Since Pilates mat workouts and Pilates Reformer workouts provide similar benefits, it’s no wonder that newbies (as well as regular Pilates devotees) are often confused about which form is right for their current goals and abilities. Here’s a breakdown of the two types of classes to help you decide.
Several products mimic the resistance action of a Reformer using lightweight resistance bands joined in an X design, so you can add the benefits of using a Reformer to your Pilates workout anywhere, no bulky equipment required. At Gaiam we believe that this is a convenient option when traveling, giving anyone who inhabits in a small space a practical alternative to buying a Reformer, without going to a Pilates studio.
Pilates mat work is often done in live classes, which are much easier to find than Reformer sessions. Even gyms without full Pilates studios often offer mat classes, usually at no additional fee for members.
Many Pilates experts recommend mat classes as the best bet for beginners. Average students typically add Reformer work after three months of once-a-week mat classes.
Dennis Clark, instructor and owner of Body Language Pilates and Yoga Studio in Florence, Italy, insists that new clients acquire a foundation in Pilates on a mat, not on a Reformer. “The body can get very confused with controlling the effect of an external challenge source and learn to rely on big global muscles or small over-tasked ones to practice a reformer exercise and miss the target,” she says.
Mari Winsor, founder of Winsor Pilates, agrees. “Mat work is a great option for beginners because of its emphasis on learning how to control your muscles during exercises,” she says. “The work is too specific to be done in a group Reformer class. You need to be watched like hawk in the beginning.”
While doing Pilates on a mat instead of a Reformer may not seem as fun or challenging, many students see results — improved strength, posture, agility and flexibility, as well as toned muscles — within a few months from once-a-week Pilates mat sessions.