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Sample Class: Pilates 50/50

by Linda Freeman on Dec 18, 2008

Class Take-Out

Enliven mind-body mavens with a novel fusion class.

Pilates 50/50 is a combination class that fuses lower-body standing moves with mat exercises for a balanced mind-body experience that emphasizes Pilates principles. By moving Pilates into a vertical position, you bring a more functional experience to participants while continuing to offer the key elements of core control and optimal spinal alignment. The standing work is also a great way to warm the entire body for more effective spinal movement during the mat exercises.

Pilates 50/50 Details

Format: mind-body combination class

Total Time: 60 minutes

Equipment needed: mats

Music: Select music that promotes control. Hip-hop or reggae speed is perfect (98–110 beats per minute)

Additional Considerations:

  • Perform the class barefoot. This gives participants a chance to experience alignment from the feet as the foundation.

  • Cue and move in layers: what moves first, second, etc.? Add levers last.

  • Cue stability first, mobility second.

  • Start every movement slowly. Learn the combination and cuing alignment before speeding up to tempo.

  • Use four base movements as the foundation for all standing combinations: squat, plié, lunge or balance.

  • Between each of the standing combinations, allow students to release accrued tension by moving around, performing hip circles or leg swings, or just getting a sip of water. The movement patterns take concentration as well as muscular-endurance work, so students may need a mental break as well as a physical one.

Standing Warm-Up (5 minutes)

Stand with feet hip width apart, in neutral posture. Perform 8–12 repetitions of each of the following:

  • Heel lifts: emphasize pressing down into middle toe, keeping posture neutral.

  • Tailbone drops (minisquat, as if tailbone is sliding down a wall). Cue to keep knees pointing directly ahead, pelvis in neutral.

  • Posterior and anterior pelvic tilts: find range of motion, and keep knees neutral.

  • Arm swings, forward and overhead: emphasize rib cage “knitting.”

  • Scapular elevation and depression: cue participants to “float the shoulders up, and gently press them down.”

  • Scapular protraction and retraction: educate students that you will cue scapular retraction more often, as it is usually the more desirable position.

  • Emphasize Pilates breathing: inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth. Exhale during the most difficult part of a movement, or when the muscles are concentrically contracting (as in the retraction phase of the scapular movement).

Standing Combinations (20–25 minutes)

Combination #1: picking flowers (8–16 reps per side)

Start in lunge position, with right foot forward and left foot back. Feet are aligned with the front hip bones (anterior superior iliac spine, or ASIS); spine is neutral and vertical.

  • Count 1: Lower into lunge, with front knee staying over ankle, spine in neutral.

  • Count 2: Hinge forward at hip, bringing spine forward over front thigh. Arms hang under shoulders. Keep spine in neutral, and do not allow front knee to move forward.

  • Count 3: Bring spine back into vertical position, still low in lunge. Bring arms back and engage scapular retraction; cue “picking flowers” when coming out of forward hinge.

  • Count 4: Come up out of lunge.

  • Finishing move: Pulse down in lunge for 8–16 counts, then pulse 8–16 more counts in forward-hinged position.

Combination #2: Squat Lift (8–16 reps) Begin in standing position, feet hip width apart, in neutral posture.

  • Count 1: Lower to squat, with arms coming forward to shoulder level. Cue participants to bring tailbone and hips back as if “sitting in a chair.” Knees point forward.

  • Count 2: Lift onto balls of feet (heel raise) while remaining in squat position. At same time, raise arms overhead. Important alignment cues: lift up and do not shift forward in the heel raise; keep ribs “knit” while bringing arms overhead.

  • Count 3: Lower heels back to floor, and lower arms back to shoulder level.

  • Count 4: Release squat, and come back to standing position.

  • Finishing move: Come down to squat, find heel balance with overhead arm position and hold for 32 counts.

Combination #3: Tip the Bucket (8–19 reps per side, alternate sides)

  • Begin in plié position with feet wide, toes pointed out to 45 degrees, spine tall and neutral. Hold arms out in front of chest in “ballerina” stance—a wide circular shape with fingers lightly intertwined.

  • Count 1: Bend knees and lower down as far as you are able while keeping spine in neutral.

  • Count 2: Laterally flex to the right as if your arms were a bucket and you were “tipping the bucket.” Cue participants to keep knees pointing out at 45 degrees while flexing.

  • Count 3: Come out of lateral flexion.

  • Count 4: Come back up to start position.

  • Finishing move: Lower into plié, and pulse for 8 counts; then hold low and “tip the bucket” 4 times before coming up. Repeat on both sides.

Combination #4: Touch the water (8–16 reps per side)

Start by balancing on right leg, with left leg extended in front of body. Use cues such as “Stand tall through the right side of the body” and “Minimize leaning to the right.”

  • Counts 1–2: Lower into single-leg squat, allowing left leg to touch floor lightly in front of body (“touching the water”).

  • Counts 3–4: Come back to standing.

  • Counts 5–6: Lower into single-leg squat. This time direct left leg to touch floor lightly out to left side, as if “touching the water.”

  • Counts 7–8: Come back to standing.

  • Continue to alternate where the left leg touches: front, side, front, side, etc.

Mat Work (25–30 minutes)

For the second half of class, choose a well-balanced selection of mat exercises that you are familiar with. Include flexion, extension and rotation as well as a nice mix of stability- and mobility-focused exercises. For example:

  • flexion: half roll-back, the hundred (or preps), single-leg stretch, double-leg stretch

  • extension: breaststroke preps and breaststroke, swimming, swan dive

  • stability: single-leg circle, shoulder bridge, one-leg kick

  • full mobility: roll-up, roll-over and teaser series

End your class with a good 5 minutes of stretching for the entire body, with some hamstring, quadriceps and hip flexor/hip complex stretches included. Your students will love this total-body, booty-sculpting, core-strengthening class, and they’ll definitely be talking about you in the locker room (in a great way, of course!) n

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About the Author

Linda Freeman

Linda Freeman IDEA Author/Presenter

Linda L. Freeman—IDEA Master Personal Trainer, author and frequent IDEA presenter—loves to fuse formats and share new ideas with other fitness colleagues. Owner of Guru Fitness® LLC, ...