Pilates has been trending in the fitness industry for years and Pilates group fitness classes are among the most popular in most gyms. If you’re passionate about Pilates and have ever thought about creating a career out of that love, then this is the article for you. 

With many reputable certification courses available online, the path to becoming a Pilates instructor has never been more achievable. This article will lay out that path for you.

Overview

There are eight steps that we are about to go through in detail that will take you from novice to professional Pilates instructor …

  • Step One: Take a range of classes
  • Step Two: Take a self-inventory
  • Step Three: Decide on what you want to teach
  • Step Four: Decide on your certification program
  • Step Five: Complete your course of study
  • Step Six: Get insured
  • Step Seven: Seek employment opportunities
  • Step Eight: Take continuing education courses

Step One: Take a Range of Classes

The first step toward your career as a Pilates instructor is to fully immerse yourself in the Pilates class experience. I recommend taking several classes each week for at least six months. This will give you an opportunity to become proficient with the movement involved and to get to understand how your body responds to Pilates exercise. 

Over this period of time, endeavor to take classes with as wide a range of instructors as you can. Take note of how they go about their work. Here are some things to look out for:

  • What do they do to relax group members at the beginning of the class?
  • How do they manage to monitor all class members in large classes?
  • How much individualized instruction and attention do they give to newbies?
  • How do they keep the session flowing and upbeat?
  • How do they keep the class motivated?

I recommend keeping a journal in which you record your responses to these and other questions that come to mind. Then write down your overall impressions of the instructor’s classes. 

Which instructor is your favorite? What makes that person better than the others? What would you do differently to any of the instructors if you were at the front of the class? 

Step Two: Take a Self Inventory

Having a passion for Pilates is the prime requirement for a Pilates instructor. A close second is having both the desire and the personal qualities to become a teacher. Here’s a list of questions to honestly ask yourself before you start investing time and money in the registration process:

  • Do I enjoy teaching others?
  • Do I have the patience to instruct people with a range of abilities and fitness levels through physical movement patterns?
  • Am I comfortable being the center of attention?
  • Am I comfortable speaking in public?
  • Do I have an outgoing, upbeat personality?
  • Can I motivate and sustain the energy level of other people?
  • Am I interested in the study of anatomy, kinesiology, and biomechanics?
  • Am I self-motivated?
  • Am I prepared for the responsibilities and inconsistencies of self-employment?

Step Three: Decide on What You Want to Teach

When it comes to teaching Pilates, some distinctions need to be made. Instructors who run group classes in gyms are known as mat instructors. They have achieved a Mat Pilates certification.

Instructors who operate in stand-alone Pilates studios will have achieved a comprehensive certification. It will permit them to instruct students in all forms of Pilates, including mat, and other forms based on such traditional pilates equipment as a Reformer Pilates machine. 

There is a substantial cost difference between the two types of certification programs. You can find reputable mat Pilates certification courses for less than $300. However, a comprehensive course may cost as much as $3000.

If you are planning to go into Pilates fitness instruction as a full-time career you should seriously consider the comprehensive certification. You will struggle to make a full-time income by restricting yourself to group fitness classes in general-purpose gyms. 

You should also be aware of the distinction between the two Pilates methods. These two methods are …

  • Classical Pilates
  • Contemporary Pilates

Classical Pilates bases everything that it does on the methods developed by the founder of Pilates, Joseph Pilates. Contemporary Pilates brings a more modern slant, introducing movements and concepts influenced by biomechanics and physical therapy.

Some courses will focus on just one of these approaches. You should, therefore, decide which branch of Pilates you want to focus on before spending money on a certification program.

Step Four: Decide on Your Certification Program

Having made the decision as to your instructional scope, you’re now ready to start checking out the various training programs that are available online. There is no regulation in the Pilates Industry, so anyone can become a training provider. There is, however, an overseeing body.

Pilates Method Alliance (PMA)

The PMA is a not-for-profit association that has been around for more than twenty years. Its single purpose for being is to promote Pilates and the work of its founder, Joseph Pilates. The PMA is an unofficial accrediting authority for Pilates worldwide. 

The PMA sets out the scope of practice of Pilates instructors. It is important to understand this as it will provide a baseline for your fitness practice. Here is what a Pilates instructor can and cannot do …

Can Do …

  • Design Pilates exercise programs according to an individual’s needs.
  • Recognize conditions that would preclude a client from safely participating in a Pilates exercise program.
  • Coach, provide general information, and direct clients to seek medical attention as necessary.
  •  Receive exercise guidelines and clearance from medical practitioners, when appropriate, to ensure client safety.
  • Document client progress and cooperate with referring medical practitioners. 
  • Promote exercise to improve overall health. 
  • Request permission to touch clients and observe practice laws within your jurisdiction. 

