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Pilates Reformer or Mat? What is the difference?

Pilates Reformer

Which is better, Practice Pilates Reformer or Pilates on mat?  The eternal question. It is like the typical query:  “Pilates or Yoga?”.

So, if both types of Pilates have almost the same benefits, which is better?. Why are they different if in the end both have the same benefits?. Why is Pilates Reformer more expensive?, etc.

In this article we will delve into both practices to try to answer the greatest number of concerns. For this, let’s start with the basics:

What is Pilates?

Pilates is a practice that helps us improve our flexibility, coordination and balance. These are the three basic elements to which  Pilates is traditionally associated.

However, you would be surprised to know all the benefits that this simple modality of corporal work can bring to our health.

From its origins, when the German physician Joseph H. Pilates (from whom it takes its name) created a unique technique of physical and mental conditioning, that developed throughout the 20th century, Pilates method proposed a body work that included both, deep muscles like the peripherals.

However, their goal is not only to physically activate and strengthen a person, but also, and above all,  mentally.

When we practice Pilates, we basically work on what is called the “power house” or energy center of each individual, that is, the origin of vital energy. From there, we try to achieve that the body reaches a level of harmony and general balance.

In other words: “controlling our movements, strengthening weak muscles and activating short muscles, we approach the five principles of this practice: precision, breathing, concentration, alignment and centralization”.

Benefits for health when practicing Pilates  

Better balance, coordination and less stress are just some of the benefits that can be obtained when practicing Pilates.

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There are many benefits that Pilates method gives to those who practice it on a regular basis. In addition to increasing self-confidence and making us feel better, the constant practice of this method offers the following advantages:

Pilates reformer

Body alignment 

The exercises that make up the sessions of the Pilates method, favor the opening of the joints and correct our usual position considerably. Due to this, we will achieve a full body alignment and a greater stretch and tonicity of the musculature.

Greater strength, balance and coordination

The exercises allow to better understand the body and its muscular system, along with it, it will increase strength, balance and coordination; granting looseness and grace to our movements.

Increase flexibility

When working muscles and joints with specific gentle movements, mobility and tone are increased. With the regular practice of Pilates, our muscles will become flexible and long, helping to prevent future injuries.

Improves body posture

By strengthening the power house, our posture is automatically corrected. We acquire awareness of how we position ourselves in the body and how we move about it.

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Models the body

The exercises will help us achieve a more slender and stylized figure

Rehabilitates muscles and bone structure

Pilates is also recognized for its therapeutic benefits, especially if it involves muscle injuries or discomfort. Its exercises stimulate the formation of bone mass and accelerate its recovery.

In addition, it helps reduce the risk of fractures and prevents the onset of problems such as osteoporosis and scoliosis.

It is a great ally to accelerate bone and muscle recovery after an accident or injury.

It promotes circulation

The mere fact of activating the body muscles, from the deepest to the peripheral, helps to improve blood flow. This means that, we will have more energy to perform daily tasks, a circulation richer in nutrients and oxygen, and a greater facility to eliminate toxins.

Strengthens the immune system

By permanently exercising the muscles, we allow the lymph to circulate throughout the body. This transports leukocytes, which are the cells responsible for fighting diseases.

Increase oxygen supply

Balance, harmony and body control are not elements that are reduced to the physical plane.  As with all physical activity, when the body works better, thanks to the cellular oxygenation that is achieved, our energy level is higher, increases muscle health and mental clarity, among others.

Mitigate stress effects

Another objective of the Pilates method is to achieve optimal levels of relaxation, to reduce levels of tension and stress. The method allows us to relax, as well as combat the chemical effects of stress and excess adrenaline in the body.

In general,  Pilates method can improve our health in many aspects. This is the same for both Pilates reformer and Pilates on mat.

Pilates Reformer

The perfectly designed exercises are very effective to help tone the body and get a figure of more stylized and slender appearance, as well as a good physical condition without increasing our corpulence.

It also helps reduce stress and combat burnout due to the hectic daily rhythm of the city.

With the constant practice of Pilates, after a couple of months we will see that our appearance improves, and our resistance increases, at the same time that our movements acquire grace and lightness when walking.

Tools and accessories for practicing Pilates

As we know, there are two alternatives to perform this practice, either from the comfort of home or attending a specialized Pilates center.

The first is the practice of Pilates on mat, which we can do anywhere we go. 

To get better and faster results with our routines, we can rely on specific accessories that are used in this type of Pilates. These are the following:


The most basic and essential complement to Pilates is the mat. This allows us to do the exercises on the ground without hurting us. It is important to get one with adequate cushioning, as there are certain exercises that require special pressure on the wrists and knees.

