no different when working with clients virtually.

The principles start right from learning how to breathe properly to finding the best alignment and body position, allowing each individual to achieve the best possible results.

A brief summary of the principles:

  • Breathing – optimal breathing patterns enhance mind-body awareness and efficient muscular recruitment and activity
  • Head and Cervical Placement, Scapular Movement and Stabilization – observe how they interact with the rib cage and spine
  • Rib Cage and Pelvic Placement – they are directly related to the curvature and alignment of the spine
  • Hip, Knee, Ankle and Foot Placement – how they interact to affect posture, alignment and the effective transfer of forces through the body

With online training, it’s even more important to be as specific and detailed as possible with your cues to help clients feel more connected to each movement. As the client becomes more body-aware, they’ll gain a deeper understanding of how to apply specific cues to benefit from each exercise.

Imagery cueing can be particularly useful when teaching virtually and can assist in correcting, or to enhance the client’s learning, understanding and mindful connection to the skill/exercise they’re performing.

For example, instead of saying ‘laterally flex your torso,’ try ‘imagine your spine going up and over like a water fountain’ or, instead of ‘lengthen the spine,’ use ‘try to touch the ceiling with the top of your head.’

As an instructor, it’s your job to get to know each client’s exercise level and body awareness. You may have to adjust your cueing, opting for layman’s terms rather than anatomical or muscular cues if they’re new to Pilates and fitness.

Remember that everyone learns differently, so experiment with a variety of cueing styles, including auditory, visual/spatial and kinesthetic. An auditory cue that works for one client, for example, might not make any sense to a client who learns visually.

Here are some tips for how to apply your Pilates cueing technique when teaching virtually:

  • Know your exercises and their purpose. Is the exercise appropriate for the client’s level? How is it going to benefit them? Does the exercise fit their goals? How does each STOTT PILATES Biomechanical Principle apply to the exercise? Will your client need more cueing if dealing with a principle they are challenged by?
  • Be prepared with modifications. Know how to break the exercise down and explain it in steps if needed. This is particularly important in a virtual setting. Props, furniture and certain positions can provide further support, feedback and facilitate modifications. Positions that ground or anchor body parts, such as with a foot or hand pressed against a wall, can facilitate stability and proper connection.
  • Experience the exercises in your body first. The more in-tune you are with your body, the more likely you’ll be able to relay the correct experience and positioning to a client.
  • Understand how your client learns and moves, and make the cues fit the client. Remember who you’re working with. If the client is challenged by balance exercises, for example, make sure they have a chair or wall to hold.
  • Know what the optimal movement pattern looks like. Watch your client move and then cue/correct them accordingly, using the principles and your knowledge of proper biomechanics.
  • Keep choreography and cues simple but effective. Remember that your client is moving, watching a screen, and trying to listen to you at the same time, so be clear and straightforward.
  • Plan and prepare before your virtual sessions. Have a plan for the workout before starting your virtual session, so you can make use of props and space in an organized manner. For example, start seated on a chair/ottoman, progress to standing using the chair to help with balance, then move the chair out of the way for Matwork. Switching from the chair to the floor too many times will break the flow.
  • Find mentors and keep learning. Take workshops, watch videos and discover as many trainers as possible in all different modalities. Everyone has unique cues, tips and techniques that you can learn from and add to your repertoire.

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