Pilates Class

By Sally Ann Quirke, Chartered Physiotherapist | Filed under: Pilates Exercises


Key considerations to suit your particular health and fitness goals.

Are you considering a Pilates Class for conditioning, health and fitness? Or maybe to strengthen your body to minimise conditions like back pain? If so - do read on - and I will step you through some key considerations when choosing the RIGHT Pilates class for your needs and goals.

I have written this article especially for back and neck pain suffers, but it does apply to anyone considering taking up Pilates as an exercise program.

Pilates “is between you and your body” - just forget the world around you. Once you have taken the right in selecting the right pilates class for you - it’s time to reap the benefits and rewards!

Pilates Class
Choose a Pilates class that suits your goals

Class Sizes

Let’s start off by looking at class sizes - large or small?

I consider a large class to be about 12 Pilates students or over. Large classes are often cheaper to attend but you obviously get less attention compared with a smaller class setting. If you are fit, have no aches or pains, and are familiar or confident the principles of Pilates, then larger classes should be fine for you.

Smaller Class sizes are more suited to those who will do well from a bit more individual attention from the Pilates instructor or are doing Pilates to manage a back or neck problem. For our back and neck pain patients in our clinic, we take a maximum of ten in our Pilates classes. This is to ensure all our students can be monitored and corrected in their performance continuously. I believe all clients with neck or back pain require constant correction and advice as back pain alters the way we stand, sit and move.

Pilates Instructor

In my opinion - a Pilates teacher (like any good teacher) should to be thorough, clear, kind and patient and passionate about what they do.

For back and neck pain patients, you should ensure that your instructor is qualified and has studied anatomy, injury management and rehabilitation as part of their course. If unsure, ask them for details about their qualification or course and look it up online. Alternatively ask your Physical Therapist or Doctor to recommend a good instructor locally. I have more detail on becoming a Pilates Instructor here.

Class level / type

There are many types of Pilates classes on offer these days. What I would suggest is that you Figure out what you want from the class and choose a class that best suited to your goal. If you are looking to do Pilates to help manage a back pain, then joining a large cardio Pilates class will not really work for you.

Classes often range in difficulty level, normally ranged from level 1 to level 5. The important thing is that you progress through the difficulty levels and do not move to the harder classes prematurely. You must learn to control your body when performing the exercises at each level before you progress to the next. No matter how fit you are, there is little point in starting at a level 3 class if you are not doing the exercises correctly.

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One on One classes

Pilates class - back and neck pain
One on one session help you learn the basic principles of Pilates

If you are starting out on your Pilates journey, then I recommend that you consider taking a One on one session with your Pilates instructor before you start the class. That way, you get some individual tuition on the principles of Pilates and how to perform the exercises correctly. This will help you do well in a class environment. The Pilates instructor will also learn more about you and what types of exercise suit you best.

For back and neck pain patients, I believe this assessment is vital and I insist on potential Pilates students taking a one-on-one session with their Pilate’s instructor prior to attending their first class. It allows us to understand what your goals are, understand your back or neck issue, analyse your posture type and movement patterns so we can help you get the best out of your Pilates class. It also brings everyone up to the same basic level when they start the class so no one gets left behind!

Or not!?

In general, there are types of exercise programs that do not suit certain people and Pilates is no different. Pilates is a ‘slow burn exercise’ programme and should not be competitive between classmates. So if you are looking for an intense work out or thrive in competitive environment, then there may be other exercises that are better suited to that challenge.

It is important to note that not all Pilate’s exercises suit all body types and back pain problems. This is especially significant if you suffer from back or neck pain, as back and neck pain can be seriously worsened by Pilates if you are doing the exercises incorrectly. If you have back or neck pain always see a chartered physiotherapist or physical therapist before embarking on any exercise program, be it Pilates or something else.


Here are some more articles on Pilates


While the content and materials contained in the articles on this website have been written & researched by Sally Ann Quirke, a professional, practising & fully qualified Chartered Physiotherapist (Physical Therapist) based in Ireland, they are provided for general information and educational purposes only. They do not constitute medical advice on any particular individual situation. Please see your Chartered Physiotherapist or other medical practitioner for full and individual consultation.

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