When it comes to Pilates, there are two distinct types of class: Mat and Reformer Pilates. Both offer rewarding workouts that involve engaging the core, strengthening muscle and improving balance. But, with using differing techniques. Here’s a breakdown of the two:

Up first, Mat Pilates

It’s an obvious one, but firstly – Mat Pilates takes place on a mat! It works your lower and upper back muscles, core and legs using your body weight as resistance against gravity. This can be a challenge: the lack of equipment to provide support means you need to stay in complete control of your movements. It’s suitable for both beginners and advanced levels.

And don’t be fooled into thinking that a lack of equipment equals a lack of challenge or excitement. Done properly, Mat Pilates can be really exciting and a real, tough workout – which explains why so many practitioners start to experience results within just a few sessions, from enhanced posture and strength to toned muscles and greater flexibility.  

Over to Reformer Pilates

The modern Reformer is a body support system comprising of a sliding carriage attached to a narrow bed along with straps and pulleys.

Joseph Pilates originally designed the Pilates Reformer during World War I to support the rehabilitation process for wounded soldiers. The reformer is a particularly effective and versatile piece of exercise equipment. It may look daunting, but just after one class, it becomes less so.

You can dial its intensity up or down to suit the user – making it ideal for those with injuries or a limited range of movements. For example, add extra springs to build strength, or lower their height to make an exercise more challenging for the stabilising the muscles. This ability to meet all capabilities is why Reformer Pilates is considered the best across-the-board option.

Reformer also offers a greater range of exercises compared to Mat, again thanks to the flexibility of the spring and pulley system. It allows you to perform everything from basic to advanced exercises in pretty much every position.

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Mat v Reformer: Portability

If you know the moves, Mat Pilates can be practiced at home (or anywhere you fancy) since all you need is a lightweight, easily stored mat and enough room to perform the exercises. The Reformer, however, cannot.

Verdict: If you travel a lot, Mat Pilates is your best bet.

Matt v Reformer: Expense

Whereas Mat classes offer the best environment for development, you can also learn from online videos. Reformer workouts, on the other hand, require a certified instructor and a more personal level of attention.

Verdict: If you’re on a budget, Mat Pilates is easier on the wallet.

Mat v Reformer: Variety

Around 50 exercises are available for traditional Mat Pilates and over 250 for the Reformer. If you’re a beginner, you might want to start out on the Mat and then progress to the Reformer.

The Conclusion  

When you’re performing Pilates at home, it may seem like you’re doing everything exactly the same as the video or picture. Beware. The most minor mistakes can have a huge impact and prevent you from reaping the full benefits. A class-based instructor, on the other hand, is there to make sure you get it right. They have the expertise to tweak your technique and enable you to make Pilates work as effectively as possible.

There is no right or wrong answer in terms of which class is the better one. Both methods help to improve your muscle strength, mobility, agility, core strength, endurance, and flexibility.

If you’re a beginner, on a budget or like the idea of portability, Mat Pilates might be the one for you. If you’re more advanced or nursing an injury, the Reformer is probably the better option. Whichever you choose, the key is to breathe slowly, focus, and control your body. Within a few sessions, the results will speak for themselves.

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