If you know anything about Pilates, then you know that it is designed not only to build strength in your whole body, often with a focus on the core, but also that it produces the long, lean muscles that many people crave, as opposed to, say, the bulky muscles that can come from bodybuilding. However, you may not realize that there are actually two different methods of achieving your goals when you practice Pilates. You can either do mat or reformer Pilates. And while the outcome is virtually the same by either method, the way you get there is a little different. Of course, there are benefits and drawbacks when you choose one or the other. So if you’re trying to decide which form of Pilates is right for you, here are just a few things to consider.
First you’ll want to understand how these two fields of Pilates differ from one another. Although both are designed to help you achieve maximum core strength, overall muscle tone, and a long, graceful body structure, they go about it in slightly different ways. Mat Pilates, as you may have guessed, is performed on a floor mat, much like yoga. This form of Pilates, allows you to use your own body weight for resistance while taking you through a non-stop series of flowing movements that require constant stabilization, virtually making various muscle groups engage throughout the entire workout. The idea is to align the muscles and joints in your body through core control. And the practice teaches you how to get your mind and body connected so that you can move your body with intention.
Of course, reformer Pilates has many of the same goals as the mat style, but the difference is in the inception. Instead of performing this type of Pilates on the floor you will do it with the assistance of machinery that employs a system of springs and pulleys for resistance as opposed to relying on your own body weight. The moves are very similar in most cases, although some are different. But still you will realize improved core strength and overall muscle tone, increased balance, and control over your body.
There are a couple of reasons why you might choose one over the other, though. If you’re just starting out with Pilates and you’re not sure what to expect or if it will suit you, mat Pilates might be the way to go simply because it is more economically sound. All you really need to get started is a mat and an instructional video for beginners. If you decide to join a group class you’ll pay a little more (although many gyms provide this service as part of membership), but you’ll gain the additional benefits associated with having a teacher on hand to guide you, as well as the fun of social interaction. And your equipment can go with you anywhere.
However, not everyone is physically capable of performing a mat routine right off the bat. Those who suffer from physical limitations (injuries, for example), who are beset by chronic pain conditions like Fibromyalgia, or who are severely overweight may not be able to participate fully in mat Pilates as an introduction to the exercise. For these people, having the machinery for additional support provides a safe and gentle way to practice Pilates while still offering the strengthening benefits of the floor routine, and one-on-one instruction doesn’t hurt. And because additional resistance can be added over time, this is also a good option for those who have done mat Pilates for a while and feel like they need more of a challenge. So while you might want to set up your own workout room with padding fromas an inexpensive alternative to purchasing reformer Pilates equipment, at some point you may see the benefit of trying out both forms of Pilates to see which you prefer.