We all know that Pilates attracts everyone from grandmas to executives with its promise of core strength, flexibility, and lean muscle tone. Many newcomers wonder if they should be rolling out on a mat or strapping into a reformer – the equipment developed by Pilates creator Joseph Pilates as Pilates transforms from a professional dancer’s secret to a mainstream workout. “Which is better – mat or reformer Pilates?” Sometimes they will say, “I love reformer” or “I only do mat.” So which is better?

Working against resistance is essential to the 500 classical Pilates exercises, which are designed to train the body’s “powerhouse” — the abdomen, lower back, hips, and buttocks. But you can accomplish that in Pilates using either a mat, where your own body weight creates resistance, or a Reformer, where pulleys and springs create resistance. But the question still remains: should you do Pilates on a mat or on a reformer?

Here are some quick breakdown of what is best for you – Mat or Reformer Pilates?

WHAT IS MAT PILATES?

Mat Pilates is the foundation of everything. It’s what Joseph Pilates created first. It connects you to the largest equipment available – the earth. You can do it anywhere, anytime. This is one of the reasons why people love the Pilates. You can create your own routine depending on when and how much time you have. Most Pilates experts say mat is the best option for beginners. Mat exercises are a great starting point because of its emphasis on learning how to control your muscles and get in tune with your body. 

Mat Pilates is often more accessible and affordable. You will see results within a few weeks of consistent practice — improved strength, posture, and flexibility, as well as toned muscles. 3-4 sessions (at home or studio classes) per week is ideal. It has more flow. You transition from one move to the other in this smart and beautifully designed method. Advanced mat exercises are the hardest Pilates you can do. Because you’re using your body all the time. Reformer isn’t assisting or supporting your body. You actually have to rely on your own strength and flexibility to do the exercises. 

WHAT IS REFORMER PILATES?

Reformer can be intimidating at first as it looks like a torture machine with its straps, springs, bars and cables. But it’s pretty much one of the best things that can ever happen to your body. It can really “reform” your life. You’ll feel the muscles you never knew you had and be challenged in many different ways. The resistance created by the spring system can provide a more fun and exciting workout than mat. 

Reformer classes are usually much more expensive than mat classes. This makes reformer less accessible for many people. If you have difficulty connecting in with your body and need more support, reformer may help. On reformer, you have a head rest, shoulder blocks, and a foot bar so you can more easily feel and see exactly how your body is moving. You have constant feedback from the machine.

There are more exercises on reformer. There are about 50 mat exercises and 250 on reformer. It’s great to help keep variety in your Pilates routine. Not all reformer classes are the same. Always listen to your body. Be mindful of form, correct alignment and getting in a balanced workout. You want results, not injuries.

So, which is better?

Joseph Pilates never intended either Mat or Reformer to be practiced alone. His approach was integrative. Combining mat and reformer gives you the best overall program, providing the full benefits that Pilates can offer. So, which one? You can’t go wrong whichever you choose. They’re just different – each has unique qualities. Keep in mind that different doesn’t mean one is better.

Best Routine for Your Best Body.
Doing both is best. If you do both, you’ll connect to your body faster, better and deeper. So challenge yourself to explore new exercises on the mat, or try a reformer class. You may just find a new way to connect with your mind and body and feel inspired to move more.