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Mat Pilates vs Equipment Pilates - which is better?


Have you ever wondered what is better- Mat Pilates or Equipment Pilates? Or maybe you are curious about what the difference is between the mat work and the equipment work. Keep reading and hopefully we’ll answer your questions!

First of all it’s important to realize that Pilates is a method of exercise and there are lots of different ways you can practice Pilates. The effectiveness of the Pilates work doesn’t necessarily come from having a particular piece of equipment to use, but really comes from HOW you do it. That being said, the Pilates equipment was to designed to help you learn the method more efficiently and to allow your body lots of different variations to do different movements.

What is Mat Pilates?

When we talk about Mat Pilates, we are talking about using the Pilates method to do exercises using only your own body as resistance. Sometimes we use small props in the mat work such a a small ball, a theraband or a Pilates Magic Circle (a small ring that provides flexible resistance). Joseph Pilates created a sequence of exercises that is often called the traditional Pilates Mat sequence. Since the method is highly adaptable to any body, there are lots of different variations of these exercises that can be incorporated into any workout. The mat work is especially nice when you are traveling or just don’t have access to any equipment.

What is Pilates Equipment?

Joseph Pilates designed spring based equipment to support and advance the body while practicing the Pilates method

of exercising. The movements that we do during mat work and while using the equipment are very similar. The springs of the equipment are often referred to as extra muscles, or an extension of the body. They allow the body to experience a movement that it maybe could not do otherwise. They help teach the body how to move properly so that it can repeat that movement in other situations.

What should I do?

I like to encourage our clients to do a mix of both mat work and equipment work. During private sessions, your instructor will combine various mat and equipment exercises to create a workout program optimal for your body’s needs. If clients are primarily taking group classes, a mix of mat and equipment exercises are offered. However, the equipment provides support initially to gain the strength to do the mat exercises well. At Love Pilates, we mix things up, using the apparatus and doing mat exercises in each class for a full body workout.

What are the benefits of doing both?

Doing the Pilates Method in a variety of ways will create the optimal results in your body and allow you to continue to progress through the exercises. The different pieces of equipment and mat work really work together to create change in your body. For instance, there may be a particular movement or exercise that is challenging for you (for example: teaser on the reformer long box). By practicing the mat variation of this exercise you will create the strength and balance to help you perfect it on the reformer. Another great example is an exercise called the roll-up. In the mat work we try to leave the legs anchored to the mat as we roll down through the spine to a lying position, and then roll back up to a starting position with the same control. Doing this same exercise on the Pilates equipment called the Cadillac (holding on to a bar attached to springs), teaches your body this same movement and helps you build the strength to do the mat version, in a very supported way.

Is Mat or Equipment better?

Both Mat and Equipment Pilates are great for your body and equally effective. If you have the opportunity I suggest using a variety of both mat work and equipment work to help you strengthen, balance and align your body to receive optimal results!


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