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Pilates Squats

Pilates Squats are a great functional movement, we do them in our daily lives frequently so we might as well do them well.

There can be a tendency especially as we get older to flex from the knees first – but this is not the biggest joint in the chain, the hips are and this is where we should be loading primarily. We don’t usually think about our form when we’re sitting down at a table or going to the loo! – so if we practice them and pattern good movement we’ve got a better chance of instinctively doing them well, which will hopefully protect our knees.

There are lots of videos which focus on different elements of the squat but I’ve shared this one because it demonstrates the 2 things which I emphasise in class:

  1. Hinging at the hip first – if you hinge at the hip and flex the knee and ankle simultaneously, great that’s what we’re aiming for! If you can’t or don’t – make sure you hinge at the hip to start the movement instead of the knee aiming to move the leg as one in time. The hip is a core joint, it’s bigger and therefore stronger.
  2. Flexion and hyper extension – this demo shows what I correct quite a lot in class and I’m prone to a bit of hyper extension too! If you really want to perfect this bit of the squat you can put physio tape or even sellotape either side of your lumbar spine. If you flex it will pull, if you hyper extend it will wrinkle.

Other things we talk about in class is:

  • not hinging too far forward, use your upper body weight to load your quads, glutes etc. So if you have tricky knees keep the squat shallow with a more upright upper body and use the movement as a strengthening exercise rather than a functional movement.
  • Bring your head with you, think satsuma under your chin.
  • Go as deep as your knees will let you but before your pelvis changes position, don’t let your tail tuck under and back flex as in the video.
  • If your legs are in parallel keep the knees tracking over the second toe, imagine your knees are pressing into a wall on the outside of your knees.
  • If your legs are in Pilates stance which commonly occurs when you take a wider stance (to enable a lower squat) make sure the knees don’t roll in. The knees should still be flexing over the second toe.


Arm raises – for back strengthening too. Keep ribs down and neck long, adding weights once technique’s good.

Pulses – get down into your best squat position, raise up and few cm’s then go down again. The pulses are controlled – they are definitely not bounces which will use momentum to cheat and possibly hurt your knees!

Heel lifts – in your squat raise a heel keeping everything else still, don’t allow yourself to rise up. Alternate sides, then lift both heels for balance practice too.

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