Pilates – it’s been proven that it improves core strength, flexibility, mobility, balance and muscle. With our own studio opening soon and the introduction of reformer, the question of Mat vs Reformer is bound to come up soon! As both Mat and Reformer workouts provide similar benefits, it can be confusing knowing the differences and what is best for you and your body. Let me share some details to make that easier for you!
What they both do They are both beneficial to building up your core strength and toning your muscles, thats why we do pilates, yes! Both methods teach you to initiate the movements from your body’s powerhouse (your core/centering) and therefore will quickly translate into benefits across your day-to-day activities. While you can perform the same series of exercises on the reformer that you can on the mat, the benefits are notably different. Mat classes utilise the body weight for exercises, while the Reformer adds resistance to the Pilates exercises through the use of the springs that are apart of the reformer.
Mat work Pilates mat work is the basis for the entire Pilates system of exercises. A traditional Pilates mat class will work your legs, stomach, lower and upper back muscles. On the mat, your body weight provides resistance against gravity, making the workout more challenging in many cases. You will need to be in full control of your body, rather than relying on the assistance or support of the springs and cables of an apparatus. Mat work is a must for beginners because it places an emphasis on teaching you how to control your muscles to perform the exercises correctly whilst teaching you an awareness of your body positions and the foundations of breath.
But as most of my participants will be aware mat classes aren't easy! Mat classes are the hardest for your body as there isnt a reformer to assist or support you during the movements! While doing Pilates on a mat instead of a Reformer may not seem as exciting or challenging, when done correctly many of you have noticed improvements (improved strength, posture, agility, flexibility, toned muscles) within your mat sessions.
We also have the ability to use props like Pilates balls, magic rings and theraband to create amazing flowing movements and challenging our bodies and don't worry they aren't going anywhere!
Reformer The Pilates reformer is a traditional piece of Pilates equipment, originally designed by Joseph Pilates ( you may of just had an Ah Ha moment!) while living in a World War I internment camp to help rehabilitate immobilised soldiers.
Reformer Pilates was originally used to break down exercises and movements of a flowing matwork series and to allow the individual to gain strength and effectiveness before progressing to a mat work series but it has many more athletic and toning benefits than just this.
The reformer these days consists of a bed with a sliding carriage, straps and pulleys, made easier or more challenging by adding more of less springs. (Photo below) You may be quite intimidated by the look of the reformer and it can seem quite medieval however after a few turns on it you will feel quite at home, this piece of equipment has the ability to remove all other exercise equipment needed, it is challenging but it is fun.. and at times hilarious too! The Reformer is a support mechanism to get the body in to correct position and form, then it adds on a resistance to the workout through the springs. Extra springs can be added to build strength in the bigger muscle groups, or lower springs can be utilised to challenge the stabilising muscles. This means that the same exercise can be performed but can be varied in intensity from one person to the next. Between this and the support that is offered through the reformer it allows people of all capabilities, ages and injuries to perform. You can perform very basic to highly advanced movements in virtually any position on the reformer.
As mentioned the reformer is great for people with injuries as you can be in a horizontal plane and have no weight bearing through the legs, this can be great for ankle, knee, hip and lower back injuries.
Reformer Pilates is a great form of strength, postural, flexibility, balance and endurance training and can be designed to target one specific area, smaller muscle groups, or as a whole body muscular exercise.
Which one should I do then? In most cases if you have access to both, do Both!
Both will teach you how to effectively use your muscles effectively, build strength in your body’s core, and have benefits in your day-to-day activities or sports. Whilst Mat classes offer targeted muscle groups during the exercises, reformer has the ability to do combinations of exercises that are often not possible on the mat. As the reformer supports the body it is often more ideal than the mat for those with injuries or chronic imbalances.
The biggest misconception is that Reformer Pilates is harder than Mat Pilates, when in fact it can be the opposite as there is no equipment to aid the body in a mat class. Which ever class you choose the principles of pilates are essential, breath, centering, control, concentration, precision and flow.
Pilates is for everyone and is a fantastic workout to add to your weekly schedule as either the sole form of exercise or to compliment your current exercise routine.