Assessment Tips for Pilates Instructors

When I was fresh out of my Pilates training program the hardest thing for me to really wrap my head around was how to properly assess and gather information about a client so that I can best serve them through the Pilates method.

I knew that I was supposed to give them the studio intake and waiver so they can fill out the information, but beyond that it was up to me to interpret the information and translate it into movement. In the back my mind I always wanted to ask more questions than what was on the waiver but I felt it would get into the way of the work out. As I grew as an instructor, I began to realize all the questions I needed and wanted to ask always came up during our Pilates session. I realized I might as well just ask them in the beginning.

The 5 major parts of client assessment are:

  1. Asking questions that pertain to the person as a whole – mind, body and spirit
  2. Listening whole heartedly to the answers
  3. Looking at a body before it moves
  4. Looking at a body in movement
  5. Palpation of muscles

When these five areas are addressed, Pilates training can begin. I know the forementioned techniques for assessment can take a lengthy time for someone just starting out, but with time, assessment can take 15 minutes or less.

  • Asking questions that pertain to the “mind, body and spirit”

These questions tend to center around goals, why they came to Pilates, how much time they think they will be able to spend doing Pilates (days, months, years), if fitness is a regular part of their life routine, as well as how well they manage and recover from muscle pain. This is the time to ask about injuries, surgeries, disease, meaningful tasks that are challenging, their motivation and recovery plans.

  • Listening – give clients time answer all the questions without interruption

Take time to listen! Period.

  • Assessing a body before it moves is a great skill to have in your toolbox

Knowing how to give a thorough proper postural assessment is key to being a Pilates instructor. This will help you design work out programs so that your client can see the most improvement in the shortest amount of time. Be sure to assess your client in a standing position, sitting position, as well as lying on their back.

  • Assessing a body in movement is the next step in the process

This portion of the assessment should also be done standing, sitting, lying on their back, as well as on their side to get a well-rounded picture about their muscle patterns, articular structure and function.

  • Assessment is not possible without palpation

Touch is a powerful thing and a necessary skill as a Pilates instructor. Touch helps guide clients as well as give feedback to an instructor to let them know what muscles are working and which ones they need to activate. Palpating the core muscle groups while going through the movement assessment will help a client connect and activate the necessary muscles to achieve the given task.

Touch can also be a very tricky thing because it makes people feel vulnerable. Remember it is our place as instructors to make our clients feel comfortable. If they do not feel comfortable with palpation, then the structure of trust is weakened. I found as an instructor, the more confident I feel about the tactile cues I am giving, the more comfortable the client feels.

All in all it is better to assess and have all the answers you need so that you can best serve your client rather than find out about a major illness or injury in the middle of the session.

Thank you for reading. Share your thoughts and views on this in the comments section below.

June 25, 2015

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