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Resistance bands

Resistance bands allow us to increase the intensity of the exercises. Thanks to its elasticity we can achieve the necessary stability in the trunk to control the tension of the band.

Oppose resistance to some movements of arms and legs in Pilates, will help us tone our muscles with more immediate results. In addition, Pilates bands are very useful for doing back stretches for people who have cervical and lumbar problems.


The rollers, in addition to helping to increase strength, flexibility and balance, will make us enjoy more pleasant sessions, as it provides a nice massage on our back and  deeper muscles, while the exercises are performed. Thanks to the Pilates roller, we will release tensions and eliminate muscular pains. 

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Fitball (stability ball)

This accessory guarantees the training of  dynamic balance, through the resistance. It is highly effective in improving body strength and flexibility.

It is important to choose the right size for our height to maximize the benefits of our exercises. Stability balls are available in several sizes to accommodate different heights. 

The size of a ball is its diameter, which is usually measured in centimeters. Guidelines recommend a:

  • 30-35 centimeter ball if we are less than 4 feet 10 inches tall.
  • 45 centimeter ball If our height measures between 4 feet 8 inches and 5 feet 5 inches.
  • 55 centimeter ball  if we are between 5 feet 6 inches and 6 feet tall.
  • 65 centimeter ball If our height measures between 6 feet and 6 feet 5 inches.
  • 75 centimeter ball for exercisers who are taller than 6 feet 6 inches.
  • Overweight people should use an 85 centimeter ball.

With the correct size your hips and knees will be bent 90 degrees when you sit on the ball.

Balance platform

This complement is ideal for people with nonequilibrium problems. Through various exercises, you can recover or significantly improve your body balance.

Pilates rings

Designed by Joseph Pilates himself, they are the perfect complement to achieve an optimal control over our abdomen and a greater toning of the muscles (especially the adductor and abductor muscles of the legs). In addition, it increases the intensity and resistance of the exercises.

The second alternative is to practice Pilates reformer. This routine requires more sophisticated tools, starting with the reformer itself.  Pilates reformer machines are used mostly in specialized Pilates centers. The reformer is a very versatile machine, which provides numerous benefits through its use. 

What is Pilates Reformer?

It is the best known of the Pilates machines. With the reformer we can work any part of the body, correct our position and do rehabilitation of some pathologies and physical ailments.

This machine is totally different from those we find in the fitness rooms of gyms. With the reformer, we can work any part of the body and with an unimaginable combination of possibilities.

With the practice of Pilates Reformer we can achieve:

  • Keep in shape
  • Improve posture
  • Relieve back pain
  • Tone the muscles
  • Slim and stylize our body
  • Stretch your back, etc.

What does the Pilates reformer method offer us?

The Pilates reformer method offers us a body work with combined resistances. That is to say, elastic resistance (exercises with the resistance of the springs and the belts), resistance of friction (exercises in which we move the car with the springs), and also exercises where we work by the force of gravity.

Benefits of Pilates Reformer

The Pilates reformer shares many of the benefits of  Pilates mat method, and adds some more. These are the main benefits:

  • Correct body posture
  • Increase flexibility
  • Improves circulation
  • Increase muscle strength
  • It is a type of exercise without impact, suitable for all people
  • Less risk of injury, since the movements are guided
  • All parts of the body are worked
  • Improve coordination
  • Gain sense of balance
  • Improve physical injuries

Reformer Pilates

Where to practice Pilates reformer?

Reformer machines are not an object that we can easily have at home. Gyms do not usually have Pilates classes with reformer due to its high cost.

The places where reformer classes are taught, are Pilates Centers and Physiotherapy Clinics. Therefore, the best place to practice Pilates reformer, if we want to incorporate it into our lifestyle, is in specialized Pilates centers.

Many of these centers, in addition to reformer machines, have other Pilates machines such as cadillac, chairs, towers or barrels.

If what we need is to rehabilitate our body as a result of an accident or illness, we should go to Physiotherapy Centers that offer Pilates Reformer.

Nowadays more and more physiotherapy centers are including rooms for Pilates exercises and many include some reformer to do exercises and rehabilitations to their patients.

In either case, reformer classes are for small groups. The Pilates reformer instructor is always attentive to the students to correct possible failures and to indicate at all times how to do the exercises.

How to make pilates reformer?

As we mentioned in the previous point, the Pilates reformer professional in charge of the class, will guide us and indicate how to do the exercises.

Can Pilates reformer be practiced at home?

