The Pilates Touch

Pilates training
Seth Joel/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Pilates is personal training.

Hold on because that's oversimplifying things.

In a perfect world, you learn Pilates from a trained specialist and train under their watchful eye and expert hands. Over time you become independent and become your own teacher. Meaning that although Pilates begins as personal training between teacher and student, it is intended to evolve into a sole practitioner practice, wholly owned and operated by you.

Like I said, personal.

In order to propel you to that magical place, Pilates trainers use one key tool that is largely absent in many other exercise regimes. Namely, touch. The power of hands-on teaching is undisputed and yet many exercisers are unaware of how much impact human touch can have on their results.

Beyond the obvious - "feels so good" here are some specific ways Pilates drives your progress through hands-on techniques specific to Pilates trainers.


Workout in front of a mirror and you may spot your misalignments – but maybe not. Symmetry is something trainers learn to identify quickly. Odds are that even if you have a good eye and see that you’re a little off-center – you won’t be able to do much about it. Pilates teachers are trained to cue you back into alignment. We place our hands under and over you to cue greater pressure, more length, less twisting all to get your body perfectly square.

By physically placing you where you need to be, hands-on touch allows you to actually feel where you need to be and, with practice, you’ll be able to do it on your own.


You don’t need weights to increase the resistance to your muscles. Pilates teachers are trained to use their hands, and their body weight in order to increase intensity and load to any muscle group.

More importantly, the sensory awareness of contact and gradually increasing load teaches your body to respond effectively and efficiently all while feeling safe and secure.


Hey you, human.  That’s right. We are after all just people living in a digital age. Physical contact is necessary for our health and well-being but it also connects us to our own bodies in a sensible way. When a teacher makes contact in a targeted manner, your body will internalize that contact, decode the sensation and then attempt to mimic it for future use. You build motor programs in this way and truly learn how to move better.

Let’s take a moment for a visual example.

Consider a common Pilates move from the Abdominal Series - the Criss Cross.

In your everyday practice, the Criss Cross requires focus and hard work but despite the highest level of motivation we can never get a 360-degree view of our own form. We can’t tell for sure if we're off-kilter with one hip, or one leg. Once our teachers spots these issues we may become more aware but without any physical or tactile adjustments we may not be able to fix or improve our technique past a certain point.

Enter the teacher.

Look now at the image for this article and you’ll see the obvious.

With attention to detail and some minor hands on push and pull the student can really push herself to her maximum level in a safe and extremely effective way.


Studies repeatedly show that training results are not all in your head. In fact, hands-on coaching is seen to affect specific neurotransmitter releases in the brain impacting our ability to learn and create successful motor patterns. Exercisers also report that learning is easier when trainers use hands-on techniques.

Check It Out

Ready to try it out? You’ll experience the most touch in a one-on-one Pilates lesson. If that kind of contact is overwhelming for you, don’t worry.

Try a group equipment class. Because Pilates equipment is large, group classes tend to be small allowing instructors to hop around the room adjusting bodies and administering targeted corrections. This way you’ll see if you like the teacher's style and get to test drive a workout that uses good old fashioned people skills to get profound results.