Cues: A Handful of Great Ones Are All You Need
Clearly, the festival in Rome made me appreciate Pilates ever more in many ways. Another thing it reminded me of is the value of a few great cues and using them strongly. I’ve taught in many different countries; sometimes with translators and sometimes without. You don’t need to actually speak the language to teach effectively. This pretty much goes for your own language, too! What I mean is that you need to be clear, concise and use some stunningly simplistic and effective cues. There’s no need to be verbose…just effective.
In Rome, I was with a wonderful Italian translator, but I found it most effective to learn a couple of great phrases, as I have in other countries, so that I could teach my students in group workouts well. This “translates” to teaching in your own language too. You’ve got to be able to cue the abdominals, the spine, arms, legs, up/down, inhale/exhale and count. That’s all there is to it.
In the U.S. and all over the world, I see teachers struggle with other cues, but miss the basics. Trying to get clients to understand ribs and shoulders and the like when the abdominals are popping out all over the place and spines are collapsing. It’s all about basics…first and foremost. So…make sure those are great and you’ll always give a fantastic class. Don’t worry about the other stuff. While other cues are certainly important, establish the foundational actions of lifted abodminals and spines, first…and continually. Once they are rockin’…then you might consider moving on to other cues. But first things must always be first: abdominals in and up and lifted spines!
Here’s what I found valuable to use over and over again:
Abdominals in and Up – “Adominali in dentro e su”. They all kept telling me to shorten it to “belly in” (in Italian) which gave me the opportunity to teach them that it’s worth using a long phrase…and I share the same with you. Use the entire phrased “Scoop your Abominals In and Up”. It’s a mouthful, but gives the full value of the action!
Grow – As in lengthen your spine! In Italian it is “crescere”. The command is “cresci” or “cresce” (I don’t know my Italian spelling…forgive me!) and that was outrageously effective as it is in English! Constantly cue your clients to lengthen in every exercise. The action of the spine is utterly important. The action is always to grow!
Lift your spine spine – “Su con la spina dorsali”.
Up Down – Incredibly useful words. Of course! In Italian, for me to say “Su e giu” made all the difference. Remember, of course, that you say “down” first to establish a grounding set up and then “up” because we’re always looking to lift away from gravity and the ground. We only go down to go up!
First/Next – “Prima e Prossimo”. We need these words as we teach: First, scoop your abominals in and up. Next, lift your spine.
Numbers – 1-10 –
- A no brainer, but counting is important. If you take sessions from me, I always say that you count, not me. It is the client’s responsibility. However, it’s also the teacher’s responsibility to know exactly where you are at all times and how many repetitions each exercises gets. Even if you pretend not to know which rep you’re on/smoke-screen your clients to get them to take responsibility for their session and stay present…you actually have to be more present than your clients.
- Count backwards. A client or group knows how many reps to do if you start with the ultimate number in your counting.
I’m not trying to encourage you to teach in Italian…not by any means…what I’m hoping to express to you is that with limited vocabulary you can have an incredible class. Your clients will be challenged with simplicity and repetition! It’s awfully tempting to over-teach. Trust in the method of Pilates (the exercises themselves) and then cue simply starting with the abominals and then the spine. That’s all it’s ever about: abdominals and spine.
Oh…and in English or any other language, use words of adulation and appreciation! “Very good”! and “Thank you!” “Molto bene!” and “Grazie!”
Thank you, once again, for reading! Please take a moment to comment even just to say hi and let me know who you are! If you ever have any questions or wish to request a blog post topic, please drop that into the comment box, too! I’d love to hear from you! If you’re in NYC and want to take a session, e-mail me at info@TheVerticalWorkshop.com and let’s set one up!*****
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