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Building Strength with Pilates (Part 3)

Building Strength with Pilates (Part 3)

Throughout this series, we have been discussing common strategies to get muscles stronger. Now it’s time to discuss how to implement this into your Pilates programming.

When seeking strength gains, one must consider how to fatigue certain muscle groups while also allowing adequate recovery time to maximize their volume. There are many ways to do so, and today we will focus on incorporating a super-set and a drop-set within your programming.

For reference, a super-set is when we target a group of muscles throughout a set of exercises and then repeat the set 2-5 times. On the other hand, a drop-set is when we perform a particular exercise (i.e., a biceps curl) and take it to fatigue. Once this occurs, we drop some of the weight to allow our students to keep going. When they are tapped out, we continue to drop the weight to allow them to complete additional repetitions.

Those both boil down to the same thing – increase volume and get muscles fatigued.

Although it may be untraditional in a Pilate studio, if we want to generate more muscle mass, it may be in our best interest to do an exercise more than once in a session.

Here is an example of a Pilates-based super-set:

Scooter (left side – heavy)
Long stretch (light)
Kneeling arm circles (heavy)
Scooter (right side – heavy)
Long stretch (light)
Kneeling arm circles (heavy)
Scooter (left side – drop-set)
Long stretch (light)
Kneeling arm circles (drop-set)
Scooter (right side – drop-set)

This super-set challenges the strength of both the lower and upper extremities while allowing them the rest intermittingly. Note that long stretch is a light spring setting and is meant to keep the body moving while allowing the shoulder flexors and hip extensors to recover. The drop-sets are placed at the end, and the student does as many repetitions as they can on a heavy setting before dropping the springs to a medium setting to finish doing as many repetitions as possible. Once they are fatigued, we simply drop the spring to a light setting to bang out a few more repetitions.

Despite the contrast to a traditional Pilates session, this is a common strategy to get humans stronger. Not only can this be a phenomenal tool in your teaching toolbox, but it can also mix up your personal workouts.

Next time you are teaching in the studio, try blending a quick super-set into your routine and celebrate your strength gains!


Adam McAtee

Adam McAtee is located in Long Beach, California and is a Nationally Certified Pilates Teacher who has been in the industry for over a decade. He earned a B.S. in Exercise Science and is currently a Student of Physical Therapy at the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences. Adam’s passion for education inspired him to create the Pilates Meets Exercise Science workshop in which he bridges the gap between research and the Pilates studio. To him, knowledge is power, and it is essential to remain open to new information while maintaining the ability to adapt over time. To stay connected and learn more about Adam’s work, you can find him on Instagram @AdamMcAteePilates.

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