Pilates Sequencing and objectives

Essential Pilates sequencing includes the following exercises and objectives.


  • identification of neutral position of the lumbar and cervical spine,
  • c/s flexion and rotation, ribcage placement with breath work,
  • abdominal preps or c/s and t/s flexion engaging transverse abdominals, progressing in level of ab recruitment and difficulty to include obliques and rectus abdominus, in that order,
  • shoulder blade isolation and stabilization encouraging protraction and depression, including posterior shoulder circles,
  • bridging done with neutral spine,
  • hamstring stretches done with neutral of the cervical and lumbar spine progressing to sitting upright in neutral spine, legs in front slightly bent or straight and adding trunk forward flexion,
  • abdominal strengthening done with minimal strain on the cervical flexors, avoiding compression of the l /s or done in neutral.
  • Spinal rotation being motivated from the thoracic spine with lengthening of the entire spine is also practiced.


  • Thoracic extension with cervical lengthening, avoiding over extension of the c/s,
  • all prone exercises emphasize scapulae stabilization; usually depression and retraction need to be emphasized,
  • All prone trunk extension exercises are done while holding neutral or navel held upwards, to encourage decompression of the spine, lengthening of the vertebrae and avoiding lumbar over extension,
  • single leg reach, progressing to simple knee flexion exercises, followed by hip flexor stretches, all done with lengthened hamstrings and navel lifted, again to avoid l/s over extension.

Quadruped (or cat):

  • to develop connection of the shoulder girdle with the trunk, ability to weight bear through the knees and hands,
  • to develop muscle activation, strength and stability of the spine, shoulder girdle and hip.

Lateral or side-lying:

  • to activate and lengthen the lateral leg, pelvis and trunk muscles; ITB, QL, deep hip rotators, obliques, serratus, lateral cervical muscles,
  • the mermaid position is introduced to develop lateral hip and trunk range of motion, mainly of thoracic lateral flexion.


  • 5-10 minutes of standing exercises are introduced, maintaining neutral alignment with shoulders over hips, while performing ankle, knee and hip flexion exercises including plias in three positions, stork, eagle, warrior 1, chair and forward bend yoga poses
  • , progressed into walking hands forward into quadruped or plank,
  • Standing in neutral practicing shoulder ROM exercises for scapula placement and stability, gentle opening of the anterior shoulder, and progressing to full shoulder ROM i.e. posterior arm circles with proper rib-cage placement.

Use of small equipment or props:

  • Resistance bands and balls, fitness circle, foam rollers and small stability balls are integrated into the class to add gentle resistance and to challenge core stability.

Essential Pilates is ideal for those clients who:

  • are healthy but require more or a therapeutic form of exercise,
  • have resolved any acute pain symptoms,
  • have chronically overused muscle group(s),
  • have chronic pain which has stabilized and who would benefit from non-weight bearing exercise,
  • are able to perform trunk flexion and extension without exacerbating symptoms (although Pilates flexion and extension exercises done correctly and with proper cuing will relieve nerve impingement),
  • pass a PARQ. If they do not pass a PARQ then they should be cleared by their family physician before participating and kindly complete the Pilates referral form,
  • Anyone with restrictions and limitations or who’s pain is made worse with certain movements should start with Therapeutic Pilates described below.

All exercises are done in a gentle manner and pace, emphasizing proper breathing techniques and alignment of the spine, pelvis and scapulae with each exercise. The five basic principles of Pilates are followed to develop proper Form. Clients are reminded to keep range of motion demands within their tolerance, especially of the shoulder. Clients are encouraged to completely relax between each repetition to better facilitate motor-neural re-patterning or to learn how to completely turn on and turn off the muscles being recruited. Clients experience of feeling of being taller, aligned, relaxed and energized. With repetition of the program; tight and held muscles become released and weakened ones become stronger, for a balancing full body strength and flexibility workout.

A Therapeutic version of the above is suitable for those who have a specific diagnosis with significant movement contraindications. Therapeutic Pilates eliminates any forward flexion and works on establishing neutral posture of the c/s and l/s, core stability and strength, hip flexor and hamstring flexibility, along with micro-movements of the c/s, shoulders, hips and pelvis, to enable the client to ‘come out of ‘ harmful postures or motor-patterns and maintain the neutral curves of the spine.

The program progresses to Function or level 2 then Flow: Once proper form is established, more intermediate and advanced exercise sequences are introduced (roll over, control balance, 100s and ‘V’ sit Preps) to further develop full body strength, flexibility and spinal mobility. Alignment of the limbs and integration of the joints; ankle, knee, hip – wrist, elbow and shoulder are addressed. Stability is challenged; foam roller, stability ball, stability disc, etc. are added to further develop core strength and integration of the joints with the core. Flow or level 3, integrates all of the Pilates exercises moving from one exercise to the other at a faster rate to develop speed and agility. Props are used throughout for added intensity. Exercise selection should be based on the clients sport/work demands or biomechanical needs.