Pilates: Reformer or Mat?

You’ve heard that Pilates is good for backs. Maybe you’ve done some Pilates exercises in a group class at a gym or with a video at home and found the exercise too hard, too complicated, or maybe it even hurt. You may have wondered if you were doing it correctly.

Pilates is best learned from a well-trained and experienced instructor in a class devoted only to Pilates.

Ideally the class should be small enough and introductory level so the instructor can give personal attention to everyone in the class. You’ll need feedback from your instructor to tell you if you’re doing it correctly or not. Your instructor should also give different options for physical limitations. If this isn’t happening in your Pilates class, find a new one.

Did you know that Pilates mat is the most difficult way to do Pilates? Ideally, everyone would start on the Pilates equipment, then progress to the mat once strong enough. The equipment supports your back, neck, arms and legs. You have a reference point to where your body is in space. On the mat, your arms and legs are held out in space, requiring a fair amount of strength, body awareness and coordination.

If you have back pain, spondylolisthesis, bulging discs, fused vertabrae, osteoporosis, knee, hip or neck pain, seriously consider starting on the reformer with a private trainer. These conditions can be aggravated when beginners start with Pilates mat exercises done in a group setting.

PilatesThe reformer is a piece of Pilates equipment specifically well suited for people who have trouble bending and flexing their spines and people with generalized muscle weakness.

The beginning reformer exercises allow you to strengthen your core muscles while on your back and with your head down. Your spine stays in a neutral position, thus avoiding aggravation of the above conditions. First time reformer students are often surprised at how good the exercise feels and how gentle the reformer is on their bodies.

The reformer and other Pilates equipment allows you to do the exercises correctly and progress faster. Your trainer will target your specific problem and assure you don’t get hurt.

Once you get stronger and understand which exercises and movements are good for you (and which ones to avoid), and you understand how to use your core, you may be able to add in Pilates mat classes or reformer classes.