Cannot Do …

  • “Prescribe” an exercise program. 
  • “Diagnose” a client with any medical, mental, or physical condition. 
  • Continue to train a client with a condition that is beyond your knowledge without appropriate medical clearance. 
  •  “Prescribe” diets or recommend supplements. 
  • Claim to “treat” or “rehabilitate” injury or disease. 
  • Monitor (measuring with instrumentation) the progress of clients referred by therapists or medical practitioners. 
  • Offer counseling. 
  • Claim to be competent to offer professional education beyond the limits of your credentials. 

There are a lot of Pilates certification courses available online. I strongly recommend dealing with training providers that are affiliated with the PMA. 

The PMA provides a vast range of resources, training, and network opportunities, along with expert guidance. It is a very good idea to become a member of the PMA in order to access these opportunities. If you are currently training to become a Pilates instructor and have not yet started to earn an income, you can join the PMA for $50 per annum. Once you become an instructor, it will cost you $135 per annum.

In this section, I will give a brief synopsis of three of the most popular programs.

Balanced Body Pilates 

Balanced Body Pilates has certified thousands of students from more than 50 countries around the world. They offer four courses as follows:

  • Mat Instructor Training
  • Reformer Instructor Training
  • Mat And Reformer Instructor Training
  • Comprehensive Instructor Training

Each course has pre-requisite requirements. Before starting on the Comprehensive Instructor Course, for example, you must have the following prerequisites …

  • 20 Pilates studio sessions
  • 1-year work experience in a related field recommended
  • Anatomy required prior to final testing

Here’s what’s covered in the 520-hour Comprehensive Instructor Training program …

  • Movement Principles module
  • All Mat and Reformer modules
  • Trapeze, Chair, Barrels modules or Apparatus 1, Apparatus 2, Apparatus 3 modules
  • Mat practical hours (70 hours total)
  • Reformer practical hours (150 hours total)
  • Comprehensive practical hours (150 hours total)
  • – 35 Apparatus personal
  •   sessions
  • – 20 observation hours
  • – 95 student teaching
  •   hours
  • Anatomy

Basi Pilates

Since 1989, BASI Pilates has been a world leader in Pilates certification and professional instruction. Started by internationally renowned Pilates instructor Rael Isacowitz, BASI (which stands for Body Arts & Science International) is committed to remaining true to the form of Pilates founded by Joseph and Clara Pilates.

The BASI programs are separated into the USA and International divisions. The USA division offers two courses:

  • Foundation
  • Graduate

The Foundation Program covers all aspects of Mat Pilates and provides an introduction to beginner and intermediate exercises on the Reformer, Cadillac, Wunda Chair, and Ped-a-Pul.

The Graduate Program follows on from the Foundation Program and prepares students for an all-encompassing career as Pilates instructors. Students will gain advanced-level knowledge of how to instruct students on the use of the Reformer, Cadillac, Wunda Chair, Ladder Barrel, F2 Spine Corrector, F2 Arm Chair, Ped-a-Pul, Mat, and other auxiliary apparatus.

You must complete the Foundation course before advancing to the Graduate program. 

BASI does not have any prerequisites for the beginning study of their Foundation course. 

The BASI programs involve a blend of online and in-person instruction. You will need to attend classes for between three and six weekends over the three to six months of study. 

The prices of the courses as of May 2022 are …

  • Foundation Program – $2,199
  • Graduate Program – $1,999

If you purchase both courses together, you will get a $200 discount. 

To achieve certification from either course, students must complete written and practical tests and pass a teaching evaluation. 

Power Pilates

Power Pilates is a New York-based training provider that offers Classical Pilates education throughout America and around the world. They offer four branches of instruction as follows:

  • Mat Teacher Training
  • Comprehensive Teacher Training
  • Reformer Teacher Training
  • Tower Teacher Training

Here’s an overview of each area:

Mat

Core Mat I graduates teach intro and beginner group classes and private sessions.

Core Mat II graduates teach mixed-level group classes as well as intermediate private sessions.

Core Mat III graduates teach advanced clients, such as dancers, athletes, and fitness professionals.

