Ask Rael Q & A: 16th Issue

by Rael Isacowitz

I have a couple of clients who cannot activate their glutes in almost any position and, in turn, never feel like they work them. I have exhausted my angles. Any ideas how to get these muscles to fire?

 It is important to work the gluteals, and this becomes increasingly important if you are working with a more mature population. The gluteals play a key role in such common activities as walking, running, climbing stairs and getting up from a seated position; such everyday activities that we give little thought to.

There are some very good gluteal exercises we can do on the Pilates apparatus, such as the Skating single leg (described below). However they require more experience and are not for the novice Pilates practitioner. So I typically augment the Pilates repertoire with some simple gluteal exercises common in the fitness world, utilizing ankle weights. The one series I teach; the person is side lying, with the lower leg 90 degrees in the hip joint and 90 degrees in the knee joint. The top leg is straight and relaxed, as if it is hanging off the hip joint. Lift and lower the leg 10 times. Then take the leg forward so it is perpendicular to the body, lift and lower it, and then return to the starting position. Repeat this 10 times. Finally take the leg forward again to the perpendicular position and do 20 little drops of the leg and then return to the starting position. (This series, and others, can be found in the BASI Pilates Auxiliary Movement Analysis Workbook.) Due to the side lying position this series targets primarily the gluteas medius. If you desire to target the gluteus maximus the exercises should be performed in a quadruped position or standing.

The Skating single leg involves standing on one leg on the foot platform in the front of the reformer. The other foot is placed on the front edge of the carriage. Bend the standing leg with all the weight on this leg. Straighten the other leg completely and bend. Repeat 10 times with the resistance on 1-2 springs. (This exercise can be found in the BASI Pilates Reformer Movement Analysis Workbook.) I love this exercise, as it is functional, works the entire body, particularly the gluteals on both sides and utilizes the gluteals as stabilizers on the standing leg, and movers on the moving leg.


I can’t afford regular private sessions but think they would really help further my practice. Are there any ways to get a discounted rate?

This is a tough question as it is completely dependant on the studio you go to and their policies. However I have always been a strong believer that students/clients that show commitment should be rewarded with discounted rates. Meaning that if people sign up for 20 or even 50 sessions, I want to give them a steeply discounted rate.

However, private sessions do not need to be taken on a regular basis and can be one-off, special events. For instance, a birthday gift from yourself to yourself, or from someone else to you. I think a private once a month is a great way to fine tune your work and skills and help avoid promoting bad habits.

A concept that I try and promote among our students is trading off sessions with each other. Of course this is only applicable if you are enrolled in a Pilates program. Also, take sessions with student teachers if this option is available in the studio you attend. Keep in mind that although an experienced teacher has a great deal to offer, newly qualified teachers, or even student teachers, also offer fantastic insights.

The most important aspect of your Pilates practice is consistency. So keep up your regular practice no matter what; whether group classes, mat classes, semi-private sessions or self-practice. To augment this practice with a private session periodically is indeed the cherry on the top.


This article first appeared in the August 2013 issue of Pilates Style Magazine. For more great stories about Pilates, check out the latest issue of Pilates Style, on newsstands nationwide, in the app store or at

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