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Movement Monday: Exploring the Evolution of the Scissors Exercise in Pilates


Malcolm Exhibiting Advanced Shoulder Balance Scissors Exercise in Pilates Studio
Malcolm Demonstrating Traditional Scissors Pose on Mat

Welcome to another Movement Monday! Today, we're diving into the nuances of a classic Pilates exercise: the Scissors. This movement, known for its core-strengthening capabilities, has undergone significant transformations from its original form to how it's commonly taught in contemporary Pilates classes. Let's explore the traditional versus modern approaches to performing the Scissors, and why adaptations may better suit today’s practitioners.


The Traditional Pilates Shoulder Balance Scissors

Originally, the Scissors exercise was performed in a shoulder balance. This position involves elevating the shoulders off the mat, using the arms to support the pelvis, while dynamically moving the legs in a scissor-like motion. This version not only challenges the trunk through the leg movements but also places considerable weight on the thoracic spine.


Why Change the Traditional?

Adapting to Modern Postures

In today's fast-paced lifestyle, it's common to encounter individuals with restricted thoracic mobility. Factors such as prolonged desk jobs and increased screen time contribute to this stiffness. The original shoulder balance position, requiring significant thoracic articulation and strength, might not be suitable for everyone, especially beginners or those with back issues.


Safety in Group Settings

Teaching the Scissors in a shoulder stand in a group environment poses risks. Without individual attention, it's challenging to ensure that each participant maintains proper form, potentially leading to stress and injury. The original form's reliance on the arms for stability—using the elbows to stabilize the pelvis—also adds complexity and demand on the upper body.


The Modern Supine Approach

Due to the reasons mentioned above, many Pilates teachers now opt to instruct the Scissors in a supine position, similar to that used in the "Hundred" exercise. This adaptation not only alleviates stress on the thoracic spine but also reduces the load on the arms, making the exercise more accessible and less intimidating for novices.


Benefits of the Supine Position

  1. Reduced Upper Body Strain: By laying flat, participants can focus more on leg movement without the added task of stabilizing the pelvis with their arms. This position allows for a clearer focus on engaging the core and maintaining pelvic stability.

  2. Flexibility in Arm Positioning: In the supine version, arms can be positioned by the sides, reached towards the feet, or extended overhead, providing variations that can accommodate different comfort levels and objectives.

  3. Variations for All Levels: The supine Scissors can be performed with either single or double leg movements, offering scalable options for practitioners of varying skill levels.


Concluding Thoughts

Understanding and teaching both the traditional and modified versions of the Scissors provides a comprehensive toolkit for Pilates teachers. It allows us to cater to the diverse needs of our clients, respecting their bodily limitations while challenging them appropriately. As we continue to adapt Pilates techniques to better fit modern bodies and lifestyles, embracing these modifications will enhance our teaching and enrich our practitioners' experiences.


Let's keep the dialogue open and continue to share insights and experiences. How have you adapted your teaching methods to accommodate the changing needs of your Pilates students? Share your stories and tips in the comments below. Happy Movement Monday, everyone!

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