Yes,  Pilates reformer practice can be done at home, however, for this it is necessary to take into consideration the following:

It is necessary to implement a reformer machine. These special machines for practicing Pilates are not too affordable (economically speaking) and will occupy a large space at home. Similar to the space that is required for a bed or a pool or poker table. On the other hand, these machines can not be folded.

In addition, the most important thing is that a special Pilates reformer training is required to be used correctly. Another alternative is to hire a personal trainer specialized in reformer or a Pilates instructor.

In definitive, the reformer is a machine that offers almost infinite possibilities, with which we can work each and every part of the body. It also allows us to work for objectives (strength, flexibility, improve injuries and pathologies, etc.) according to our needs.

Now, there are also small machines to practice pilates at home, which are foldable, very comfortable to use and at reasonable prices.

Personally I had one, which was very simple. It had 4 springs and a wooden bar attached to a tower adhered to the padded base. This machine was more than enough for my current needs and I enjoyed a lot using it. It was adjusted to my basic knowledge of Pilates and previous mat practices in the gym, which allowed me to obtain its benefits to the fullest.


Pilates Reformer Versus Pilates Mat

Finally and now that we know the benefits of both Pilates techniques, let us return to our concern:

What is the best Pilates Reformer or Pilates Mat?

It is true that both Pilates share the benefits, but the way of working and the exercises are completely different. Thus,

Which is better?

It depends on the case or preferences. For people with injuries, it is better with machines of course. For people who do not have injuries it can be more a matter of taste. The recommended thing is to try both classes to choose better.

Why are they different if in the end both have the same benefits?

Although the benefits of Pilates are present in both activities, the exercises that are carried out in a reformer class with respect to one on a mat, are very different.


Why is Pilates reformer class more expensive?

Being a Pilates instructor with machines requires special training, in addition to the Pilates base, therefore, an instructor of Pilates machines has more preparation.

Besides, the price of each machine supposes a great disbursement for the centers that impart it. These prices vary between US$1,500 and US$7,000 each, depending on the brand.

Differences between Pilates on mat and Pilates reformer

In Pilates on mat, we usually work with our own body weight. Accessories are used to assist and reinforce the exercises and also to achieve greater strength and endurance.

Instead, the machines guide us, so the student has less risk of getting hurt. The risk of injury is practically nil. In addition, the machines help us more with therapies to alleviate injuries, compared to the mat.

Is Pilates the solution to lose weight?

If you are only looking to lose weight, Pilates is not the most efficient method, but it is a very good complement to look better.

Pilates is a unique exercise technique that provides many benefits, which will be more efficient through constant practice.

Also, Pilates is unique in terms of changing the shape of the body by sculpting it, but not necessarily losing weight significantly.

People who start practicing Pilates with the goal of losing weight usually give up soon, with the frustration of not losing weight at all.

Many people start to practice Pilates for different reasons and expectations. However, the best results are obtained in:

  • Improve body posture
  • Toning the whole body
  • Relieve back pain
  • Improve mobility and body control
  • Increase flexibility
  • Improve sports performance
  • Helps to have respiratory awareness
  • Pregnant to strengthen the pelvic floor

Pilates Reformer

Additionally, we can notice the following extraordinary effects that Pilates practice provides our body:

  • It changes the shape of the body in such a way that the clothes fit better
  • Tones and strengthens the waist although we do not lose weight
  • Strengthens long, fat-free muscles without overloading them
  • Since Pilates improves posture, we will look taller and thinner
  • Tones each and every one of the muscles, since each exercise is a complete muscular work, and at the same time, respiratory

Contraindications and warnings in Pilates practice

The Pilates method is known for its great benefits and positive results in rehabilitation for people with problems above all, back. However, not all exercises are for all people, and in front of some pathologies we can find a few contraindications.

Pilates for rehabilitation must adapt to each person and we must be careful not to put ourselves in the hands of anyone. We should look for a good professional who can indicate the appropriate exercises for our recovery, with the variants and specific modifications to each case.

The requirements of each person are different, as well as each injury is different. If we are suffering from any injury or pathology, and we are thinking about practicing Pilates, it is advisable to first consult with the doctor or physiotherapist before performing these exercises.

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In addition, it is convenient that the Pilates instructor knows the pathology of the patient. It is always best to practice with a trusted instructor and in places where groups are small, such as specialized Pilates centers or small gyms.

In this type of centers, the instructor knows the students in a more personalized way and can adapt the exercises to the injuries or pathologies with greater dedication.

If you are thinking of implementing the habit of Pilates practice to your lifestyle, you will have already made the decision between Pilates on mat or Pilates reformer.

Whatever your choice, the important thing is that you have opted for a wonderful technique that will bring only benefits to your life.
Success in your new challenge!


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