Pilates in any format improves core strength, flexibility, mobility, balance and muscle tone. All this us physical therapists LOVE!

However which method is best, Mat or Reformer Pilates?

Let’s be clear, both beneficial to building up your core strength and toning your muscles. Both methods train you to initiate movements from your bodies abdominal muscular structure and in time provide good physical benefits. While you can perform the same series of exercises on the reformer that you can on the mat, the workouts are different.
In short, mat classes utilise the body weight for exercises, while the Reformer adds resistance to the Pilates exercises via the use of the springs that form part of the machine.

Mat work
Pilates mat work is the basis for the entire Pilates system of exercises. In general, 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 must 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 great option for beginners because of its emphasis on learning how to control your muscles during exercises.
But don’t be fooled, advanced mat classes are the hardest because you’re using your body all the time, the reformer isn’t there assisting or supporting you.

The Pilates reformer is a traditional piece of Pilates equipment, originally designed by Joseph Pilates. The modern reformer is a narrow bed with a sliding carriage, straps and pulleys, made more or less resistant by adding or removing springs.

The Reformer acts as a support system for the body by helping assist it into proper form. It adds resistance to the Pilates exercises via the use of the springs that form part of the machine. Extra springs can be added to build strength in the bigger muscle groups, or lower springs can be utilised to challenge the stabilising muscles.

Due to the resistance created by the pulley and spring system of the Reformer, the repertoire of exercises available is greatly increased compared to Mat, providing far more variety.

Reformer Pilates is great for rehab purposes too as it allows the client to exercise in a horizontal plane of motion and not be vertically loaded and weight bearing through their legs.

So which one?
Up to you!

I personally enjoy the variety of exercise available on the reformer and find it easy to focus my attention on the area to be worked. This is probably due to the reformer stabilising areas I would be engaging for that stabilisation when I work on a matt.

Contrary to belief reformer Pilates is not harder than mat Pilates, at any level both will get you results.
A final thought is ……reformer Pilates usually comes with a more expensive price tag, so best to buy a course for optimal value.

Melina Harrison
The Harrison Clinic
Creator of The Harrison Methodology