Power & Strength: Exploring the six most powerful Pilates moves

March 30, 2016

Pilates is a constant exploration of mind and body and at any given time each person will find different exercises to be powerful or strong, depending on where they are in their Pilates practice. I believe a powerful exercise doesn’t necessarily need to be the most challenging exercise; it can be an exercise where you feel the power start from the inside and spread out through the body. It is with that in mind that I have chosen rather varied levels of exercises as some of the most powerful moves in Pilates.

1. The Hundred

Even if you have never done Pilates you may have heard of the famous exercise called the Hundred. This exercise has both that heat and power from within and strengthens the abdominals at the same time. It’s called ‘The Hundred’ because you have to do 100 small in-and-out breaths whilst pumping the arms, holding the legs up while keeping your head and chest lifted the whole time!!! I’m hot just thinking about it! This exercise has definitely earned its spot in the most powerful exercises in Pilates.

2. Neutral Spine

This may seem strange pick for the most powerful exercises but it is vital for the body to be able to lie supine (facing upwards), focus, breathe and find neutral spine in order for one to progress through the Pilates exercises. Once you find this position, which will feel slightly different every time you lie on the mat depending on what you have done that day or week, it will give you a sense of power in every exercise to come. For someone recovering from an injury finding neutral and learning to breathe can provide the intrinsic muscles in the body with a lot of strength, hence creating power in all walks of life.

3. Step Up on The Wunda Chair

Every week I see this exercise give my clients such a sense of strength and power. For those of you who don’t know the ‘Step Up on The Wunda Chair’, imagine an extremely large stair that you literally have to step up! The Wunda Chair will support you to an extent but it is ultimately finding that power from within the pelvis, hips and core that is going to get you up that step, not to mention it’s quite high so you need your balance on point. This exercise is so functional and gives people the confidence to use their body to tackle big staircases, run up hills or even hike Mt Everest!! The sky is the limit with this one.

4. Swimming

Again this is not the exercise you may watch and go that looks so hard, however let me tell you when you’re the one on the mat that has to do the swimming you will see why this movement is so powerful! It’s particularly powerful for the posterior chain and the muscular sling connections in the body. If that sounds like jargon, I’m basically trying to say the swimming is like rubbing your belly and patting your head at the same time. You need the breath flowing and abdominals engaged, whilst lifting the opposite arm and leg at the same time. This is such a powerful exercise to reverse the effects of modern day technology and living!

5. Climb a Tree

This exercise is the ultimate coordination of flexibility, strength and fluidity, hence making it an extremely powerful movement. The ‘Climb a Tree’ requires equal control in flexion and extension of the spine as well as abdominal strength and coordination of the limbs. When this exercise is performed it leaves the body feeling lengthened and strengthened!

6. Teaser

It has to be said that the ‘Teaser’ is possibly the most powerful movement in Pilates. It takes everything you learn as a beginner and challenges it to the n’th degree! This is the ultimate deep core workout no matter what apparatus you do the teaser on it leaves you feeling empowered and wanting more!


I could write for pages on how every exercise in Pilates has a sense of power and if you asked me the same question tomorrow, I’d no doubt come back with a different group of exercises. I believe one of the greatest elements of Pilates is that each individual will feel different exercises as powerful or strong, with the variety of exercises leaving each individual feeling empowered to learn more!



Article by Sara Colquhoun

One of the most accomplished Pilates instructors for her age, Sara Colquhoun has been training in Pilates since the age of 14, and teaching since the age of 17, her clients include elite AFL players and Australian Ballet dancers. Sara’s background as a performing artist in dance – attending The Victorian College of the Arts after moving from Sydney at the age of 18 – led her to the natural progression of becoming an instructor.

Sara’s highlight in her career to date is the recent accolade of winning the international competition to become the next Pilates Anytime instructor. She is one of the youngest instructors to join such an elite group of trainers on the site with direct lineage from founder of the movement, Joseph Pilates. Pilates Anytime is a global platform that has viewers from all around the world who will be watching and performing Sara’s classes.

In 2016, she’s booked to present her signature Pilates workshops to the Pilates community Australia wide.  She has big plans for bringing knowledge of body awareness, general health, well-being and an education of Pilates, along with communicating the benefits it has across all aspects of functional movement to everyday life.

I: @Pilates_Sara | #Pilatesbysara

T: @Pilates_Sara

F: /pilatesbysara

W: www.saracolquhoun.com

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