Personal Best Pilates Studio


Pilates Terminology / Glossary of Pilates Terms

Getting Started – Learn the Lingo!

Following is a glossary of terms commonly used around the Pilates Studio.  This list is intended to get you started, and is no way a complete list.

Abs:  Or abdominals, referring to the muscles in the front of the stomach.   While most people tend to think of the abs as only the rectus abdominus (the top layer of abdominals, commonly known as the “6 pack”), we actually have 4 layers of abdominals, the transverses abdominus, the internal obliques, the external obliques and the rectus abdominus.  Pilates is an extremely effective form of exercise to strengthen and tone all the abdominals, not just the rectus abdominus.

Balance:  When referring to Pilates exercise, the concept of balance has double meaing.  Pilates exercises help develop and improve Proprioceptive Balance as well as Muscular Balance.

Barrels:  The large and small Barrels are specialized Pilates equipment invented by Joseph Pilates.  Your instructor may incorporate the barrels to help position your body, as well as to add challenge and variety to your Pilates workouts.

Breath: One of the Six Pilates Principles. Joseph Pilates emphasized using a very full breath in his exercises. He advocated thinking of the lungs as a bellows -- using them strongly to pump the air fully in and out of the body. Most Pilates exercises coordinate with the breath, and using the breath properly is an integral part of Pilates exercise.

Cadillac:  Also called “Trapeze Table," this popular piece of equipment is one of the most effective and versatile of all Pilates apparatus. It comprises a raised, horizontal table top with a four-post frame to which are affixed a variety of bars, straps, springs, and levers.  While many gyms and fitness centers offer Pilates workouts on Reformers, Personal Best Pilates Studio clients will have the opportunity to “play” on ALL the Pilates equipment.

Centering:  One of the Six Pilates Principles.  Centering means physically and consciously bringing the focus to the center of the body, the core area between the lower ribs and pubic bone.  All Pilates exercises originate from center.

Cervical:  Having to do with the neck; the cervical vertebrae are the top seven bones in the spinal column supporting the neck and head.

Classical Pilates:  Classic Pilates refers to Pilates practice that does not deviate from the original teachings, techniques, flat spinal alignment, and order of the exercises that Joseph and Clara Pilates developed in the early 1920s through 1967.

Concentration:  One of the Six Pilates Principles.  If one brings full attention to the exercise and does it with full commitment, maximum value will be obtained from each movement.

Contemporary Pilates:  Contemporary Pilates is the newest generation of Pilates using modern science to adapt the original teachings to today’s knowledge. Instructors of the newer methods believe that although the method of Joseph Pilates was ahead of its time, certain changes needed to be made.  The primary difference between contemporary and classic methods is the placement of the spine. In classic Pilates, Joseph Pilates used a flat back as the ideal line for the spine while contemporary Pilates uses the neutral spine, with its natural curves, because it is the most shock absorbent position. Personal Best Pilates Studio is a contemporary Pilates studio.  We blend classical exercises with our knowledge of exercise science and biomechanics to create safe, effective and challenging workouts for our clients.

Control: One of the Six Pilates Principles.  Every Pilates exercise is done with complete muscular control. No body part is left to its own devices.

Contrology: The name that Joseph Pilates originally gave to his method of exercise. Pilates is now the preferred and popular term.

Core, the:  All the bones, joints and muscles from the shoulders to the pelvis; anterior, posterior, superior, inferior, lateral and medial.  Think of the muscles of the core as 3 dimensional, working as a unit to stabilize or mobilize the bones of the trunk.

Coccyx:  The tailbone.

Concentric:   A muscle contraction that results in shortening the muscle.

Disk:  A pad of shock-absorbing cartilage between two vertebrae.

Doming Abs:  Abdominal muscles that are pushed out, rather than pulled in, on contraction. Weak abs tend to dome, which can strain the lower back.  Your instructor at Personal Best Pilates Studio will teach you to access and contract all layers of your abdominals to develop a flat toned stomach.

Eccentric:  A muscle contraction that results in lengthening the muscle.

