Pilates is known to stretch, strengthen, gain flexibility and balance your body, while connecting the mind with the body. Strengthening the ‘Powerhouse’ which includes the abdomen, lower back, hips and buttocks is the biggest benefit that you will get while practicing Pilates. Pilates incorporates all of the above with an emphasis on particular breathing patterns. The class is offered by many fitness centers and Pilates-specific studios in the form of a mat class or equipment class – it is a personal preference which one is best for you. Joseph Pilates developed Pilates in the early 1900s. The Pilates Reformer, was designed to rehabilitate people with injuries as well as to complement the exercises he developed for the mat.
A Pilates mat class is generally offered in a group format and are offered at Pilates studios, community centers, schools and businesses and on videos… making this very accessible to just about anybody. The classes are typically inexpensive and most are free if you are a member of a health club. Practicing Pilates on a mat means you are using your own body for resistance and your core muscles work more efficiently to hold you in certain positions and perform the exercises. If the instructor uses props such as bands, weights, balls or ‘the god awful ring’ it will double or triple the diversity of moves for a mat class.
The reformer uses springs, pulleys, bars & straps to perform over 500 exercises in a variety of positions. The equipment was originally developed to offer movement and rehab to the injured, but today it offers a more challenging version of the matwork. Because of the reformer’s attachments, it is an ideal option for those who need modifications to the mat exercises. It is also easier to increase resistance with the reformer, creating more challenging work for the advanced Pilates client. While the classes are more expensive than mat, they are generally smaller class formats, which allow for more individualized instruction. Pilates Instructors can work with a wide range of clients, from rehab focused to extremely challenging for even the most seasoned athlete.
The Pros of Both
While both mat and reformer classes can offer results, it is arguable whether one is considered better than the other for beginner students. Any specific beginner class, whether mat or reformer, should offer basic understanding that can be applied to both. The benefits of Pilates mat classes are that it’s accessible, affordable, requires little equipment and can be done in the comfort of your own home. Reformer is great for people that don’t yet have a strong enough core to perform the ‘pilates mat series of exercises’, or are injured or of ‘special populations’. Reformer benefits include more total body strength training, more variations on the classic exercises, a more functional approach that benefits your daily life activities, and generally more one-on-one attention.