Principles of Pilates #5

The principles of Pilates (part 5)

With Pilates the way in which the exercises are executed is of more importance than the number of repetitions completed or the exertion used. Mastering a simple exercise is often far more complicated than producing a larger movement!

Joseph Pilates created 6 principles of Pilates, but over time these have been added to and there are now deemed to be 8 key principles:

  1. concentration
  2. centering
  3. breathing
  4. control
  5. precision
  6. flowing movement
  7. isolation
  8. routine

Today we’re going to look at precision.


“Correctly executed and mastered to the point of subconscious reaction, these exercises will reflect grace and balance in your routine activities” J Pilates

When he talked about ‘precision’ Joseph Pilates was referring to a precision, or exactness, in movement. Through repeatedly practising the same movements with the same precision each time, our movements will become graceful and seemingly effortless – think of a classical ballet dancer or a gymnast practising over and over again until they can perform a move with exact precision each time.

To move with precision requires concentration and mental feedback from visualising and understanding how the movement will look & feel when it is correct. Without feedback we will not know whether or not we are moving precisely but it is often difficult to receive feedback from our bodies when stronger muscles groups take over from the weaker ones we are trying to target.

In order to improve the feedback, movements need to be controlled. We must first start with our body in neutral alignment and we can then slow exercises down so that movements become synchronised – ie the movement speed in one part of the body (eg an arm) matches the speed of movement in another part of the body (eg a leg) and also co-ordinates with the pace of your breathing. When movements become out of time with another part of the body or out of time with the breathing, the exercise ceases to flow and becomes stressful to the body instead.

pilates precision

Initially when you perform an exercise, your body may not want to move in the way you are asking it to – it will tend to move in the way that it usually moves, as it will have a well-established pattern of movement already. It is said that it takes 1000 repetitions for the body to accept a new movement pattern. Obviously this takes time but can be achieved with regular repetition and practice.

The more accurate your movements when you practice, the sooner your body will adapt to the new movement patterns. Next time you are practising try to stay focused on:

  • the position your body is in at the start of an exercise
  • how the movement looks and feels as you perform it
  • whether your movements are co-ordinated with each other and with your breath



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