Big & Curvy Pilates (Part 1)

Before you start reading, do me a quick favor. Type “Pilates” in a Google image search. Now, what do you see as you scroll down?

Now imagine you are a big and curvy-bodied person who just finished running a 6-12 hour adventure race in the top 25 and experienced some hip pain during the mountain bike leg. You heard Pilates can help to improve your core strength and lessen your joint pain. Yet, what would the Google search images say to you? Do you feel welcome to book a session or try a class?

With these thoughts in mind, let’s begin…
The Pilates industry is making strides to become more inclusive due to the current political climate and the wake of the Movement for Black Lives. A big part of this transition towards a more inclusive Pilates culture is that bigger body types are capable, graceful, and powerful. Learning how to effectively train a big, curvy, powerful body gives you access to a broader and more diverse client base, equating to higher profits.

Big Curvy Pilates Body

Many stigmas against bigger, curvy body types start with the Body Mass Index (BMI). BMI is inherently biased and based initially on a particular body type, which is more often than not imagined as thin and narrowly framed. Currently, nearly 30% of all Americans have BMI’s of over 25, and 40% of all Americans are rated as obese on the BMI scale. The problem is that a significant percentage of these people are relatively fit; they are simply big, curvy, and ready to do challenging Pilates exercises.

Granted, the BMI can indicate that your clients are overweight or even obese. It can also stigmatize your clients and limit the initial expectations you, as an instructor, may have. These inherited preconceptions can reduce these clients into pre-Pilates/basic levels in which they must prove their way out. This can waste your client’s time and money, ultimately leading them to not renew their package or prematurely end their class membership.

Big and curvy body types should be respected and trained differently. As Pilates practitioners, that is our job: to train the body in front of us that will empower them to feel good and love the body they are in.

There are several ways you can educate yourself as an instructor to be more open and mindful to create a positive and challenging learning environment for big curvy bodies.

  1. Advocate for more research in exercise science on bigger, curvier body types. It is near depressing how most research on big body types is hyper-focused on weight loss and injury prevention. There is very little on challenging a big curvy body in athletic performance or advanced training techniques. Help us change that by advocating for local universities and schools to do the research.
  2. Observe at a studio that specializes in training bigger body types.
  3. Reach out on social media for Pilates influencers that highlight bigger, more diverse body types doing challenging exercises: @pilatesschoolsf and @size_diverse_pilates are only a handful of great resources.
  4. When posting marketing content, highlight big curvy body types (in all genders). If you help represent big & curvy bodies more, a big curvy young person out there that will realize Pilates is for them too. Maybe their Google image search will show their body type doing an advanced rockstar exercise in the near future.

We can make these changes happen as an industry and show that Pilates is truly for everyBODY.
In my next article, I will get into the nitty-gritty of how to approach training a big curvy body within the Classical Pilates progression..stay tuned!


Rayannah "Ray" Salhuddin

Co-Owner, Classical Pilates Instructor/ Personal Trainer at Pilates School SF. Ray has worked in the fitness, health, and intercollegiate sports industries for over 26 years. Aside from her Classical Pilates certification, she holds advanced degrees in Kinesiology, as well as numerous certifications in pretty much everything but Yoga. That said, you will never catch her calling herself Dr. Salahuddin. You will catch her dorking-out over the latest exercises science research and having super fun with her kid DD.

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