Classical Vs Contemporary Pilates

In the Pilates community there are two camps classical instructors who teach on traditional equipment, follow the same sequence & cues that they believe Joseph Pilates taught. For example, Joseph Pilates used to teach hundreds as his first mat exercise & second reformer exercise with all springs on! (note classical reformers are different but still performing hundreds with all springs on is tough).

Contemporary instructors on the other hand honour the traditions of Pilates & teach exercises in a way that are backed by scientific research & knowledge.


I love Pilates & I wanted to love classical Pilates but I didn’t, I even joke that it was so hard I wanted to cry, the springs were really heavy, the class moved fast, the instructor used the same cues repeatedly & if you didn’t understand the cue you were on your own, the purists (classically trained) instructors moved with grace & us contemporary folk at the back looked at each other wide eyed, totally confused & uncoordinated which in hindsight not entirely different from my first reformer experience but much less enjoyable. Although given the opportunity I would probably do another classical class just to make sure I still felt the same way.




Classical Pilates reminds me of bikram yoga in terms of the same sequence being taught repeatedly & I do recognise the benefit of repetition on the mind & body on the road to self-mastery but I also believe variety is the spice of life.

So what does being a contemporary instructor mean to me & how does that influence my style of teaching?

As a contemporary Instructor I love teaching functional exercises that will benefit you in your daily life that are backed by scientific research & knowledge. I believe it is important to balance repetition & variety to keep the mind & body engaged. Repetition of an exercise allows us to get familiar with the movement & once familiar we can start to hone our technique to deepen the connection & understanding of the movement in our body & by doing so increase the challenge to our body. I believe technique is queen & will always advocate for good technique over heavy spring tension any day.

I also believe it’s important to challenge the mind & body to keep both guessing so neither gets complacent. To add variety to my classes I love adding layers to an exercise to balance the familiar & unfamiliar & I love linking related exercises so you can start to understand how the exercises interrelate to each other & how we can apply the same technique to different exercises & in different planes of motion to deepen our understanding & execution of an exercise.

Do you love repetition / do you believe variety is the spice of life or maybe you share my view in balancing both? Share your thoughts below.

Gemma Pritchard

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