Glossary of Pilates Terms – The Zipper


Zipper – this is what I refer to when I want you to use your Pelvic Floor region.  Imagine zipping up a tight pair of pants.  Think of how you need to suck your stomach in to accomplish this.  This action activates your transverse abdominus.  The deep, lower layer of your abdomen.  It can also be referred to as a Scoop.  Scoop your abs in.  Zip your zipper up!  A strong Zip can also activate your kegel muscles!

When doing any Pilates exercise you should always have your Zipper, zipped up!  If you don’t, then why are you doing the exercise?  Whenever you feel that you have “popped” your zipper or lost the activation of that muscle, then you should:

1.  Stop doing the exercise and Re-Zip

2.  Move slower so that you have more control

3.  Make smaller movements so that you have more control

4.  Limit the choreography so that you can focus on your Zipper!

What causes you to lose your zipper?  Not enough abdominal strength.  Not enough focus, moving to fast or too big.

Take for example the Pilates 100.  Your legs are either on the floor, in table top or at a 45 degree angle.  If you can’t keep your abdominals pulled in and your stomach is pouched or popped up, then you have lost your zipper.  You are no longer using your abdominals, you are using your back muscles and your leg muscles most likely.  At this point this is where you:

1.  Re-Zip

2.  Move slower with more focus

3.  Move smaller or change where the legs are at to make the exercise more successful.

If you do this, then you will see a difference in your abdominal strength.  If you’re not sure if you are using your Zipper correctly, then ask the instructor or take a private pilates session.

Remember, insanity is doing the same thing over and over and again and expecting a different outcome.  So, if you are not seeing a change in your abdominal strength, then maybe it’s time to really find out if you are Zipped!

Where did the term “Zipper” come from?  Kathy Grant.  Kathy Grant was a student of Joe Pilates himself.  She was one of only 2 who were actually ever “certified” by Joe Pilates.  She coined the phrase Zipper.  She would say “Zip, Belt, Vest, Tape Measure” to her students to get them to focus on their abs.  I’ve taken the liberty of changing Tape Measure to Buttons……but that story is for another post!  :)

Stay zipped!


One thought on “Glossary of Pilates Terms – The Zipper

  1. Hi,

    Awesome post!
    Thank you for the great tip and the amazing etymology of zipper.
    I’ve got to remember and do the zipping every time I do the hundred.


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