Pilates Reformer or the Mat?

Group of women using Pilates reformers

The Pilates Reformer or the Mat? Finding the Pilates Method for You

With the wide range of Pilates practices available, it can be a bit overwhelming deciding on the method that is best for you. This includes choosing the equipment that you start out on. Many Pilates newbies are unsure whether to start out with the Pilates reformer or the mat. This Sheppard Method Pilates blog will go over some of the differences between the two to help you decide which Pilates method works for you.

The Pilates Mat

First, the Pilates mat is much more convenient and inexpensive. A mat can be purchased for around $10 and can be taken anywhere you go. It is hard to beat a Pilates workout on the beach or at the park. Being able to pack your workout up and go where you like is a very enticing benefit of the mat.

The mat workout also has a better flow. Instead of having to get up and adjust springs and resistances between movements, as you would on a Pilates reformer, you can move from one movement to the next.

Just because it is lacking in machine resistance does not mean that the mat Pilates is easier. As you are using your own body’s weight as resistance it becomes important to strengthen your core to help stabilize your movements. The focus on core and smaller stabilizing muscles is certainly a big bonus to mat usage.

The Pilates Reformer

The Pilates reformer tends to focus more on resistance and technique than the mat. While resistance is a key component of any Pilates workout, with the reformer you are able to tweak and control the amount of the resistance to tailor the workout to your needs and abilities. This results in the ability to focus on a more strength training or endurance based workout depending on the settings you decide.

The Pilates reformer also helps with technique as it provides performance cues and guidance through the movement of the machine. Just because the reformer looks more complicated does not mean it is not beginner friendly. Though you will want a Pilates instructor to show you how it works, the movements of the machine can show you where you may be tight or not getting the full range of movement better than just the mat will. Some instructors recommend the Pilates reformer to beginners so they can better diagnose your strengths and weaknesses.

The reformer also has a much wider variety of exercises than the mat. There are about 50 exercises on the mat and over 250 on the Pilates reformer. Keeping your workout fresh with new exercises is always a plus!

So Which is Better?

The answer is…both! These two methods are part of a larger Pilates system. They both have benefits that work together and benefit one another. As for which to start with, it depends on what you are more comfortable with. Starting in a class with reformers may appear daunting to you, or mat work may seem too difficult. At Sheppard Method Pilates, we believe that the key is proper instruction from a Pilates instructor. If you are interested in setting up a private Pilates session or are interested in jumping into one of our Pilates studio classes we encourage you to contact us today to start your journey towards a balanced body!