Help! I don’t understand Pilates. Pilates jargon explained.

Pilates classes in Epping, Essex and online. Pilates jargon explained.

Pilates jargon can make an exercise class feel complicated. If you’re new to Pilates or perhaps taking a break from busy day to fit in an online Pilates class, being baffled by Pilates jargon that you don’t understand is not what you signed up for and isn’t relaxing.

We do our best not to use typical fitness or Pilates jargon in our classes. Terms like neutral spine, powerhouse and engaging your abdominals can be off putting if you’re not in the Pilates jargon club. With over 15 years experience of teaching Pilates, I’ll be honest, I’m not even sure they’re useful terms. Sometimes jargon can hide a lack of understanding or experience of an instructor.

Neutral Spine

Let’s think about neutral spine. Is it even a thing? Neutral spine refers to creating a neutral arch in the lower back that is neither flat nor too arched. Working from this position should enable our trunk and support muscles to work effectively and minimise stress to our backs. Our lower back moves as we do however and whilst it’s useful to understand the concept, some of us have bigger back arches than others and some exercises require a neutral spine whilst others don’t. If you’ve had any kind of hip or back surgery, your trunk will respond differently when you attempt to move it and if you’ve recently had a baby via C-section or not, there’ll be changes to your anatomy that require a slightly different approach to Pilates. So creating body awareness is perhaps more useful than sticking your back into a ‘neutral spine’ position than pressing go.

We also need to consider that we move. So spending hours focusing on neutral spine from, let’s say, a supine (lying on your back), position, doesn’t necessarily translate to walking, around, sitting and standing. In other words – it isn’t the holy grail of Pilates.

I could go on with several other terms of Pilates jargon. Instead, I’ve found and have shared some excellent resources below should you be interested in a dictionary of Pilates terms.

Don’t be put off by Pilates Jargon

In short. Please don’t be put off. If you attend a class and an instructor uses some Pilates jargon that you don’t understand, ask! I’d always rather the opportunity to explain than that you walk away slightly disappointed or confused.

My favourite cues

Of course, I’m not immune to my favourite cues and phrases but when it comes to using them, I’m always doing so to help you improve and understand the way your body moves, rather than feel the need to say stuff because I’m a Pilates teacher. So if you come to my classes, from someone else’s, for the first time and find it weird that I don’t cue neutral spine, sucking in your tummy or (God forbid) I I encourage you to lose the stiffness and move, it’s because I’m all about helping my participants to succeed in Pilates without the jargon and exclusivity.

Pilates really is for everybody.

In this short video, I’ve explained some of my favourite cues. Call them my favourite, useful bits of Pilates jargon. Don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel.



If you’d like to try out an accessible, flowing Pilates class with me, you can join me for Online Pilates every Thursday at 1.30pm via Zoom. Check in to say hello and then kick back on the mat for some delicious Pilates. It’s £5 to drop in or £11 per month.

Online Pilates

For some great resources on Pilates jargon, check out these links below:

Pilates Anytime: Pilates Lingo

Women’s Health: Pilates Beginners Terms, Explained

Birmingham Pilates Studios: Pilates Vocabulary

For more reads from the Fit School Blog check these posts out:

Should I do Pilates or yoga?

Help it’s my first time. What every beginner needs to know about Pilates.

I’m too weak for Pilates. 11 beginner myths busted.

    I’m too busy to fit exercise in 

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