In an article discussing the practicalities of teaching pilates to people who have larger bodies, expert instructor Zoey Trap offers some real-life strategies and practical tips to help work effectively with overweight clients. Although these relate to pilates exercises, equipment and props, these suggestions can be applied to any type of movement or activity for people who are overweight.
1. Focus on the positive.
Emphasising what your clients are physically able to do is important because it helps them to feel successful and effective when they exercise with you. A focus on weak areas, or areas of lower mobility may reduce motivation and make it more psychologically difficult for your clients to develop a regular exercise routine.
2. Learn to anticipate their needs.
If you have props which support people with less mobility, make sure these are ready and presented to every client you work with. When introducing an exercise, start with the simpler variations, and make sure these are part of the task, rather than presented as a ‘lesser’ option to clients.
3. Consider the best way to keep your clients comfortably involved.
Often overweight clients lack stamina to hold a particular position for an extended period of time. Keep your clients who struggle with longer poses or positions engaged by offering more frequent movement changes.
4. Monitor for overexertion.
In particular look out for clients who are holding their breath, or are severely out of breath, or are distorting their faces. When this happens, introduce some basics like stretching or breathing exercises to help them recover before you get back into the more challenging activities.
5. Remember that there may be muscle imbalances to address.
It’s common for overweight clients to be imbalanced in some way – in particular the hip rotators and hip flexors are often tight, as well as weak abdominals, inner thighs and glutes. Consider developing your teaching approach to gradually address these imbalances over time.
6. Finish on a high.
Wrap up your session with an activity that you know your clients enjoy, reinforce what they did well, and gently remind them what areas they can work on in between sessions. It helps to leave things on a good note so that your clients leave with a sense of positive achievement!
Reference: Trap, Z. (2014). Pilates for Larger Bodies. IDEA Fitness Journal, 11(4), 76–79.
What modifications do you make to support people who have larger bodies to be comfortable when training with you?