Teaching Skills

How to Use Everyday Items to Modify Exercises

At one time or another most teachers will show up to teach a class and realize they need a prop to modify an exercise that the facility does not have. At such a moment, you have a choice: ignore the client’s clear discomfort or get creative. Of course, I recommend getting creative. As Tim Gunn would say: “It’s let’s make it work time!”

Everyday items that students bring to class can help create tension-free start positions which result in optimal work throughout exercises. We’ve listed a few ideas below that we’ve found surprisingly helpful time and time again. We’ve love for them to serve as a jumping off point for your own creative propping:

A scarf or jacket can support the head in flexion exercises.

Reducing unnecessary tension in the neck and shoulders is critical. After all, you want your clients walking out of class feeling they worked their abdominals not their neck flexors. Using a scarf or jacket back can create a hammock-like support for the neck. In the photo above, the student kept her jacket on, folded it back, and held onto the bottom corners. Voila! Her neck could relax while her abs worked.

Some clubs and gyms have complimentary sweat towels.

If your facility does, ask participants to grab one or two on their way into class. They can work similarly for neck support. Just place one side of the towel under the upper thoracic and hold the corners of the other side.

Prop with a large beach towel.

Folded towels can work as a prop under heads for forward head or exaggerated cervical alignment. Towels also can be folded thinly and placed under the ASIS in prone positions to support the lumbo-pelvic region in neutral. A thick folded towel can also allow individuals to sit up higher, reducing tension in the hip flexors and helping achieve a more neutral seated position.

Water bottles are not just for drinking.

Non-breakable bottles can be a great tool for increasing the adductor and pelvic floor connection, as well as training parallel alignment of the legs. Students can hold the bottle between the knees in supine positions such as ab prep, or between the legs in prone positions such as breast stroke preps.

Send us your comments with props you have had success with!
And as always, thank you so much for reading.
In health,

  • Avatar
    March 4, 2014 at 6:33 am

    I would have to agree with being able to be creative and flexible. I know it would be nice to always have the right tools or have the money to buy the materials yourself but as a student its nice to have alternatives and still being able to do the exercises.


    • Holly Furgason
      Holly Furgason
      March 4, 2014 at 10:39 pm

      Helping your students find creative props so they can perform the exercises properly will also allow them to easily (affordably) continue the exercises at home! When they do more of their homework they progress faster and really feel the benefits of Pilates.

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