One of the main things a client should focus on when they first start out in Pilates is learning the movements correctly. Learning Pilates is like learning a new language. It takes time and knowing the fundamental moves are the building blocks to advancing and progressing to a new and better you. Every exercise should always be done slowly with control. In the past, people have been taught to feeling the burn, sweat hard and use more weight in order to see results. With Pilates, you actually have to change your mindset to the exact opposite. The slower you move and the more you concentrate on making your muscles work, the more effective your workout will be. I'm sure all of us trainers have seen too many people fling their way through all the roll-up exercises and wonder why they don't feel their abs. Well, that's because you didn't use them. Using momentum or throwing your body around when exercising generally leads to injury.
One exercise a client should always master, or at least understand it's modifications, is the pre-roll up. The roll up concept repeats itself over again in many other exercises such as the roll-up, neck pull and the teaser. Learning to properly curl up into an active crunch with the upper part of the torso is another must. This active crunch will be repeated in the ab series on the mat (single leg stretch, double leg stretch, scissor and double straight leg stretch). Not being able to lift high enough into a crunch can lead to neck stress or crunching up way to high.....well....I don't know what that is all about...but I've seen it. Rolling like a ball is a great exercise for spinal articulation and balance. Mastering that movement helps to advance into harder exercises such as the open leg rocker and seal.
I have numerous clients that have been coming in for years now and sometimes we all go on auto pilot and just stop thinking. On those days, most of them are always a step ahead of my verbal cues. I usually decided to start slowing the class down to an excruciatingly slow place which in fact is a billion times harder since all your muscles are fully engaged. Take for instance the exercise double straight leg stretch. Try lowering the legs down slowly for a 5 count, holding it at your point of control for a 5 count and then bring them back up for a slow count. 5 reps total and there should be some really fatigued abs.