Most Common Pilates Terms Explained

Most Common Pilates Terms Explained

If you’ve ever wanted to try Pilates but felt a little overwhelmed by all the different terminology, you’re not alone. Here are some common Pilates terms explained, so you can log on or walk into your first class with confidence.

Most Common Pilates Terms Explained


Movement away from the center of your body, for example bringing your arms out to a “T” position.

How you might hear it used in class: A hip abduction exercise will involve moving your legs away from your body in order to engage your abdominals, strengthen your core, and realign your hips. 

Abductor Muscle

Group of muscles located on the lateral thigh. The primary hip abductor includes the gluteus medius, gluteus minimus, and tensor fasciae latae. The secondary hip abductor includes the piriformis, sartorius, and superior fibers of the gluteus maximus.


Movement towards the center of your body, for example when you hold your arms out to your sides in a “T” position, and then lower them down to your sides, that’s adduction. 

How you might hear it used in class: A standing hip adduction exercise will have you begin by lifting your right foot slightly in front of the left, then squeezing your inner thigh muscles to press your right leg across your body towards the left side of the room. Repeat on the other side.

Adductor Muscle

Group of muscles located on your inner thighs that serve to bring your legs towards the center of your body. This motion of bringing your legs inward is called adduction. 


Referring to the front part of the body. 

How you might hear it used in class: Pilates exercises are often used to correct anterior pelvic tilt, a term that’s used to refer to a pelvis that is tilted or rotated forward. If you have an anterior pelvic tilt, you may notice that the muscles in the front of your pelvis and thighs are tight, while the ones in the back are weak. This can cause lower back pain, stiffness, and restricted range of motion. 

Diaphragmatic Breath

Also called belly breathing, fully engages your diaphragm allowing full oxygen exchange and releasing any unnecessary tension in your body. This kind of breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system and calms your body and mind. 

How you might hear it used in class: Breath and specifically diaphragmatic breath is a huge part of a Pilates practice. It helps establish the important mind-body connection and allow you to fully. Throughout class, your instructor may ask you to notice your breathing and see if your belly is rising and falling. If you only see your chest moving, try placing your hands on your belly and tuning in to the way it expands and contracts.

Neutral Spine

The position of your spine where all three curves are in proper alignment. This creates the least amount of stress on the spine and is the strongest position to move from. 

How you might hear it used in class: You may hear your instructor encourage you to lie down on your back and find your neutral spine. To do this, imagine there is a cup of water sitting on your lower abs, just a couple of inches below your belly button. You don’t want to spill the water, which will help you make sure you don’t tip your pelvis forward or tuck it under, but instead remain in a neutral position. 

Mat Pilates

A pilates training practice that can be done without a reformer and instead on a mat.  

How you might hear it used in class: Mat Pilates is a great practice to use when you’re traveling and don’t have access to a Reformer. A mat Pilates class will use exercises and movements that focus on building core stability and strength and engaging your body in the lengthening, stretching, and toning Pilates is known for. Our founder Melissa, shared a quick, full-body Pilates workout you can do without a Reformer live on NBC. You can watch it here!

Pilates V

Also known as Pilates Stance, First Position, or Ballet Position, this is a standing position where your heels are together and toes are apart facing outward. Many Pilates moves begin from this position.

How you might hear it used in class: If your instructor says, “take your Pilates V position,” they are cueing you to externally rotate your legs from the top part of your hips so you can bring your feet together in the shape of a ‘V’ with the heels together and toes apart. They may challenge you to bend and stretch your legs while maintaining this ‘V’ position, similar to a ballet plié exercise. You may even hear an instructor encourage you to “make sure you can fit a slice of pizza between your feet” to make sure you are maintaining the appropriate amount of distance between. 

Parallel Stance

A standing, resting posture where your knees, legs, and feet are perfectly aligned below your hip joints. 

How you might hear it used in class: Some exercises will begin and/or end from this position, so you may hear your instructor cue “Start in parallel stance” to prepare you for the movement you’re about to do. 



A traditional piece of Pilates equipment that resembles a bed with springs, a sliding carriage, ropes, and pulleys. A Reformer helps you maintain your form throughout the practice and adds resistance to the exercise you’re performing, helping you achieve faster results.

How you might hear it used in class: Many Pilates classes use a Reformer to facilitate the workout experience. FRAME’s digitally-connected, innovative Reformer allows you to experience all the benefits of a Pilates Reformer workout in the comfort of your own home. 


Two-Way Stretch 

Reaching in opposite directions. Most Pilates exercises allow you to experience the simultaneous push and pull of every muscle, tendon, and ligament as you move, which is unique to Pilates as a form of exercise. 

How you might hear it used in class: Exercises like the Double Leg Stretch, Spine Stretch Forward, and Swan are a few examples of movements that use the two-way stretch. 


What are some of the other Pilates terms you’d like us to break down? Leave them in a comment below and we’ll add them to this post!

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