Extension:  Usually means an increase in the angle between two bones.

External Obliques:  Abdominal muscles on the right and left side of the waist.  These muscles flex the spine right side to left, and vice versa.

Flexion:   A muscle contraction that usually means a decrease in the angle between two bones
Flow:  One of the Six Pilates Principles.  Pilates exercise is done in a flowing manner. Fluidity, grace, and ease are goals applied to all exercises. The energy of an exercise connects all body parts and flows through the body in an even way. Pilates equipment, like the reformer, are very good mirrors of one's flow and concentration as they tend to bang around and suddenly become quite "machine-like" if one loses ones control and flow.

Hundred, The:  One of the most basic Pilates is The Hundred. It strengthens your abs and increases your circulation and prepares you for the other mat exercises. The Hundred involves proper breathing technique as well as body position, and can be performed by beginners or in advanced versions.

Hyperextension:  Straightening out the limb beyond its normal range of motion.

Imprinting the Spine:  Pressing each vertebrae into a flat position, taking the spine out of the natural curvature.

Intercostal muscles:  The muscles that run diagonally between each rib (also known as rib cage abs). Intercostals help to control the expansion and contraction of your rib cage when you breathe.

Internal Obliques:  Deep abdominal muscles on the right and left side of the lower waist.  These muscles flex the right side of the spine to the right side (side bending).

Joseph Pilates:   December 9, 1883 – October 9, 1967.  He invented and promoted the Pilates method of physical fitness.

Jump Board: The jump board is used in place of the foot bar on the Reformer.  It allows for continuous jumping exercises that may add a cardiovascular component to our Pilates workouts. The jump board can be used without jumps for low-impact repetitions that promote superior control of the lower part of the body. Advanced routines on the jump board are effective for power, coordination, core strength, and improving athletic performance.

Ligament:  A band of fibrous tissue that connects bones or cartilage at a joint or supports an organ.

Lumbar Spine:  The five large vertebrae in the lower back.

Magic Circle or Ring:  A simple isometric device comprising a flexible ring with handles.  Rings can be incorporated into mat or equipment workouts, or used by themselves as an efficient way to strengthen and tone arms and legs.

Mat, or Mat Work:  The most basic and essential of the Pilates method. Mat exercises use gravity and body weight as resistance, and can be performed just about anywhere. Contrary to what many people think, mat classes are not easier than equipment classes for beginners. We encourage ALL new clients to take at least one private session on the equipment before joining group classes.  Our mat classes range from Intro to Mat to Advanced.  

Mind-Body Exercise:  Pilates is a “mind-body” exercise method.  Mind body exercise is a type of exercise where the participants are asked to focus deeply in on the movements to better find the internal support muscles close to the joint, to learn to “multi-task” in a muscular sense, and to strengthen the neural-muscular response.

Navel to Spine:  The process of drawing your abdominal muscles up and in as you imagine your navel drawing toward your spine. This is an original cue that was used by Joseph Pilates to teach the action of contracting the deepest level of abdominals.

Neck Lengthened:  An element of good posture achieved by sending energy out the top of the head.  A lengthened neck maintains the natural curve of the neck and counteracts compression of the vertebrae that can occur with slumping.

Neutral Pelvis:  The pelvis in its most naturally efficient alignment. It's neither tucked under nor arched back; nor is it tilting to one side.

Neutral Spine: Keeping the natural curve in your spine during exercise rather than flattening it out or pressing it into the floor.  A misaligned spine causes compensating muscles to work too hard, which can result in undue stress, fatigue, pain, and potential injury. Pilates encourages you to identify and achieve your neutral spine. Neutral spine can be found by aligning the hip bones on the same horizontal plane as the pubic bone (which is also known as neutral pelvis).

Pelvic Floor Muscles:  The deep internal muscles engaged when halting urination or performing a Kegel exercise.  While most types of popular exercise generally ignore the pelvic floor muscle, Pilates specifically incorporates these very important structural muscles into the work.

Pelvis:  The lower part of the abdomen located between the hip bones, the basin-shaped structure that supports the spinal column.

