Pilates Terminology

When getting into pilates, you can really be overwhelmed by the expanse of it all. There are over 500 different exercises that make up the program, and a beginner may really feel like they’ve gotten in over their heads. In this article, we’ll help you to learn some of the basic terms that pilates employs in order to increase your understanding of the program and make you more comfortable with it.

First, there are many terms that contrast each other, and getting to know them is a great first step. For instance, the terms abduction and adduction are commonly used throughout the program. Abduction refers to any type of muscle contraction that does not focus itself towards the middle of the body.

Adduction, on the other hand, refers to muscle contractions which focus themselves upon the midpoint of the body. Concentric and eccentric are two commonplace words that are used in pilates as well as many other forms of exercise. In concentric exercises, the muscle is shortened, and by the same token, eccentric exercises lengthen the muscle.


Next, you’ll want to know some of the terms behind the positions that you should be in to perform the pilates exercises. While a good pilates instructor will give you step-by-step instructions, you should know some of the terminology that goes with the motions. For instance, a ‘supine’ position denotes that you are lying on your back with your head facing upwards. By contrast, the ‘prone’ position refers to laying face down on your stomach.

You’re also going to want to know some of the parts of the anatomy in which pilates focuses on. The more that you know about your body, the more accurately you can focus your energies on the parts that you’re working out. The spine is the basis for all pilates, and it is made up of 33 different vertebrae.

The Spine

Understanding the spine is of utmost importance in order to attain proper balance and focus. There are different groups of the vertebrae, and we’ll begin with the top of the spine and work our way down. At the top of the spine, you’ll find the seven vertebrae that make up the cervical region.

Coincidentally, most activities that involve the neck may use the term cervical to denote the area of exercise. Next comes the thoracic vertebrae; they are the part of the spine that connects to the rib cage. Below the thoracic vertebrae are the lumbars, which are larger vertebrae that support the lower back.

After the lumbars, the sacrum vertebrae are found. These five vertebrae are located around the top of the pelvis, and reach the tailbone at their end. An understanding of the bones in the back is key to getting the most out of your pilates workout.

In addition to understanding the vertebrae, the ‘powerhouse’ is a term that you’re going to want to learn. It is the term that Joseph Pilates coined in order to refer to the most crucial area of the body that pilates strengthens. The powerhouse is defined as the torso area that includes the muscles of the abdomen, the pelvic region, the lower back, and the buttocks.

Now that you’ve got a basic idea of the terms that are related to pilates, you can be more confident the next time you engage yourself in the activity. Whether at a fitness center or at home exercising yourself, a greater understanding of the activities can have numerous positive benefits.