What is the difference between Reformer and Mat Pilates, and which one is right for me?
These are common questions from new clients at our Brookvale Pilates studio. We all want to maximise our efforts and make sure we get the best workout for our body, so what is the difference between Reformer and Mat, and which one should you choose? Both Reformer and Mat Pilates classes are going to give you similar benefits of improved strength, stability, flexibility as well as toned muscles. Let’s look at both in a bit more detail:
Mat Pilates Classes
Pilates was originally taught as a series of mat-based exercises. However, Joseph Pilates came to realize that not everyone could do these exercises and to help rehabilitate immobilised soldiers from WW1 he invented the Pilates Reformer amongst other machines.
When you do a Mat class you are using the resistance of your own body, against gravity, to perform exercises. Some perceive you need greater body awareness to make mat work effective but for me, this brings about the mind-body connection. In Mat with no distractions of a machine, you can fully pay attention to your body and this can help to change the way your muscles fire.
At our Brookvale studio, we have experienced instructors who can readily progress or regress mat exercises to make them more or less challenging. So no matter what your level you will feel challenged and empowered. At Polestar Pilates in Brookvale, we love to flow the exercises in our classes and often utilise a range of small apparatus such as chi balls, foam rollers, Magic Circles to name a few, to give variety and keep the work challenging and fun. No mat class is ever the same but every mat class will have familiar exercises.
Reformer Pilates Classes
Pilates on the Reformer, on the other hand, is designed to assist and support you but give you resistance via a spring and pulley system. This load is ideal for building toned muscles. And dare I say you may still feel worked even if you haven’t fully grasped all the Pilates principles. Similar to a mat class experience your Polestar teacher will be able to use their deep knowledge of the exercises and machine to make it suit your body. So you will soon discover that a light spring is not necessarily an easier spring! Low resistance can help to fire small local muscles, which helps you to stabilise.
Some people prefer Reformer classes as they tend to have a little bit more pace to the flow of exercises, which keeps it interesting and fun. The range of exercises is limitless but each exercise taught is based on the same underlying principles that you use in a mat class. Mat can be slower but this doesn’t mean easier! Doing things slow and learning how to control your muscles can be challenging but it also gives you time to find that mind-body connection that is essential to Pilates. Taking this time improves your form for both Mat exercises and Reformer.
I personally love both. I love Mat to really hone in on my technique and for the mind-body connection. I love Reformer for the toning effects whilst knowing my time spent on the Mat makes this more effective.
At our Northern beaches pilates studio, we offer intro classes for both Mat and Reformer. Some people find they quickly advance to intermediate whereas others decide to stay in intro classes as they enjoy the pace and it is sufficient enough for their body.
If you‘re still wondering what’s best for you come and try both! Ultimately it will come down to personal preference and one that fosters consistency. We run over 30 classes a week and offer a 14-day intro package for $40. During this period you can come as many times as you like. All our instructors are certified instructors. If classes seem daunting we also offer private sessions where you’ll have the undivided attention of one instructor to guide you through movements and tailor them to your body.
Keep in mind it’s how you practice not what you practice. Whichever helps you achieve your objectives is fantastic. And once you’ve experimented with the two why not move on to the studio and experience the Trapeze Table, Ladder Barrel, and Chair.
Written by Sarah Barrett for Polestar Pilates Australia