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Pilates Terms Glossary

Glossary of Pilates Terms

teaching skills Oct 30, 2019

Do you speak Pilates? Say goodbye to confusion over Pilates terms and get clarity on the words and abbreviations you keep hearing at the studio

Here is a list of commonly used terms you'll hear in a Pilates session:


Abduction | shoulder blades moving away from the spine, same as protraction

Adduction |shoulder blades moving towards the spine, same as retraction


C-curve |an even rounding of your spine, spine flexion

Concentric Muscle Contraction |shortening of the muscle while it’s working 

Coronal Plane |another name for frontal plane


Dorsiflexion |flexed foot, reaching away with the heel

Downward rotation of the shoulder blade |rotation of the scapula in which the inferior angle moves towards the spine


Eccentric muscle action |the muscle is lengthening while it’s working

Extension |arching


Femur |thigh bone

Flexion |rounding

Frontal Plane |abduction, adduction (for arms and legs), lateral flexion for the spine


Hip Abduction |thigh moves away from the midline of the body

Hip Adduction |thigh moves towards the midline of the body

Hip Extension |backward movement of thigh

Hip Flexion |thigh bone lifts forward

Hip Lateral Rotation |thigh rotates away from the midline.

Hip Medial Rotation |thigh rotates toward the midline

Humerus |upper arm bone


Isometric muscle action |the muscle doesn’t change in length while it’s working


Joints| where bone meets bone to provide movement


Knee Extension |when the leg is straightened

Knee Flexion| bending the knee, making the angle formed by the back of the leg and thigh smaller

Kyphosis |outward curve, such as is natural in the thoracic spine


Lateral Flexion |side bending

Ligaments |attach bone to bone (e.g. ACL)

Lordosis |inward curve, such as natural in the lumbar and cervical spine

Lumbar Spine |lower back, neutral is a slight inward curve or lordosis


Patella|knee cap

Pelvis |the structure at the end of the spine composed of several articulating and fused bones


Plantar Flexion |pointed foot

Pronation |foot rolls inward, putting more pressure on arch side of the foot

Prone| lying on your stomach

Protraction| shoulder blades moving away from the spine


Quadruped |on hands and knees, on all fours


Retraction|shoulder blades moving towards the spine

Rotation |twisting


Sagittal Plane |flexion and extension

Scapula |shoulder blade

Scapular Plane|the angle at which the shoulder blades sits against the rib cage.

Scapulo-Humeral Rhythm |when lifting the arm above 30 degrees, the scapula upwardly rotates at half the degrees; i.e. flexing or horizontally abducting the arm to 90 degrees, the shoulder blade rotates 30 degrees (90 degrees flexion minus 30 degrees where no rotation happens equals 60 degrees where rotation happens; the half of 60 is 30 degrees of upward rotation).

Scoliosis |three-dimensional curvature of the spine, asymmtry

Shoulder Depression |sliding down of the shoulder blade

Shoulder Elevation | sliding up of the shoulder blade

Supination| foot rolls outward, putting more pressure on the outside edge of the foot

Supine |lying on your back

Suspenders |Imagery cue for the rib-to-hip connection.


Tendons | attach muscles to bone (e.g. Achilles)

Three-Point-Contact | A shortcut to finding neutral spine. The three points are the back of your head, the space between the shoulder blades, your bra strap line or the area of the lowest rib pair and the lower part of the sacrum, very close to the tailbone.

Transverse Plane | rotation


Upward rotation of the shoulder blade | rotation of the scapula in which the inferior angle moves away from the spine on an arc




ITB... iliotibial band

QL... quadratus lumborum

TA... tranversus abdominus

THR... total hip replacement

TKR... total knee replacement

TVA... tranversus abdominus


Prefer to download a free PDF of the Glossary? You got it! 


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