New to Pilates? Here Are 5 Things You Need to Know Before Your First Class

New to Pilates? Here Are 5 Things You Need to Know Before Your First Class

Taking your first Pilates class, whether it’s in person or online via an on-demand library like FRAME's, should be exciting, not intimidating. Familiarizing yourself with the practice and knowing what to expect before you walk in (or log on!) will help you feel confident and prepared––and this guide will help you do just that!

Before you join the millions of people and the many celebrities who’ve made Pilates a key part of their fitness routine, use this post to help you understand everything you need to know about the practice. It covers what Pilates is, the modality’s many (many) benefits, and key terms and phrases you’ll hear used in class. The information will help you set expectations and prepare, so you can approach your Reformer Pilates class like a pro! 

What is Pilates?

Pilates is an approach to exercise first started by Joseph Pilates in the 1920s. He set out to develop a routine that would bring together breath, mind, and whole-body health. His teachings have had incredible staying power. Now, a century later, Pilates is practiced both on the Reformer and on the Mat. Reformer Pilates consists of targeted movements performed on an elevated apparatus that includes springs, straps, a foot bar, a box, and a platform, while Mat Pilates uses your own body weight and occasional props including a ball, weights, or a magic circle.

While the two practices have differences, both focus on strengthening and stretching the body through mindful movement in coordination with breath. There is careful attention to form and each move is designed to build long, lean muscles, improve your core strength, and increase your mind-body connection.

The Benefits of Pilates

Whether you practice Reformer Pilates or Mat Pilates, you’ll enjoy a low impact exercise that supports joints, builds strength, works on your core, tones your muscles, and improves posture and flexibility. But the limits don’t stop with your muscles. Pilates also helps achieve mindfulness, or the practice of being aware of what is happening in the present without judgment. Mindfulness is especially powerful at reducing stress and helping us feel happier and more fulfilled more of the time.

The physical, emotional, and mental benefits of practicing Pilates won’t take long to see and feel either, which is another reason why so many people love this powerful practice! It’s long been reported that Joseph Pilates said, “In 10 sessions you will feel the difference, in 20 you will see the difference, and in 30 you'll have a whole new body.”

Pilates Terms for Beginners

When you take your first Pilates class, you may encounter terms you haven’t heard before. While your instructor will explain them as necessary, it’s helpful for your own comfort level to have some familiarity ahead of time. Some of the terms you may hear in your first class are outlined below. Don’t be alarmed! Many instructors (especially the ones at FRAME!) will use language during class to signal and instruct the movement or exercise without the complicated jargon.

  • Abduction: Moving your arms or legs away from the center of your body
  • Adduction: Bringing your arms or legs towards the center of your body
  • Anterior: Moving a body part towards the front of your body
  • C-Curve: Creating a C with your spine that involves pulling your belly inward and curving your spine
  • Imprinting: Flattening your entire back against the floor
  • Leg Circles: Often performed in straps for strength or stretching 
  • Midline: A line that runs all the way from the top of your head through your feet
  • Neutral Pelvis: A relaxed position with a slight curve at the lower back
  • Neutral Spine: A relaxed position of the spine, head, and neck
  • Pilates V: Hips are slightly rotated out with heels together, toes apart
  • Parallel Stance: Legs are directly below hips with feet parallel
  • Powerhouse: The abdominals, pelvic floor, and muscles around hip and back
  • Prone: Lying face down
  • Rolling Like a Ball: Rolling up and down the spine to massage and stretch
  • Roll-Up: Slowly rolling the spine and back, vertebrae-by-vertebrae
  • Scoop Abs: Scooping your abs from your belly button to your spine
  • Tabletop: Legs are at a 90-degree angle, knees directly above hips

What to Expect from the Reformer Machine

The Reformer is unlike any other piece of exercise equipment and, prior to a Pilates class, most people have never encountered or used one. That’s actually one of the reasons behind FRAME’s mission and vision––we know the power of the Pilates Reformer as an exercise and health apparatus and wanted to make it more accessible to more people! 

The Reformer itself consists of springs, straps, a foot bar, a box, a platform, and a carriage. The first thing you’ll do upon arriving in class is set the springs to the correct resistance for warm-up (your instructor will cue you). Most times you will change the springs throughout class, as the springs are how you adjust the weight resistance of the machine. The FRAME Reformer uses push-button technology, so if you’re working out with it at home, you won’t actually have to adjust any springs manually. All you have to do is push a button, which your instructor will signal you to do at the right time. Easy!

Your instructor may also use various accessories throughout the class, like a ball, a Pilates ring or a box, to facilitate a certain move to create a workout that both supports your joints and body and challenges your muscles in new ways. 

Tips to Keep in Mind

Lastly, here are a few tips to help ease your mind before your first Pilates class! This is hopefully the first of many classes that with commitment to a routine, will become a lifelong exercise practice. 

Wear Comfortable, But Not Loose Clothing

What you wear matters! You want to be able to move freely during class, so skip anything too constrictive. At the same time, you don’t want to risk getting caught in the Reformer machine or on one of the accessories, so avoid loose layers or anything that’s going to get in the way of concentrating on your form.

Focus on Slow Movement

You won’t win the race by completing the most reps. Instead, focus on slow, precise movement, carefully approaching each targeted movement with intention. Your form matters above all else, so take it slow and learn exactly how your body is meant to move.

It’s an Ongoing Practice

Whether you’ve been practicing Pilates for six days, six months, or six decades, it’s always an ongoing practice where you’re learning more about your body and your form. There’s always room to improve and master a new movement. That’s part of what makes it so exciting and stimulating!

Consistency is Key

The best way to improve your mind-body connection and increase your strength, flexibility, and posture is to keep at it. For a Reformer experience at home, FRAME has developed a sleek, digitally-connected Pilates Reformer that allows you to take classes whenever is convenient for you and makes it easier to stay consistent.



What other questions do you have before you take your first Pilates class? If you’ve taken a class before, what do you wish you’d known? What would you share with others? Share your insights and questions in the comments below!

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