Pilates could be perfect if you want a gentle workout that makes your core stronger and builds endurance without jumping around. It was created by a guy named Joseph Pilates in the 1920s.

In Pilates, you do special exercises to stretch, strengthen, and balance your body while paying attention to your breath. It’s a bit like yoga but more focused on getting stronger.

There are two main types of Pilates: mat exercises and reformer Pilates. Both aim to make your muscles strong and flexible, but they do it slightly differently. Experts can help you understand the differences and determine which type is best for you.

Today, you will read about the difference between mat and reformer Pilates. Stay on this blog!

What Is Mat Pilates?

Mat Pilates is the original Pilates, just like how it was first imagined by Joseph Pilates over a hundred years ago. To do mat Pilates, all you need is a mat, but you can also use optional things like a ring or ball.

According to instructors, mat Pilates helps make your body stronger, longer, and more toned. It also makes you flexible. The exercises are done on the mat without using any equipment, and the focus is on small, controlled movements.

A big part of the class is about strengthening your core muscles (both in the front and back). Here’s more about why mat Pilates is good for you.

Builds Pilates Techniques and Forms Skills

Mat Pilates is like the starting point for all Pilates exercises, and it helps you learn things that can be useful in other workouts, too. Instructors say mat work is the foundation of the Pilates exercise system.

In a mat Pilates class, you’ll pick up the basics of Pilates movements, like keeping your spine in a certain position, keeping your core engaged, and breathing in a specific way.

If you are thinking, ‘Is mat Pilates harder than reformer?, then let us tell you that when you practise these basics on the mat, you can use them in different workouts, not just Pilates.

For example, you might remember to keep your back straight when lifting weights or use a strong breath when doing push-ups. If you ever decide to try reformer Pilates, the knowledge you gain from mat Pilates will help you do the movements safely and effectively.

Improves Posture

Doing Pilates, especially mat Pilates, can help you stand up straighter and improve your posture. In Pilates classes, a lot of time is spent making your core (the muscles in your belly and back) stronger with exercises like planks and teasers.

A study showed that people who did mat Pilates regularly for 12 weeks had better posture in their upper spine and core.

Pilates helps you connect to your back muscles, making you stand better and be more aware of your posture. Mat Pilates also works a deep core muscle called the transverse abdominis, which helps stabilise your lower back and keep you upright.

So, if you often find yourself slouching at your desk, doing Pilates regularly might help you stop slumping.

Promotes Flexibility

If you want to be able to touch your toes more easily, doing Pilates can really help. Mat Pilates, especially when done regularly, makes your muscles stretch a lot, which improves flexibility. In one study, people who did mat Pilates for an hour twice a week for 12 weeks became much more flexible in their hamstrings.

Another study showed that those who did Pilates for an hour each week for six months could bring their fingers closer to the floor by about 4.3 centimetres when bending forward. So, if touching your toes is a goal, Pilates might be a good way to achieve it.

Teaches Breath Control

When you do mat Pilates, paying attention to your breath is a big deal, but not because you’ll be out of breath. The cool thing about mat Pilates is that it uses your inhales and exhales to make a stronger connection between your mind and body.

Your instructor will tell you when to breathe in and out, and doing this on purpose makes your movements more effective. For example, you breathe in when you stretch your muscles and breathe out when you squeeze them, getting more power.

And here’s a bonus: Breathing in Pilates doesn’t just help your body; it’s good for your mind too. Instructors say that focusing on your breath can make you feel more positive and even help with anxiety and depression. So, doing mat Pilates each week could be like a two-in-one deal, making both your body and mind healthier.

What Is Reformer Pilates?

Reformer Pilates is a kind of workout that’s gentle on your body and works all your muscles. You use a special machine called a reformer, and it involves moving in a controlled way while paying attention to your breath.

It is a more modern version of Pilates that combines slow and controlled movements with a strategic programme that’s similar to strength training. In simpler terms, in a reformer Pilates class, you’ll focus on different muscle groups (like your sides or inner thighs) just like you would in a regular strength training workout.

In case you didn’t know, the Pilates reformer is a machine that comes with a sliding platform (known as a carriage), platforms at both ends, handlebars on the platforms, and straps that allow for moves like biceps curls.

The machine also has springs that can adjust resistance levels. Some reformers may have additional loops for glute exercises or handles to make certain moves, such as shoulder presses or rows, more comfortable.

Offers Full-Body Strength Training

Mat Pilates is a form of low-intensity strength training, whereas the reformer offers a more targeted and high-intensity training experience due to its springs.

The reformer has a wide range of exercises that cater to the entire body, including the push muscles in the chest and triceps. Additionally, it allows for more strategic targeting of the lower body.

The Pilates reformer is a piece of equipment that uses springs to provide varying levels of resistance to each exercise. On the other hand, mat Pilates mainly relies on bodyweight exercises.

Adding weights to the Pilates reformer can increase muscular strength and endurance, which can be more effective in training as you can withstand tension for a longer time.

Resistance training causes small muscle tears that your body repairs, leading to muscle growth. In short, strength training with a Pilates reformer can lead to significant gains.

Improves Balance and Coordination

When you use the sliding carriage on the Pilates reformer, it adds an element of instability to your workouts. Your muscles must be fully engaged and controlled to move the platform steadily or keep it in place.

