Once the basic exercises are identified and shape ideas are understood, the client can start to enter into a more embodied practice with Effort and Phrasing which is an intermediate concept.

What is Effort?

Effort has to do with QUALITY and working efficiency in the body. This involves the fascia system. Quality words would: light / medium / heavy tension, strong and direct force, soft open spreading connectivity, float, etc. The list can go on and on…

How can we cue effort in a Reformer Pilates Class?

Example: INTERMEDIATE REFORMER CLASS (small group 6 people)

Let’s use footwork heels on for example; I say connect the bottom of the heel to the footbar through the entire body out through the top of the head, drive the energy into the footbar with force to press out, keep standing on the footbar as you come in. Feel the power of the resistance of the springs as you go out and find your own sense of resistance as you come in. This is a dynamic exercise, there is felt sense of strong effort of pushing to go out and pulling to come in. I often use cues to enhance this sense of effort – for example can you use your left side 30% more effort and power? It can also be less effort – can you work at 80-85% effort and find more ease and flow of movement?

What is Phrasing?

Phrasing has three parts – Preparation/ Initiation, Exertion/Action, & Recuperation. This is where you can dive into the flow of the movement being more specific of each part of the exercise or finding the part of the phrase that the client “skips through”.

The first part is the intention of the movement- spacial, effort, shape and expressiveness. We introduce movement patterning and simultaneous actions.


Let’s use Arms Pulling Straps on the Box – Arms Pulling Straight Back (Contemporary Variation)

1.Preparation: Prone Position, Find your neutral pelvis and spine reach through the legs to the top of the head. Can you find the sense of length from the crown of your head through the legs? Visualize the sequence

Emotional Cue: Spinal extension is a heart opening exercise, allow yourself to open your chest. Notice how you feel in this position.

2. Exertion/Action: What kind of movement is it? Sequential or spine as one action? What type of effort does it involve? What is the pacing of the movement- sudden, sustained, quick, light?

Continuing our example: On your next inhale start with the crown of the head begin to lift into extension of the spine, allowing the tops of the shoulders to roll open and back, with sequential movement while you simultaneously pull with sustained effort the arms straight back to the hips, Find a moment of suspension.

3. Recuperation: is the follow through of the exercise. Bringing the sequence of movement back to the starting position.

Cues for Recuperation: Can you take a few more repetitions and notice the ease of movement? What feels good about this exercise? What feels challenging? Allow yourself to come into the breath and find a finishing moment.

I love to teach phrasings as it creates flow of movement and brings the client’s awareness to a deeper understanding.

Do you use phrasing in your Pilates teaching?