Comprehensive

This is the most all-encompassing program that Power Pilates offers. It covers beginner, intermediate and advanced levels utilizing the Pilates apparatus – Mat, Reformer, Cadillac, Chair, Barrels, Ped-o-Pull, and Magic Circle – as well as understanding how to work with Special Case clients.

Reformer

There are three levels of Reformer training:

The Reformer I program introduces the first level of movements and exercises on only the reformer apparatus.

The Reformer II program introduces intermediate-level exercises, including where to add them within the sequence of the beginner-level reformer class.

The Reformer III program introduces advanced-level reformer techniques and shows how to add them into an integrated program of instruction. 

Tower

The Tower I program gives instruction to teach Level 1 Tower group classes utilizing the Power Pilates Art of Teaching. Registrants must have taken the Power Pilates Core Mat I program to enroll.

The Tower II program introduces intermediate and advanced level exercises, including where to add them to create an effective sequence for a more advanced level tower class.

Step Five: Complete Your Course of Study

Once you’ve selected and paid for your online course, you now have the challenge of completing it. Having completed six online fitness certification programs myself, I’ve learned a few things that may help you to find success in your own course of study. 

The first and most important thing is to take your time with your studies. Do not try to rush through it. You might be a person who hates to study or has never read a non-fiction book in your life. 

Well, now is the time to get started. You won’t be able to fake your way through this. You’ve got to make your mind up to get the most out of your course of study. That takes time. 

Set up a schedule of study. Write it up on a wall planner, put it on the wall – and then stick to it. Don’t short-change your time allotment; if anything give yourself more time than you think you’ll actually need. 

Choose a time of day to study when you are not already exhausted. First thing in the morning worked best for me. That might mean missing out on an hour of sleep, but that will show how much you really want this. 

Regardless of what course of study you end up doing, there will be quite a bit of anatomy, kinesiology, and biomechanics. Embrace that type of learning, rather than dreading it!

Here are half a dozen more tips that have worked well for me …

  • Schedule an hour per day to read and take notes
  • Listen to audio lectures when you are doing other things such as driving or walking to the gym
  • Complete all the practice tests at the end of chapters
  • Create fact cards and regularly quiz yourself on them
  • Take practice tests before the final exam
  • Only take the final exam when you are hitting 85% on your practice tests

Step Six: Get Insured

Having completed your course of studying and attained your Pilates Instructor Certification, you are very close to entering the marketplace. But first, you need to get some protection in the form of insurance. 

Whether you are planning to open your own studio, operate as a freelance instructor or become a gym employee, you will need to take out insurance to cover yourself in case a client sues you.

You should expect to pay about $300 per annum for Pilates Liability Insurance for up to $1 million worth of professional coverage per occurrence. That covers you for a lawsuit resulting from your specific instruction. Most policies will also provide general liability coverage, which is usually at least twice the professional coverage. This protects you if a person sues you for injuring themselves by slipping on the floor or something else that is not directly related to your instruction. 

This type of insurance may be labeled as Fitness Liability Insurance if so, make sure that it includes Pilates instruction. 

Step Seven: Seek Employment Opportunities

You are now, finally, ready to begin seeking employment as a Pilates instructor. 

So, where do you begin?

The first thing is to assess your employment opportunities. Here is a non-exhaustive list:

  • Working at a stand-alone Pilates studio
  • At a gym
  • At a corporate fitness center
  • At a leisure center
  • At a Pilates or general-purpose retreat
  • On a cruise ship
  • At a holiday resort
  • As a Personal Pilates instructor

If your goal is to go out on your own, either as a freelancer or a personal trainer, there is merit in finding your feet first at a gym or, better yet, a large Pilates studio. You will be working alongside more experienced trainers who can guide and mentor you.

Good gyms will provide a nurturing environment in which they encourage, incentivize and pro-actively work toward your success. You have access to the best and latest training equipment, along with full facility showers, pools, and other facilities for your clients that you couldn’t offer if you were on your own.

Now that you’ve narrowed it down to the places you want to work at, it’s time to get your resume in order. Here are some tips to help you present the best resume possible.

  • Personalize your resume to the specific job you are applying for. Look for keywords in the job description and use them in your resume. 
  • Include a resume header that includes your name and contact details, including a link to your professional website (yes, you should have one!). 
  • Begin with a 2-3 sentence professional summary, highlighting your qualifications, skills, and experience for this position.
  • Next, list your work experience. Don’t worry if you haven’t yet worked as a Pilates instructor. If you are able to do some unpaid instruction, add that.
  • List your personal skills. Mention as many as you can that are included in the job description. 
  • Add your academic history
  • Include your fitness and Pilates qualifications

Should You Become a Personal Pilates Trainer?

