Celebrities from Lady Gaga to Hugh Grant are among Pilates devotees, and it’s no surprise given it’s one of the best workouts you can do at any age to improve core strength and achieve a full body workout.
There are two types of Pilates you can consider – Reformer Pilates and Mat Pilates. While they are similar is some ways, they are also very different, so understandably there is often confusion over which one suits best.
Mat-based Pilates relies on the resistance of your own body whereas Reformer Pilates uses a Reformer machine with springs to provide both support and resistance. Many Mat Pilates movements can also be done on the Reformer bed – utilizing the springs for an additional resistance challenge or support. Both also involve an important focus on breathing but that’s where the similarities end.
What’s the difference between Reformer Pilates and mat Pilates?
Reformers provide support and are great for beginners
Contrary to some myths, the Reformer is actually a great option for beginners or those requiring some additional support – whether injured or making a fitness comeback. The springs support your body and allow you to achieve movements that you likely wouldn’t be able to without their help. You don’t need to be in ‘shape’ to get started, and while the machines may look daunting at first, they are simply there to provide additional support and are quick to get used to.
Reformer Pilates provides a challenge
While the springs can be used to support, they can also be used to create a very challenging workout which is great for more advanced students and those seeking weight loss or more immediate results. With adjustable springs the versatility of the equipment means you can continue to challenge yourself at different settings, no matter how experienced you are!
Reformer Pilates has smaller classes
You’ll usually find that Reformer classes are smaller, because of the equipment required, and the smaller class sizes allow instructors to provide personalized attention and feedback.
Reformer Pilates allows you to focus on breathwork
While breathwork is core to all Pilates, having the support of a Reformer machine allows you to focus more deeply on breathing. Breathwork offers enormous benefits helping with sleep and overall wellbeing – both physical and mental. Focusing on breath can also help muscle activation, particularly during core exercises to help get the most out of the movement.
Reformer Pilates works more muscles
Reformer Pilates works more muscle areas in your body than mat work, as mat work focuses on your core, whereas Reformer allows you to work the entire body and peripheral muscles of the arms and legs. Reformer Pilates is also great for targeting those smaller, often forgotten about stabilising muscle groups; as they are recruited to hold the carriage still as you complete the exercise.
Reformers are great for pre and post-natal workouts
The additional support and versatility of Reformers allows for a workout suitable for everyone!
And the good news is, while Reformer Pilates used to be a more expensive exercise option, as it becomes more widespread, it is becoming much more affordable.
Beth is the National Reformer Pilates Program Manager at Genesis Health + Fitness. She is a Certificate IV qualified mat and Reformer Pilates instructor, Personal Trainer and Barre Instructor; and has been working in the fitness industry for more than 7 years.