Pilates Method Alliance (PMA): The leading not-for-profit trade association for Pilates professionals.  The Pilates Method Alliance Certified Pilates Teacher exam is the ONLY non-profit, psychometrically validated, third party professional certification exam in the Pilates industry.

Powerhouse: Joseph Pilates' term for the core region of the torso, including the abdominal muscles, pelvic girdle, buttocks and lower back.  This term used by many Pilates instructors to describe the "girdle of strength" in the center of your body, just below your navel.

Precision: One of the Six Pilates Principles.  In Pilates, awareness is sustained throughout each movement. There is an appropriate placement, alignment relative to other body parts, and trajectory for each part of the body.

Pregnancy and Pilates: Pilates focuses on movements designed to strengthen the deep stabilizing muscles of the abdomen and pelvic floor, "the core" muscles. These muscles are important during pregnancy, as are proper breathing and stretching movements. The instructors at Personal Best Pilates Studio will consider the special needs of expectant mothers by emphasizing comfort and safety, and teaching proper positioning, appropriate stretching, and techniques for back pain relief. During pregnancy, it is advisable to check with your doctor before beginning a new exercise program.

Prone: Lying on your front, face down.

Quadriceps: The large extensor muscle at the front of the thigh.

Rectus Abdominus: The section of muscles running down the stomach that, when toned, give you those flat washboard abs.

Reformer: This Pilates apparatus is a sophisticated system of springs, straps, and pulleys, with a gliding platform on which you can sit, kneel, stand, or lie on the front, back, or side. It is designed to promote torso stability and postural alignment. The adjustable springs allow for progressive resistance, which helps in strengthening and lengthening muscles gradually. While many gyms and fitness centers offer Pilates workouts on Reformers, Personal Best Pilates Studio clients will have the opportunity to “play” on ALL the Pilates equipment.

Rotation: Twisting around a central axis.

Sacrum: The five vertebrae above the tailbone and at the top of the pelvis, usually fused together into a triangular bone.

Scapulae: Shoulder blades.

Six Pilates Principles: Centering, Concentration, Control, Precision, Breath and Flow.  For many, these six principles are the foundation of the Pilates approach to exercise. Their application to the Pilates method of exercise is part of what makes it unique in the fitness world.  It is important to note that Joseph Pilates did not directly set out the Pilates principles. They are concepts distilled from Joseph Pilates' work by later instructors. Because of this, there is not always agreement in the Pilates community about the order of the principles, the specific words used for certain concepts, or the number of principles.

Spine: The back bone, a series of vertebrae that protects the spinal cord.

Supine: Lying on your back, face up.

Scooping Your Abs: The opposite of “doming”, to scoop your abs means to draw the deepest layers of the abdominal muscles up and in to stabilize the body and support the back. This action supports powerful movement emanating from the center of the body and helps to flatten your stomach.

Tendon: A band of flexible, fibrous tissue connecting a muscle to bone.

Thoracic Spine: The 12 central bones in the spinal column that attach to the rib cage.

Transversus Abdominus: The deepest layer of abdominal muscles that help stabilize the core.

Triceps: The muscle at the back of the upper arm that extends or straightens the elbow.

Vertebrae: The 32 to 34 bones that make up the spine. Between the vertebrae are intervertebral discs that add cushioning and elasticity. Structural problems in the spine, such as too much or too little curvature, cause poor posture. One of the benefits of Pilates is to strengthen the core muscles to improve posture.  Pilates is one of the best methods of exercises availability to help clients maintain a healthy spine for life!

Wunda Chair: A Pilates exercise apparatus designed to help you find and strengthen your core. On this machine you can perform more than 75 exercises involving push-up-like moves with the arms. It also develops the knees and restores a sense of proper balance. While many gyms and fitness centers offer Pilates workouts on Reformers, Personal Best Pilates Studio clients will have the opportunity to “play” on ALL the Pilates equipment


Personal Best Pilates Studio is the ONLY Pilates Studio in the Kansas City area that requires PMA Certification for all our Pilates Teachers.
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