You’ve heard of Pilates, or maybe you’ve tried it with a mat class at the gym. But what about all that machinery you see on Instagram? Do you need a machine to do Pilates? What’s the difference between mat Pilates vs. Pilates with a reformer or other piece of equipment?
Let’s dive in!
What Is Reformer Pilates?
A Pilates reformer is a machine invented by Joseph Pilates in the early 1900s. It has a wide, moving platform called a carriage, and the carriage is attached to springs to provide resistance. The reformer also has a rope and pulley system with straps for hands or feet.
Reformer Pilates is an entire repertoire of exercises created by—you guessed it—Joseph Pilates. These exercises are designed to build up core strength, boost your balance, and increase your flexibility. Coordination, improved posture, and even mind-body coordination are other reformer Pilates benefits.
Should You Do Pilates on a Mat or a Reformer?
If you enjoy yoga, you’ll likely enjoy mat Pilates, too! But, if you find that yoga doesn’t feel like a good fit for you, reformer Pilates could be a wonderful option. With Pilates on a reformer, the machine can be adjusted in nearly endless ways to suit your height, range of motion, and ability level. In other words, instead of forcing your body into shapes and poses that don’t work for you, you can adapt the machine to achieve the same benefits– without any forced or potentially unsafe movements.
Other Pilates Equipment
Besides the reformer, the Pilates method makes use of other pieces of machinery, too. Here are a few common ones you’ll find in a typical Pilates studio.
This apparatus has a pedal that attaches to springs for resistance. Fun fact: the original iteration of the Wunda chair converted to a dining chair to be used in Joseph Pilates’ New York City apartment. Talk about multi-functional!
P.S. I named my chair Wanda the Wunda, in case you were “wunda-ing”… okay, okay, I’ll stop now 😉
While the “formal” name for this contraption is the trapeze table, it’s commonly called the “Cadillac,” “trap table,” or even “Caddy.” It has rails and upright poles with spring attachment points for resistance. For smaller studio spaces, a tower or springboard (my studio ladder doubles as a springboard) serves as a single vertical surface for springs, but exercises are similar to those performed on a full Cadillac machine.
Pilates Barrel/Spine Corrector
This apparatus is exactly what it sounds like, and was invented to encourage different shapes and motions in the spine. A ladder barrel has a round portion with a small ladder. A Pilates Arc is a small rounded piece, and commonly found in group class settings or small Pilates studios.