New Teachers Teachers In Training

First Steps in New Client Programming

One of the most important pieces of the teaching puzzle is programming. A program is targeted and specific to an individual’s postural needs and training goals.

During teacher training courses, we discuss programming. You’re given the tools to begin to understand how a program can be developed for an individual’s needs and goals. As a class we discuss sample client profiles in the Support Materials Manual. Reviewing your notes and the programming sections in your manual is a perfect way to start understanding programming. But before you accept your first paying clients, spend a little extra time “workshopping” programming with these real-life scenarios.

Let’s pretend you’ve got a brand-new client on your schedule. Say the client has been pre-screened by the receptionist and has no acute injuries. You’re told the client is looking for general conditioning. This is the perfect client for you because general conditioning is exactly what your foundational training has prepared you for. Your new client shows up a few minutes before their scheduled appointment to fill out the registration or intake form. They hand you their completed form. You decide not to perform a static postural assessment, and must quickly assess the starting point for a session based on their intake form and a few questions.

Key points of the intake form that help you assess a programming entry point:

Prior Injuries or Aches & Pains

Look to see if the client has any old aches, pains, or minor injuries that you might want to either address or avoid.


Get a sense of what the client’s goals are. Your program will need to connect to the client’s goal. If the client wants to have more tone in her arms for her wedding, you will need to address this goal in your session. Review in your head exercises that will help them feel the parts of their body that they want to work on.

Daily Activities

Look at the client’s daily activities and physical demands.  If your client is a baker, think of all the habitual motions i.e. carrying heavy flour and butter, mixing, standing for long periods. Brainstorm exercises and modifications that both help train their bodies to support these repetitive movements as well as getting them moving in new ways.

Ask Clarification Questions

If there are any partial answers or points you need clarified, just ask.

Look at Their Posture While Chatting

Take notice of their posture as you talk to them and start to warm them up. Are there any postural issues that they didn’t mention that you need to address?

Check out these sample intake forms based on real clients (PDF):

What program starting points can you assess based on these answers?
What questions should you ask?
What programming hints can you determine?
How can you address their goals?
What might you determine to be your goal for their first session?

Every client is unique and should therefore have a personalized session that address their needs. Your first session is a great opportunity to start forming a program to meet these needs. These strategies for the first session program launch are key to ensuring programming success. Of course your program will evolve over subsequent sessions, however, a client is more likely to re-book with you if they feel the session addressed their goals through a program unique to their posture, strength, and lifestyle.

Additional focus should be placed on infusing the Basic Principles into every exercise, highlighting the benefits of Pilates, and maybe even mentioning a bit about Joseph Pilates’ life. For more general goals for your first session, check out the article Eight Rules for Successful Sessions. A good session will seamlessly blend a program with our eight general goals for introductory sessions.


  • Avatar
    Christina Chu
    November 30, 2015 at 9:55 pm

    Thanks for breaking this down Holly.
    Its very clear.
    I hope to utilize this helpful roadmap with my clients in the future.
    Thanks for all the tips!
    Future Stott Pilates instructor,

    • Holly Furgason
      Holly Furgason
      December 6, 2015 at 11:09 am

      Hi Christina. Let me know if you have questions as you move forward with your teaching! Good luck <3

  • Avatar
    Caroline Liviakis
    May 2, 2015 at 4:59 am

    It says at the bottom of the example forms that at times we would need to ask for a letter from a doctor with approval for the client to take Pilates…what is the criteria for this? When is an injury too recent or too severe to require a note?

  • Avatar
    Nicole Jackson
    April 24, 2015 at 3:22 am

    I am so thankful that our training covers programming. For me personally, starting is the most difficult aspect of learning and training. Having a concrete starting point is going to be extremely helpful. Also, as an aspiring early childhood educator, I have learned that one must acknowledge the goals and interests of the students (now clients). Working towards and addressing their goals also helps you create a program specific to their needs/wants. Building off theses goals and addressing their postural/muscular needs provides an opportunity to develop a well rounded program.

  • Avatar
    April 23, 2015 at 4:33 am

    If a new client marks any of the health conditions on the intake form, would you automatically want to consult with a senior instructor or even refer a client to a doctor first before beginning exercises? As a new instructor, I am not sure I would feel equipped or knowledgeable enough about the needs of clients with some of the medical conditions noted on the intake form to fully understand their needs and modifications. Or, in talking with the client and asking more questions about their current condition and aches/pain, could you at least begin a program with them and then after getting them started with some essential exercises deciding a course of action (possibly referring them to a more senior instructor) after seeing how they moved and their feedback on any pain, discomfort, etc. in those exercises?

  • Avatar
    Abby K.
    April 21, 2015 at 6:14 am

    If for some reason someone did come in and state on their intake form that they were recovering from a rather acute injury, how would we handle that?

    Also, why would we forgo the static postural analysis, as noted in the article? I would think that doing at least a palpation of the spine curvature would be quite helpful in programming for a new client, particularly as lumbar and cervical curves aren’t always so obvious from looking. Is this something we would just get better at assessing visually as we work with more clients?

    • Holly Furgason
      Holly Furgason
      April 23, 2015 at 2:16 am

      Hi Abby.
      Wow you have several great questions here!
      First, after reading a new client’s intake form you realize they have more rehabilitation needs than your equipped to deal with. You may need to tell them ‘I do not have the knowledge and experience necessary to safely help you but I can refer you to a more senior instructor who can.’ Alternatively, you can ask for a written note from their doctor stating they’re allowed to do Pilates. Hopefully who ever is scheduling new clients at your studio will pre-screen customers so this will be a rare issue.
      Secondly, you may find that customers feel very uncomfortable with your first interaction being a postural analysis. They may also be uncomfortable being touched. Absolutely you will get more information from palpating the spine then from just looking at the person. But you will need to find what works for you and for your clients.

  • Avatar
    Julia Davidson
    April 21, 2015 at 6:04 am

    It makes sense to create linkages between the “everyday” person that the client is (who they are when they walk in the door, what job they do and the habits that they have) and a Pilates program. Instead of assuming that a client is who they are presenting themselves to be in class, knowing their back story helps you as a teacher create the bridge between where their body is at and where they want it to be.

    • Holly Furgason
      Holly Furgason
      April 23, 2015 at 2:08 am

      I believe that every time we make a connection in our teaching to the client’s interests, job, etc we strengthen their learning which is the end goal. Well put Julia!

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