Six Ways to Keep Your Pilates Program Fresh

Keep your Pilates program challenging and motivating with fun names and varied classes Photo courtesy Balanced Body


Pilates is still going strong for a reason: it works. Almost without exception, class participants will leave feeling stronger, more flexible and taller. Because Pilates has been around for quite a while now, there is definite name recognition and a rock solid percentage of participant retention. That's good. But on the flip side comes the need to add diversity to classes to keep current participants coming while drawing those who may have cycled out of Pilates classes back to the fold. Here are six ideas designed to make Pilates classes fresh and exciting. Even members who have tried Pilates in the past will find these classes worth a second look.

1. Add accessories, props and toys. 

A band, a ball and a roller are all you need to make tried and true Pilates mat exercises seem new, fun and more effective.

With a band around the feet and the ends held in the hands, a Roll Down—seemingly impossible for many members—now becomes attainable. Pausing half way down and using the band for arm work, such as bicep curls, rows and oblique rows, now adds a whole new challenge.

Using an 8-inch to 10-inch ball can elevate basic abdominal work. For example, sitting on the floor with the ball behind the shoulder blades provides an excellent opportunity for the spine to extend over the ball. Exhale, and engage the abdominals to curl the spine into flexion and suddenly those abs are 'on fire.' Then lift the legs (as in The Hundred) or hold the curl, and perform the whole series of five: The Hundred, single leg stretch, double leg stretch, double straight leg stretch and criss cross. Clients will have a newfound respect for these Pilates mat exercises.

Lying on the roller provides a unique challenge to balance and coordination—both of which begin to diminish after the age of 30. Lying on the roller and lifting one limb at a time off the floor is a modest challenge. Lifting opposing limbs simultaneously is even harder, and lifting same side limbs is almost impossible. Bridge exercises are another great thing to do with a roller. Lie on the floor with the roller perpendicular to the body and place the feet on top of the roller, and bridge by lifting the hips off the floor. For an even greater challenge, bridge and lift one leg off the roller. Keep the pelvis stable and the abdominals engaged. The hamstrings, hip muscles and lower spinal muscles will be working like crazy.

2. Offer population-specific classes.

You know your gym and your membership. Offer classes at specific times to meet their needs. For example, hold a 7 a.m. high-intensity class for those who want an athletic workout before heading off to work. Schedule a mindful mat class for your senior population at 10:30 a.m. Hold a 4 p.m. sports-specific class (for golfers, bikers, tennis players, etc.) designed to enhance athletic performance. Targeting members’ needs with classes specifically designed with them in mind is an excellent way to retain current participants, bring in new ones, and ignite classes with enthusiasm and passion.

3. Create a circuit-training environment.

Put No. 1 and No. 2 together, and use your toys and props to create a circuit-training environment. If you are expecting a class of 30 people, put 10 balls, 10 rollers and 10 bands in strategic pods around the room. Ask participants to choose a station. Give each group a particular move, or series of moves, and have them perform that move for 30 seconds to one minute. Once completed, the group moves to the next station. At first, this may seem a bit chaotic, but participants get the idea quickly and enjoy the diversity, fun and challenge.

4.Throw in some high-intensity interval training.

To add even more fun to your circuit, offer a 2- to 5-minute cardio interval training moment in between stations. Play music, use a step or just simply introduce basic aerobic moves. Plyometrics work well here, as do basic calisthenics such as Jumping Jacks. This is an opportunity to add anything that will get the heart rate going.

5. Keep your most valuable assets educated.

Your instructors are crucial to any group class, but it’s especially true in a Pilates class, where the precision of the movements need to be closely monitored so an instructor can modify for one body dynamic while simultaneously keeping the remaining group members active. In order to add diversity—whether through accessories, props and toys, or circuit and interval training or to plan progressive workouts designed to meet specific needs of your target audience—your instructors need to be well versed in technique, exercise applications and appropriateness. These are skills that require two things: experience and education. Encouraging instructors to maintain CECs, offering workshops at your facility or supporting their educational pursuits are all excellent strategies for retaining experienced teachers who can keep class members interested and challenged.

6. What’s in a name?

Nothing is duller than offering a class called Intermediate Mat Class. Ugh. Give your classes fun names that reflect the energy, style and personality of the material and instructor. Think of your class title as a movie trailer. Participants will see it and make an immediate determination as to whether or not it is for them. 


Joy Puleo is the education program manager for Balanced Body, the leading provider of mindful movement equipment and education for commercial fitness facilities. Products include a full array of Pilates equipment  as well as truly unique group x/personal training options like MOTR, Bodhi Suspension System, and CoreAlign. Learn more at pilates.com.

This article was created in collaboration with the sponsoring company and our sales and marketing team. The editorial team does not contribute.