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Design, Execute and Modify a Program for Your Client

“The more you know about modifications and your clients, the easier it is to design a successful session.”

One of the most common obstacles pilates instructors face is the need to modify an exercise program during a session. A good instructor comes to a pilates appointment with a series of exercise for the client to do. However, even the most well-planned program may need to be modified. The key to success is knowing, based on the client’s unique biomechanics  and movement patterns, which modifications to make and how to implement them with confidence

Getting Started: Break Down Movement

Before deciding how to modify exercises during a session, you need to consider the rationale that underlies the program design. If you know how movement has been broken down to build a program, it becomes easier to analyze an exercise during a session and make adjustments. Here are some of the more common ways that instructors break down movement to build an exercise program:

1. Goal-Oriented

The aim is to develop a series of exercises that the client will execute over a period of time to reach desired goals.

2. Injury or Disease-Driven

The point is to tailor the program to certain limitations

3. Muscle Specific

4. Focus on Particular Joint

5. Compound Training versus Isolation Training

Isolation exercises are single-joint movements that focus on one muscle group, while compound exercises  use multiple joints and muscle groups.

Developing a exercise program is analogous to developing a business plan. You must create a foundation for how will lead the client to her/his desired results, while being mindful of all factors that will present themselves once the program begins.

Program Design:

Once you’ve decided how you’ll break down various moves, it’s time to choose the exercises for each session.

1. Scan for Structural Limitations

2. Watch For Unusual Movements

3. Estimate the Client’s Age Group

This action applies to youth and older adults.

4. Look at Body Weight and Mass.

5. Listen Carefully to the Client’s Stated Goals

This the most important evaluation of all and can deliver valuable information about the client’s bio mechanical characteristics. By listening, you learn how your client views his/her body, including limits and capabilities. 

Renee Ricca’s Instructor Tips:

1. Regress to Progress

2. Break down movements into simpler parts

3. Recognize the value in any movement

4. Stay Focused

5. Understand the concept of General Motor Ability

6. Know Your Client’s Exercise History and be Prepared to Incorporate it into your Modifications

7. Reassess Often

When a client struggles with an exercise that requires coordination, balance/strength, it is time to reassess the program. A complex exercise evaluated poorly is not nearly as valuable as an isolation exercise executed well.

In Good Health,

Renee Ricca


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