Personal Pilates training is just like personal fitness training, except that you are working one on one with clients at your studio or their home exclusively with Pilates. 

Personal Pilates Training is a business that you can ease into. It is quite possible to be working a full-time job as you slowly build your client base. You can even transition from unemployment over a period of time as you take on enough customers to sustain you to the point where it will become your only source of income. Just be completely upfront and transparent about what you’re doing with the labor department.

Many extremely successful personal trainers began their full-time training business on a part-time basis. They picked up a single client, training them outside of work hours, maybe early morning or later in the evening. Then they got another and, by the time they had 5 regular clients, they were ready to move into their training business full time.

Just stop and think for a minute about what five clients means. If you’re training each one twice per week, and they’re paying $60 per session, you will be conducting 40 training sessions per month. That will bring you a gross monthly income of $2,400.

Your in-home personal training will either take place in your home or at the client’s home. If you are going to bring the client to you, you had better make sure that you have got a clean, professional-looking, and inviting studio area to train them in. 

Training in the client’s home removes the concern about having to create a welcoming environment – which can cost quite a bit of money.

Personal in-home training can be frustrating. 

If a client cancels or simply isn’t home when you call, you’ve suddenly got a hole in your day. This can often happen when you’ve got another session in the area an hour and a half later. 

Rather than going home and then driving all the way back again, you’ll probably end up at a local café for an hour, aimlessly scrolling through Instagram while sipping on coffee. It’s not the worst thing in the world but it can get quite frustrating.

You will also need to market yourself in an area where people have enough disposable income to afford your service. If you don’t live in such an area, you don’t want to have to drive too far to get there. If you are starting out part-time while you’re working another job, your schedule is going to be pretty tight, so you don’t want to have a lot of dead time commuting.

Another potential drawback is that it can be difficult acclimating to the training environment of a person’s home. It is a very different vibe to training in a gym. You are in the client’s comfort zone, which can lead to embarrassing and uncomfortable situations. 

If you are used to working in a busy, vibrant commercial gym environment, you may find it very difficult to get used to the atmosphere of working out in the client’s home. 

You also have no control over interruptions such as a door knock, a phone call, or a baby crying. If you’ve just got yourself and the client into the flow of the workout, these sorts of interruptions can be quite frustrating – and you may not be able to get the client – or yourself for that matter – back into the flow for the remainder of that session.

When the client comes to your place, you have more control of the environment but you are also vulnerable to unexpected interruptions that may curtail the training session.

Perhaps the biggest challenge of running your own in-home personal training business is actually running the business. Let’s face it – you didn’t train to be a personal trainer to be a business person. You did it because you love training people. Yet, the main reason that most personal trainers fail is that they suck at the business side of their operation. 

So, when you are trying to decide whether you’re going to set yourself up as a self-employed business operator, whether it’s as an in-home trainer, an online trainer, or, for that matter, as an independent contractor with a commercial gym, you need to take a cold hard look at yourself to determine if you have what it takes to run a successful business.

Step Eight: Take Continuing Education Courses

Having secured a position as a Pilates instructor, you’ve done what you need to do to get the job. To become a really good Pilates instructor, though, you need to be continually honing your craft. A key way to do that is to continue your Pilates and fitness education. 

Look for new and different courses offered by the organization that you gained your certification through. If you have topped out with them, look for higher-level courses from other providers. 

Keep your membership of the PMA current. You should also consider applying for the Pilates Method Alliance International Teacher Trainer Accreditation for Pilates (ITTAP) program. It provides accreditation for Pilates train-the-trainer programs in the areas of Mat, Reformer, and Comprehensive.

Summary

In this article, I have laid out the pathway from being a passionate Pilates practitioner to becoming a fully-fledged, certified Pilates instructor. Here’s a quick review of those steps …

  • Step One: Take a range of classes
  • Step Two: Take a self-inventory
  • Step Three: Decide on what you want to teach
  • Step Four: Decide on your certification program
  • Step Five: Complete your course of study
  • Step Six: Get insured
  • Step Seven: Seek employment opportunities
  • Step Eight: Take continuing education courses

I’ve worked hard to make this guide as comprehensive as possible. If, however, you’ve got any questions, feel free to ask them below. I’d also love to hear your comments on your own personal journey to becoming a Pilates instructor.

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