Classical Teacher Training Course
I’m delighted to announce the opening of the Precision Pilates Academy and the new fully comprehensive classical Pilates teacher training course. The course is open to all; to those who already have a Pilates teacher qualification and want to explore the apparatus in more detail in an authentic manner and those who have no previous Pilates qualification and want to make this their first course.
The course will run over a 12-month period and includes 8 training weekends offering 120 hours of guided teacher training. Although a comparatively long time frame, when compared to similar courses, we believe it’s essential for a full understanding of the method. It gives you the time to really bed in the work. As a small teacher training academy, we will only accept 3 students per course to ensure each student gets the required support and attention.
For those making this their first course in Pilates you will receive a internationally accredited Level 3 Matwork qualification as part of your training, not always awarded in other Classical Pilates teacher training programmes.
We have also linked in to the 360-degree Pilates platform developed by internationally renowned Pilates teacher Benjamin Degenhardt. This will provide you with assess to a digital platform which details every single exercise taught on the course. There are video clips to remind you of how the exercise looks together with further analysis and links to other related exercises in the repertoire. It’s such a great resource to have between the training weekends.
What exactly is M.A.T.
Muscle Activation Techniques (MAT)
MAT is a corrective exercise method designed to make you move better. By that we mean move with less restrictions, less discomfort, less pain and less over-compensation. The technique views tight muscles and restricted movement in a different light. Instead of focusing on trying to stretch a tight muscle or releasing the tension that has built up in it, MAT views tightness as a sign of instability in a joint and weakness in a muscle or muscles that move the specific joint. How often have you stretched and stretched out a tight muscle or had the tension in a muscle released to only discover that a few days or few hours later the muscle is tight again or the tension has built back up? That’s not to say stretching or muscle release techniques are not valuable, but rather their value can only be truly discovered when the weakness is identified and strength restored.
This is exactly what MAT does. It assesses range of motion in joints and highlights any asymmetry. The asymmetry reveals what joint movements are not working well and this leads us to the muscles that are weak, or rather not contracting fully. It views the inability to contract fully as a neural inhibition, that the signal from the nervous system to the muscle is reduced. This can be due to stress, trauma or overuse. The result is instability and associated muscle tightness. An example would be walking on an icy surface, when the body senses the instability it tightness up so that it doesn’t fall. In this case the instability is in the joint because a muscle isn’t contracting fully. As a consequence another muscle seeks to bridge the instability by tightening up. To simply stretch that muscle takes away the remaining element of stability, even though that’s not really its job. Improving neural input and building back the strength of the weak muscle restores the stability to the joint and this allows the tight muscle to release and move through its full range.
As a qualified M.A.T. instuctor I can help you to identify muscle weakness and show you how to address and rectify that same weakness.
What is meant by Stretch in Pilates
When we stretch out a muscle or muscles, does it make any difference?
I guess stretching has been an issue with me for years. I’ve often enjoyed the feeling of stretching out muscles and feeling relaxed. If I’m honest it’s what initially brought me to Pilates. I was training hard and competing, often weekly, in triathlon and was experiencing a great deal of tightness in my body. My understanding and practice of stretching has changed over the years, along with my appreciation of the Pilates method. Today when people tell me they love Pilates because it’s a really ‘good stretch’, it almost results in me blowing a gasket - as some of you may have already witnessed.
I do think Pilates is associated with stretching, and of course Pilates teaches the notion of the two-way stretch. This is better termed the ‘stretch in opposition’. I have taught various forms of stretching over the years, culminating in the active isolated stretch technique that I rolled out in a class format at the old studio in Blagdon. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with stretching out muscles, but I would ask the question: What are you hoping to achieve just by stretching?
It’s important to be aware that physically stretching the muscles out won’t make them any longer. It could initially relieve some discomfort; it might help to relax the body or provide a focus for breathing. When a stretch is held for more than a few seconds, the stretch reflex, which would encourage the muscle to shorten, is overridden and it stops telling the muscle to contract and shorten. But this is all that is happening: the body’s nervous system is being overridden. For a short period of time, minutes or hours, the muscle will feel less tight, but it will eventually revert to type in time. We must remember that muscles are lengthened or shortened by the body’s nervous system. When a muscle is short or tight, it’s because the nervous system is preventing it fully lengthening. There is a principle that affects the body, known as Sherrington’s Law of Reciprocal Inhibition, that states: when a muscle contracts, its direct antagonist (opposing muscle) relaxes to an equal extent allowing smooth movement. If the muscle that contracts doesn’t contract fully, the muscle that needs to relax will not do so completely. The result is a hypertonic or tight muscle. The muscles of the body work in pairs and it’s so important that muscles can contract fully and on demand. When I used the isolated stretching technique it required contracting one muscle to stretch the opposing one. It is a great stretching technique, but where it is lacking is when the contracting muscle has some inhibition stopping it from contracting fully. With Muscle Activation Technique (MAT) we can complete the work of the isolated stretch and the stretch in opposition by discovering the muscle that is not contracting fully and removing the inhibition.
The notion of stretch has always been interpreted as a stretch in opposition. Positions are never held; they were always meant to move and flow. The well-known exercise hate of mine, ‘the plank’, is not a Pilates move at all, because it’s held in a static position. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with the plank as an exercise, it’s just not a Pilates one. The equivalent Pilates exercise is called Leg Pull Front on the mat, and Long Stretch on the reformer. Both involve movement.
So, was Joseph Pilates so ahead of his time? Or am I reinterpreting his method in the light of modern-day science, as can be found in Muscle Activation Technique? I think Joseph Pilates was a genius, but he didn’t have the benefit of the science we have today, and I’m definitely using what information I have, to understand his method and develop it for the world we live in today. What Mr Pilates did have though, and it’s important for today’s interpretation, was a desire to get the human body to move with the grace and freedom he saw in the animal kingdom. We know how dogs and cats stretch. They get up, or in the case of our dogs get off their sofa, reach forward to stretch the back end of their body and then reach back to stretch the front of their body and then move off. Nothing is held for a set count and everything flows. The Pilates exercises were designed to give the grace and movement to the human body that is found in that of animals. As Pilates teachers today, our goal is to help people move better, with control and greater range. It’s essential that we learn from so many different disciplines and inform our understanding of the method he gave to us.