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Q.What are the major differences of doing the same exercises on mat and on other equipment designed for Pilates? Does it mean practicing on the mat is not as good? 

A. The major difference between doing Pilates exercises on the Mat vs. on the Reformer, Cadillac or Split-Pedal Stability Chair™ lies in the resistance. When you are working out on a mat alone, the source of resistance is your own body weight which is provided by gravity. By changing your position on the mat, you can focus on the necessary muscles that must work against gravity. Therefore, when you lift your leg, the muscles being used will differ depending on if you are lying on your back, stomach or side, but in every case, you must work against the force of gravity.

The three large pieces of Pilates equipment listed above all rely on springs to provide the resistance. Each exercise is designed to work specific muscles depending on the direction of pull from the springs. In this way, the position of each exercise relates to the angle of the resistance from the springs rather than from gravity. Another major difference is that the resistance from the springs on the equipment can be altered to make it either lighter or heavier, whereas the resistance from gravity always remains constant. 

There are no set rules to progress from one piece to another. As an instructor you must look at the needs of the client (strengths, weaknesses, posture, etc.), and decide which apparatus is going to be the best choice based on the essence of the exercise. Being certified in both Matwork and equipment-based courses is ideal in order to service a variety of clients’ needs.

Need Pilates Advice? Challenge our panel of experts with any question you may have and we’ll respond accordingly.  Ask the expert and your question may be featured in next month’s newsletter!
Sarah Jarvis

Sarah Jarvis

Program Coordinator, Education and Lead Instructor Trainer