Mat Pilates or Studio Pilates?

There is a common misunderstanding with regards to which type of Pilates class is the more challenging.   I recently read a claim that “Reformer Class” is more challenging than the Pilates Mat Class.   Whilst any class or session under the direction of a skilled and experienced instructor can be offered at different levels to accommodate client needs and goals, it is not always the case that using equipment makes Pilates more challenging.

Pilates Reformer and Studio Equipment

The Reformer and other Pilates studio equipment such as The Wunda Chair and The Cadillac use springs to create resistance.   Resistance providing enough stimulus to the muscles to increase the challenge of the exercise and to strengthen the muscle.    Whilst many exercises can use resistance to increase performance challenge, the use of resistance in Pilates equipment is designed for a range of different goals.   Many exercises using a piece of Pilates studio equipment such as The Reformer will use resistance to make a movement easier and will effectively provide support.   This can provide a safe opportunity for a client or patient to achieve a range of movement that they would not otherwise be able to perform and a safe environment to increase strength and flexibility   through learning and training coordination.

Progressive use of resistance and gravity

Progressively the resistance is than reduced until a client or patient has sufficient strength to support and control the movement themselves, and with some exercises this leads to more advanced achievement in being able to perform the exercise on the mat and without the support of the spring resistance given by the machine.   The ultimate goal for high performance should be for the participant to perform a movement correctly under their own physical control.

Much of the Pilates mat repertoire involves the body working against gravity which provides progressively increasing challenges to develop both strength and flexibility with a balanced approach.   Working against gravity is demanding and precision of movement execution and feedback for an experienced coach, trainer, instructor or therapist is essential to ensure not only safe exercise performance, but also to achieve high performance movements.  Many clients will have a range of strengths and weaknesses, and optimal results can be obtained with a combination of both studio and mat work.