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Pilates….Mat vs. Reformer Classes…Which is Best?

Do you have a weak core? Are you looking to take a class to improve your posture and strengthen you core muscles so your lower back doesn’t hurt anymore? Well, Pilates may be the class you are looking for. But did you know there are two categories of Pilates classes? Mat Pilates and Equipment-based Pilates classes. Equipment-based Pilates includes the most common form, Reformer Pilates. However, equipment-based Pilates can also include Tower, Chair, Arc and Jumpboard.

How do you decide which type of class will help you meet your goals? Which class is the right fit for you?

While both mat Pilates and Reformer Pilates work from the same core- based principles and fundamentals, there are a few notable differences between the two categories of classes.

  1. Mat Pilates typically centers around core-strengthening exercises. Mat Pilates consists of about 50 different exercises. And while one is moving his/her arms and legs, the main purpose for most of the exercises is to strengthen the core muscles.
  2. Reformer Pilates offers the ability to strengthen all parts of the body or focus on just a specific area (i.e. Arms). There are more than 250 different exercises using the Reformer alone. These exercises target the abdominals, the loser back, arms, legs, deep muscles such as the rotator cuff and superficial muscles such as the hamstrings. Reformer Pilates takes your traditional mat Pilates and offers the ability to add more variations and specificity to the exercises.
  3. Mat Pilates typically has a better flow. With mat Pilates the exercises are designed to flow from one to the next. This enables the participants to work constantly for that hour without breaks. Reformer Pilates will sometimes require some equipment set up before performing the exercises, thereby reducing some of the seamless flow.
  4. Reformer Pilates is easier to modify and advance to meet the needs of the individual. Pilates instructors can work with just about anyone on a Reformer, from a person who recently sustained an injury in a car accident to a professional athlete. The exercises can be range from rehab-focused and therapeutic to absolutely sweat-dripping, butt- kicking hard.


OK….So which type is BETTER?

Well that varies depending upon your goals.
If you are someone who has experienced chronic lower back pain, recently had a total hip replacement or has some other medical issue that requires a customized exercise program, it may be better for you to initially participate in Reformer classes. As it is easier to adjust the exercises to meet your needs.

If you are someone who lifts weights and gets in his/her cardio regularly, but you are looking for something to build killer abs, then mat Pilates may be the right choice for you.

If you are someone who is looking for both killer abs and a way to get in your strength training without lifting weights in a gym, creating a program using a combination of both mat Pilates and Reformer Pilates would likely be the best way for you to accomplish this.

My recommendation is to add as much variety to your workouts as you can. You will likely see your posture improve, flexibility increase, strength build and confidence sky-rocket if you create an exercise routine that includes mat Pilates classes, Reformer Pilates classes, Tower classes, Jumpboard, Arc and Barre classes. This variety reduces the occurrence of overuse injuries and exercise burnout.

ABS Pilates of Sunbury, Ohio serves Columbus, Westerville, New Albany, Gahanna and the Sunbury area. All classes are lead by Amanda B. Smith, a licensed physical therapist and certified Pilates instructor with more than 25 years of experience. ABS Pilates offers Reformer classes, Mat classes, Arc classes, Tower classes, Jumpboard classes and Barre classes.

If you are new to Pilates and/or rehabbing from an injury, it is always recommended to set up a private assessment with Amanda Smith so she can make the best recommendation for you.

Contact ABS Pilates today and see your body become stronger tomorrow.

Amanda Smith - Licensed Physical Therapist, certified Pilates instructor, ACE certified Group Exercise Instructor, ACE certified Health Coach, Certified McKenzie Therapist. Ready to help you become stronger and healthier in a safe, fun and holistic manner.