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Breaking Down Pilates Equipment

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Breaking Down Pilates Equipment

Teaser on the Mat, Teaser on the Chair, Teaser on the Reformer, Teaser on the Cadillac, Teaser on the Ladder Barrel!

“Why so many pieces of equipment for one exercise?”
“What is the difference between Mat and Reformer Pilates?”
“Which is easier & which is more challenging?”

These are questions I often get asked as a Pilates instructor.

So here is a brief insight into the different pieces of Pilates equipment. Joseph Pilates created many pieces of equipment to be used with his method of body conditioning. The most common pieces of apparatus in studios around the world include the Reformer, the Trapeze Table (or Cadillac), the Chair, the Ladder Barrel and a Mat.


Pilates Mat

Doing Pilates on the Mat is great for challenging the strength of all the muscles of the body. You can use just a mat on the floor and by increasing the challenge with small pieces of equipment or ‘props’ such as a foam roller, a pilates ring, a small ball or a theraband, among others, you can get a kickass workout! An obvious advantage of Pilates on the Mat is the versatility of being able to unroll your mat anywhere, requiring very little space and no setup. Although many clients are introduced to the Pilates method through a group mat class, the Pilates mat work may not be suitable for everyone, especially those clients that have decreased core strength or injuries.


Pilates Reformer

The Pilates Reformer provides a great, full-body workout which is suitable for all levels since you adjust the spring tension according to your strength. Using your arms and legs you push and pull against spring resistance on a moving carriage. Exercises are performed in many different positions – supine, prone, seated and standing, and they range from simple to superadvanced and can easily be modified, making a reformer workout suitable for most clients and particularly for group fitness. Another benefit of Reformer Pilates is that it can be used as a sport specific cross training tool for athletes such as tennis players, golfers, etc. or for rehab purposes for knee, hip, shoulder or other injuries, speeding up the clients’ recovery. Remember that Joseph Pilates invented the Reformer during World War I by starting with a bed and attaching machinery springs to the bedposts to exercise and rehab prisoners of war at an internment camp on the Isle of Man.


Trapeze Table

The Trapeze Table is a daunting-looking structure of a stable platform surrounded by four poles and an overhead trapeze with a variety of attachments – a roll-down bar, arm springs, leg springs, and a push-through bar – to provide a full body workout. Joseph Pilates named this piece of equipment “The Cadillac” because he believed it was “the Cadillac of Exercise Equipment”. Although initially some clients may view this as a medieval torture device, the improved spinal and hip mobility and increased upper and lower body strength achieved from a workout on the Trapeze Table will quickly dispel these first impressions. Due to its bulky nature and space requirements, the Cadillac is usually used in one-on-one sessions for rehab work, as well as for beginners and more advanced clients. The Pilates Cadillac can actually serve to make certain Mat Pilates exercises easier since they can be broken down but, of course, for the more advanced client, the Cadillac can provide some extremely challenging as well as acrobatic-type exercises.


Wunda Chair

Joseph Pilates originally designed the Wunda Chair for home practice, given the small sizes of many New York apartments. It would also function as a piece of furniture in many homes. Exercises on the Chair involve recruiting the core to either lift or stabilize the body, resulting in lower body and upper body strength and core stability.


Ladder Barrel

The Ladder Barrel consists of ladder rungs and a smooth rounded barrel surface on which a multitude of stretching, strengthening and flexibility exercises can be performed. Since only a portion of your body can fit on the Ladder Barrel at any time, deep postural muscles can be isolated, resulting in some very intense and challenging workouts.

“I invented all these machines. Began back in Germany, was there until 1925, used to exercise rheumatic patients. I thought, why use my strength? So I made a machine to do it for me. Look, you see it resists your movements in just the right way so those inner muscles really have to work against it. That way you can concentrate on movement. You must always do it slowly and smoothly. Then your whole body is in it.” -Joseph H. Pilates

Why not try a private pilates session at one of our studios at Pilates In The Grove & work on some of these great pieces of Pilates equipment? We have a great special for new clients! Learn more here.

In Health
Nikita Chugani, PMA®-CPT



Related Links:

  1. Top 3 Reasons To Practice Pilates During Pregnancy
  2. Pilates Myths
  3. How Important is the Client-Instructor Relationship?


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