Pilates attracts everyone from grandmas to executives with its promise of core strength, flexibility and lean muscle tone. But as Pilates transforms from a professional dancers’ secret to a mainstream workout, many newcomers wonder if they should be rolling out a mat to do their Pilates, or strapping in to a reformer — the equipment developed by Pilates creator Joseph Pilates.
What’s the difference between mat Pilates and reformer Pilates?
Since Pilates mat workouts and Pilates reformer workouts provide similar benefits, it’s no wonder that newbies (as well as regular Pilates devotees) are often confused about which form is right for their current goals and abilities. Here’s a breakdown of the two types of classes to help you decide.
Working against resistance is essential to the 500 classical Pilates exercises, which are designed to train the body’s “powerhouse” — the abdomen, lower back, hips and buttocks. But you can accomplish that in Pilates using either a mat, where your own body weight creates resistance, or a reformer, where pulleys and springs create resistance. The reformer provides so much more variation and increased challenge that is hard not to fall in love with this awesome mind body exercise.
How Pilates on a reformer works
To some, reformer equipment might resemble a torture apparatus, looking like a single bed frame but with a sliding carriage and adjustable springs to regulate tension and resistance. Cables, bars, straps and pulleys allow exercises to be done from a variety of positions, even standing.
The resistance created by the pulley and spring system can provide a more challenging strength and endurance workout than mat classes. It may also produce visible results sooner — arm, leg and abdominal muscles can look more firm and defined within a dozen or so regular sessions.