4 Types of Cues

What is cueing? It’s the heart of the method as a uniquely mind-body discipline. It’s complex and powerfully individual (check out Pilates Cuing is An Art insights from industry leaders).

That’s what makes it so very interesting!

Cueing is a learned communication skill. In practical terms, it is about using communication devices to help a client move through an exercise with specific intention.

Effective Pilates Instructors hone cueing skills throughout their career, and constantly challenge their repertoire according to experience, trial and error, and intuition.

While there is no one “right” way to cue: the aim of the game is to be well versed in different types of cuing, in order to be accessible to and provide effective instruction for each individual client.

What are the four main types of cues, and how can they work for clients with differing learning styles? Pilates Elder and BASI Pilates Founder, Rael Isacowitz, MA, explores this in an article for IDEA Health and Fitness Association.

  1. Demonstrative cues

Visual learners respond best to demonstration: this means Instructors must always be adept at executing an accurate example of an exercise or movement.

Here we see the importance of knowing the work in your own body! You must further your own practice in order to “stay connected with the movements physically, mentally and viscerally.”

  1. Explanatory cues

Auditory learners engage most effectively with explanatory cues: articulate a movement using words. Types of verbal explanations include:

  • Analytical cues: often science based, these verbal cues are broken down against an objective and delivered with clarity, in logical progression.
  • Figurative cues: relies on imagery to help the client make sense of a movement or exercise. Imagery is a powerful tool that acts like a communication short cut, simplifying an otherwise complex concept and making it more accessible for clients. Rael says that for figurative cues to be effective, they must closely align with the concept: broad or general imagery can be confusing and counterproductive.
  1. Do then tell cues 

Clients who learn through experience want to launch into the exercise straight away. In this case, it is often most helpful to allow the client to experience the work in their body before offering direction or correction. “Step back and let the process “happen.”” Then follow with reason, says Rael.

  1. Touch cues

Tactile learners prefer touch prompts from the Instructor in order to make sense of a movement or exercise. Rael says touch cues are the most valuable of all methods in Pilates: however, it should be applied with care to avoid misinterpretations. Not all clients will be comfortable with touch cues. Always be professional, deliberate and confident.

Rael sums up: “Ultimately, the effectiveness of your cuing will determine the effectiveness of your teaching. No one is just a visual learner or just a tactile learner. In the best-case scenario, you will be well versed and competent in all modes of cuing and able to combine them in subtle ways for the best effect.”

It is only with practice that you gain confidence, and become skilful at selecting the right cueing tool for the task and client before you.