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Pilates Instructor Certification Basics

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Updated June 06, 2014

Pregnant woman with her physical trainer
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Pilates certification can generally be divided into two parts: Pilates mat certification; and comprehensive Pilates certification, which covers all of the Pilates equipment. Beyond these two basics, there is professional certification as well as many levels of advanced training available for those who wish to specialize in the sport-specific or rehabilitative aspects of Pilates. In this article I review mat and comprehensive Pilates certifications, and what you might expect from each.

Pilates Mat Instructor Certification

Mat instructor training is usually available to Pilates students who have demonstrated a basic proficiency in their classes. It is recommended that one study Pilates for some time before taking a teacher training class, though unfortunately, not all certifying bodies require prior Pilates experience.

Pilates mat instructor training will cover all of the basic mat exercises, along with ways to modify them for different populations. Expect the mat instructor exam to include a teaching demonstration as well as a written test.

Basic Mat Instructor certification is often offered as a weekend intensive, or over the course of two weekends, depending on the facility. Expect to pay anywhere from $100. to $300. or more for the certification. Again, consumers beware--Pilates training is not standardized, so you probably get what you pay for. Investigate the certifying body that you are interested in and make sure that it meets your needs and standards.

Comprehensive Pilates Instructor Certification

Full certification on the Pilates equipment is much more elaborate than mat instructor certification. A prospective student is usually required to have completed at least a year of Pilates study, including a number of private lessons. Completion of mat teacher training will be expected as well.

At this level, the student will undertake a basic education in anatomy and physiology, the history of Joseph Pilates and the evolution of the Pilates Method, as well as in-depth instruction on the exercises for all of the Pilates equipment, and their modifications.

As Pilates certification becomes more sophisticated, there is a trend toward dividing the full Pilates instructor certification process into several levels. Each certification program has its own program design and they vary widely. For example, one might see a program where there is a level of study for the reformer, another for the cadillac and other apparatuses, and then a level on issues around special populations. Each level can be an intensive, or taught over a period of time.

Comprehensive certifications can take over a year of study to complete, and often requires many hours spent in the studio as an apprentice teacher. Apprentice hour requirements can be up to 900 in a year.

The cost for Pilates teacher certification varies as much as the programs do. However, one should expect to pay at least $3,000, probably more, for comprehensive certification.
See Pilates Certification Programs - Listed

So far, we have been talking about certificates of education that come from Pilates training programs. Professional certifications are awarded through industry organizations and associations. These certifications are sought after completing a training program. They usually have a number of requirements an applicant must meet and require the applicant pass a standardized third party exam.
Read more in Pilates Certification Explained

The PMA National Pilates Certification Exam

In the Pilates industry, the The Pilates Method Alliance (PMA), with support from a number of Pilates schools and companies, has created a certified Pilates teacher exam that meets professional certification requirements. Pilates teachers can choose to take the PMA exam after they have completed their training. For more background on this, read Issues in Pilates Instructor Certification and visit the PMA website.

Fusion Pilates: Yoga and Pilates, Pilates with Bands, On the Ball, etc…

Combining Pilates with other exercise methods and fitness equipment is a growing trend. One can now get certified in yoga-Pilates, Pilates on the ball, Pilates with exercise bands, and more. These types of certification programs are often offered as weekend programs with few prerequisites.

While hybrid combinations can be fun and helpful, it is important to recognize that Pilates is a very specific methodology. A minimum of mat instructor certification is highly recommended before engaging in cross-over teaching.
Read more in Pilates Fusion, Tips for Avoiding Confusion

Outside the Certification Label

Certification is becoming the norm, but there are still some very fine Pilates instructors who are not "certified." Some have been teaching Pilates since before the advent of certification, and sometimes there are political objections to certification. There are also some wonderful Pilates instructors who do not host certification programs, yet will take on apprentices in a student/mentor relationship. This can certainly be a valid way to learn to teach Pilates, especially if you have found an excellent instructor. In addition, some training programs do not choose to include the term “certification” in their program description.

For more information and history about the politics of Pilates instructor certification, please see: Issues in Pilates Instructor Certification.

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