Pilates instructor leading a class in a studio
Pilates instructor leading a class in a studio
Pilates instructor leading a class in a studio

Become a Pilates Instructor

From instructor qualities to qualifications, our guide explains all

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Introduction to Pilates

Pilates is an incredibly popular form of exercise that’s used to improve musculoskeletal health and function of those who participate in it. Typically, this specialised form of exercise is performed with a mat, usually with the participant’s own bodyweight. There are also times when mat Pilates classes call for the use of equipment and this could range from stability balls, foam rollers, resistance bands and circles, just to name a few.

Another, more advanced, form of the practice is reformer Pilates. Instead of mats, these classes use a reformer. This bed-like apparatus, as pictured below, has the potential to provide a much more dynamic and ultimately challenging workout. Due to the size of the equipment needed, reformer Pilates is usually taught in bespoke studios and larger gyms and health clubs.

Reformer Pilates

From Contrology to Modern Pilates

What we now know and practice as Pilates was pioneered in the early 20th century by the eponymous Joseph Pilates. Joseph was born on 9th December 1883 in Mönchengladbach, Germany. As a child, he suffered from asthma, rickets and rheumatic fever. Doctors told his parents he would die prematurely, but Joseph was immensely determined to return his body to peak physical condition.

The mind, when housed within a healthful body, possess a glorious sense of power – Joseph Pilates

His journey took him to England in the early 1910s, but when the First World War broke out, he was interned with people of various nationalities including German, Austrian and Turkish on the Isle of Mann. It was a dark period in history that is still sombrely remembered by Camp Knockaloe. While interned, Joseph honed his methods, working with patients who were unable to walk. He developed a new piece of equipment by attaching springs to hospital beds as a way to support a patients’ limbs. However crude it may seemed at the time this was the precursor to the modern-day reformer.

From England, Joseph travelled with his wife Clara to America and opened a gym in New York. It was here that he truly refined his work, focusing on a restorative form of exercise that attracted many people from the world of performing arts, particularly high profile dancers.

Joseph Pilates leading a Contrology class

Before his death in 1967, he published his work in written form, starting with Your Health: A Corrective System of Exercising That Revolutionizes the Entire Field of Physical Education and the seminal Return to Life Through Contrology. Two texts that are still highly regarded by the Pilates community.

Instructor qualities

Pilates classes need to be delivered in a precise and controlled manner, because of this, instructors must have a high attention to detail. Supplementary to this, Pilates instructors are required to motivate, encourage and inspire all those who participate in their class. If participants feel like they’re being supported and can see real value in the class they’re engaging in, they are more likely to return time and time again. Aside from teaching classes, instructors may also need to travel to clients’ homes for care advice or places of work as a part of increasing popular corporate wellness programmes.

A body free from nervous tension and fatigue is the ideal shelter provided by nature for housing a well balanced mind, fully capable of successfully meeting all the complex problems of modern living – Joseph Pilates

As a practice, Pilates is perfectly suited to enhancing flexibility and some aspects of injury rehabilitation – this goes back to Joseph’s original motivations for developing Contrology in the first place.

HFE Pilates instructor training

No client or participant is ever going to be identical. Skill levels, flexibility, postural and musculoskeletal requirements, even right down to expectations and goals are all going to be different. The best instructors have an open-minded, adaptable approach and are able to cater to everyone’s needs.

Pilates instructor training

As basic as it may sound, in order to teach Pilates, instructors need an awarding body accredited Level 3 Diploma in Mat Pilates. Not only is this qualification needed for professionalism and insurance purposes, but it opens the door to Joseph’s original concepts and exercises with the principles and fundamentals of Pilates; the tools to perform postural assessments and correct various postural conditions; and the most effective practices for planning and teaching Pilates classes.

HFE Pilates instructor training

Because Pilates can be used to treat a wide range of physical conditions, it’s often an incredibly worthwhile and profitable upskill opportunity for yoga teachers, running/athletics coaches, personal trainers and sports massage therapists.

More information about the various upskill routes available for current or prospective Pilates instructors can be found here.

Employment opportunities for Pilates instructors

The following is by far an exhaustive list, but here are few places where qualified Pilates instructors can find work. At the end of the day, the only real limitation to a successful career in the fitness industry is an instructor’s imagination, confidence and desire to help others achieve their exercise goals.

  • Private gyms and health clubs
  • One-to-one clients
  • Corporate fitness/wellness programmes
  • Exercise referral schemes*
  • Fitness retreats, cruise ships and holiday resorts
  • Dedicated mat/reformer Pilates studios
  • Local authorities (e.g. leisure centres)

*Requires a recognised Level 3 Exercise Referral qualification

Next steps

If you’re interested in learning more about the history and fundamentals of Pilates or discovering more about the learning materials available to those studying mat Pilates, we have a sample learner manual, mock exams and award-winning blog for you to experience.


Become a Pilates Instructor

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