What exactly does “Level 2” or “Level 3” mean in Pilates, anyway? How can we differentiate between levels? How do we know what level we’re practicing?
Joe Pilates didn’t actually break up his work into levels. He ran his studio in a very different time. There were no such thing as “group classes” or differing styles of Pilates. There were no Pilates Certification programs or schools. But things are different now. Studios differ vastly in their approach to the work, movement philosophies, and teaching styles. Especially when working in a group Pilates setting, it’s important to keep people working on a consistent level–this ensures safety, sets clear expectations, keeps the class moving at the appropriate pace, and helps clients continually advance their Pilates practice.
So to keep classes moving and keep everyone safe, we have gotten REALLY SPECIFIC about levels within our studio.
At MVP, our teachers don’t all come from the same teacher training program. We feature teachers from a diverse array of Pilates backgrounds and training programs. We value this diversity; it enriches our work and broadens our perspectives.
Although we may teach different variations of exercises, we’re all committed to high-quality movement and the Pilates principles of breath, whole-body movement, working from a strong center, precision, and control.
Our teachers all use the following criteria to define working levels at MVP.
Note: This is meant to be used as a general guide, not a hard-and-fast rule book. These levels apply to privates, duets, and group classes…although privates and duets have more flexibility to mix levels.
Introductory concepts should be learned through private sessions, or through an Introduction to Pilates series. Clients who haven’t learned these concepts should not take group classes.
Brand-new Pilates practitioners. These students:
Are learning to stabilize before moving; are building control, awareness, and appropriate muscle recruitment
Understand the importance of breathing and are beginning to coordinate breath with movement.
Understand the concept of pelvic positioning (neutral pelvis/anterior tilt/posterior tilt) and can adjust the position of his or her pelvis as cued by the teacher.
Can lift and lengthen the spine and corresponding muscles to support the body while on the equipment or mat.
SAMPLE EXERCISES (not a comprehensive list):
Reformer: Equipment set-up/Spring Changes; Footwork
Mat: Breath Exercises; Pre-Pilates/preparatory exercises; 1/2 Roll Backs; Leg Slides; Leg Lifts/Toe Taps; Pelvic Curls (aka Articulated Bridges); Spine Twists Supine
Level 1: Fundamental/Beginner
Practitioners who have done some Pilates. These students:
Are aware of breath and are beginning to naturally coordinate breath with movement.
Can maintain a stable pelvic position during open chain, closed chain, or semi-closed chain exercises.
Can control their equipment with their body—for instance, can close the reformer carriage quietly without “banging,” change springs and put feet or hands in reformer straps efficiently and safely.
Can stabilize shoulders/scapulae during upper body movement.
Reformer: The One Hundred, Elephant, Leg Circles & Frog in straps
Mat: The One Hundred, Spine Stretch, Rolling Like a Ball
Level 2: Beyond Beginner
Advanced Beginner through Low Intermediate practitioners. These students:
Know/recognize most of the fundamental Pilates exercises by name and are familiar with their corresponding equipment setups.
Have built up breath capacity and stamina to work at a quicker pace with less need for cueing from the teacher.
Are moving in flexion and extension exercises, as well as learning fundamental side-bending and rotation exercises.
Know how to modify exercises for their own bodies, if needed. (Note: MVP teachers are always committed to keeping clients safe when exercises don’t fit, it’s important for clients at this level and beyond to know their bodies and how to adjust for themselves.)
Reformer: Coordination; Short Box Round and Flat Back
Mat: Side Kick Series; Single and Double Leg Kick
Level 3: Intermediate
Can incorporate rhythm and dynamic movement and flow through transitions.
Can navigate safely with fewer points of contact (e.g., kneeling on the reformer instead of lying supine).
Are increasing range of motion, learning inversions, and learning more complex rotational and side-bending exercises.
For classical classes: clients have a working knowledge of fundamental exercise order, choreography, equipment set-up, and transitions to flow through the workout with minimal interruption.
Reformer: Teaser on the Long Box; Kneeling Chest Expansion; Short Spine; Side Splits Series
Mat: Neck Pull, Shoulder Bridge, Swimming, Roll Over
Level 4: High Intermediate/Advanced
Can flow through a workout with control and efficiency.
Can adjust quickly to variations or additions as cued by teacher.
Can retain balance while on an unstable surface without spotting while moving/changing directions: this includes rotation, lateral flexion, and extension.
Can activate muscles on cue with minimal compensations and find nuanced adjustments in exercises.
Reformer: Kneeling Side Arm Series; Overhead; Tendon Stretch
Mat: Jack knife, Side Bend, Boomerang
Level 5: Super Advanced/Master
Practitioners who know the method very well and have been practicing for years.
Reformer: Snake/Twist; Star; High Bridge
Mat: Control Balance; Twists; Crab