In addition, you’ll have to rely on your balance skills to avoid wobbling when you perform certain movements, such as reverse lunges with one foot on the platform and one foot on the sliding carriage. You’re working on a moving machine, which will improve your balance and coordination.

Decreases Risk of Injury

In contrast to high-impact workouts that involve plyometric movements, Pilates exercises on a mat or reformer machine keep your feet firmly on the ground, reducing the risk of injury.

However, the springs on a reformer serve a dual purpose: they resist replicating the effects of dumbbells or barbells and offer support to stabilise the platform during certain exercises.

The springs can help create stability during specific exercises, which is particularly useful for those recovering from knee injuries. By using springs, you can target the hamstring without compromising the knee joint.

Offers Greater Variety of Exercises

The reformer Pilates is a great exercise as it comes with a variety of attachments and tools such as platforms, handlebars, straps, and handles that provide a wide range of exercises. The attachments create a larger catalogue of exercises that allow tension to be targeted in different muscle groups, giving a more rounded workout.

In contrast, mat Pilates is more limited in terms of exercise options and body parts that can be targeted. For instance, you can perform a mermaid oblique crunch or an overhead triceps extension using a reformer, which is impossible in bodyweight Pilates exercises.

The reformer’s versatility enables you to focus on specific muscle groups strategically, and the addition of resistance springs makes it easy to level up your workouts once you’re ready. If you want to push yourself to the limits, then Invictus Health Club will be the right place. It is the best gym in Chatswood. Get in touch with us!

How to Choose Between Mat Pilates vs. Reformer Pilates

When choosing between mat Pilates and reformer Pilates, it’s important to consider which method aligns better with your fitness goals. Both offer low-impact resistance training but differ in terms of cost, accessibility, and level of difficulty.

Mat Pilates vs. Reformer Pilates: For Beginners

It is highly recommended that anyone new to Pilates attend multiple mat Pilates sessions to learn the fundamental movements and techniques of the workout.

In mat Pilates classes, you will become familiar with the basic Pilates exercises, such as glute bridges, isometric lunges, and “the hundred,” which is a classic Pilates core move that involves holding a hollow body position while performing small arm pulses.

Once you feel confident in your Pilates foundation on the mat, you can progress to the reformer.

Mat Pilates vs. Reformer Pilates: For Strength Training

If you’re looking for a strength workout that is similar to traditional weight-bearing exercises, you should consider booking a reformer Pilates class. In such a class, you can expect to experience resistance and progressive overload, just like in a structured strength training programme.

You’ll work until your muscles are tired, and instructors can always challenge you to add more resistance for more muscle stimulus. Additionally, the reformer can be used for a wide range of full-body exercises that are impossible to perform on a mat, such as an elevator lunge or a carriage kick.

Mat Pilates vs. Reformer Pilates: For Improved Body Awareness

If you are wondering whether you can do Pilates without a reformer, it’s important to note that while reformer Pilates is considered the best for building body awareness, mat-based Pilates can also provide a great workout.

However, mat Pilates is also effective in improving the mind-body connection, which is a core principle of all Pilates. As a result, you’ll still experience improved proprioception, or your body’s awareness of where it is in space when practicing mat Pilates.

Mat Pilates vs. Reformer Pilates: For Injury Recovery

When recovering from injuries, choosing between mat Pilates and reformer Pilates depends on the type of injury and your fitness levels. If you frequently experience low back pain, mat Pilates could be a good option for you, as the low-impact workout can build core strength without the risk of resistance.

On the other hand, if you are used to high-intensity workouts and a muscle pull is preventing you from continuing, reformer Pilates may be a good option. It can help you maintain and even increase muscle strength during your recovery period and address muscle imbalances that can prevent future injuries.

However, before trying any new workout, it’s important to get a medical sign-off from your doctor and ask the instructor for modifications to suit your limitations.

Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned fitness enthusiast, Pilates is an excellent addition to your workout routine, as it includes many different modifications and variations that make it accessible to everyone.

AspectMat PilatesReformer Pilates
For BeginnersRecommended for learning fundamentalsProgress to after mat Pilates foundation
 Familiarisation with basic exercisesIntroduction to reformer exercises
 Glute bridges, isometric lunges, “the hundred” 
Strength TrainingLimited resistance, focuses on coreResistance and progressive overload
 No equipment, body weight exercisesUtilises reformer for added resistance
  Full-body exercises unique to reformer
Improved Body AwarenessEffective for mind-body connectionConsidered superior for body awareness
 Improved proprioceptionEnhanced focus on body alignment
 Core principle of Pilates 
Injury RecoveryLow-impact, suitable for low back painDepends on type of injury and fitness level
 Builds core strength without resistanceMaintains/increases muscle strength
  Addresses muscle imbalances
 Get medical approval, ask for modificationsGet medical approval, ask for modifications
General ConsiderationsAccessible to everyoneSuitable for various fitness levels
 Beginner-friendly, foundationalChallenging, progressive workouts
 Various modifications and variationsPotential for increased muscle stimulus.

Final Thoughts:

Mat Pilates is a foundational practise ideal for beginners, focusing on building a strong mind-body connection, improving posture, and enhancing flexibility.

Reformer Pilates, with its targeted, high-intensity strength training using added resistance, promotes full-body strength, balance, and coordination.

The reformer’s versatility offers a dynamic workout experience. The choice between the two depends on personal preferences, fitness goals, and considerations for injury recovery.

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