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Mat Versus Reformer Pilates: What’s the Difference

When reformer pilates classes first began to appear in gyms, fitness enthusiasts were delighted. Here was the perfect opportunity to achieve their strength and toning goals without having to head out into the cold or rain! But, reformer pilates is not just for gym-goers who want an alternative form of cardio. It’s also beneficial to those who are interested in mat pilates but whose schedules don’t allow them to attend mat classes regularly.

What is reformer pilates?

Reformer pilates uses exercise equipment that has a reformer board, springs, and straps connected to a fixed frame. The reformer board allows you complete freedom of movement , providing great conditioning opportunities . Meanwhile, you can use the springs and straps for resistance and support.

The reformer is the source of reformer pilates’ main difference from mat pilates: reformer pilates uses a spring-based system for resistance while mat pilates only uses your body weight to provide resistance. This makes reformer pilates more challenging (and often, more strenuous) than mat classes. It also builds additional strength and stamina in postural muscles . 

What are the benefits of reformer pilates?

Reformer pilates not only strengthens and conditions muscles; it also lengthens and tones them through movement and increase blood flow to various muscle groups . Working with correct form reduces risk of injury , while improved flexibility allows you to gain greater range of motion for daily activities such as reaching up for objects or bending down to tie your shoes.

There is also reformer pilates’ emphasis on breathing and concentration throughout the workout, which can promote mental calmness . It’s easy to become so focused on the physical exertion that reformer pilates demands that you forget about everything else in your life! However, reformer pilates exercises do encourage participants to focus on how they feel and concentrate on controlling their breath , which can improve self-esteem and confidence levels . This makes reformer classes ideal for groups such as young mothers looking to get fit after pregnancy, people with health conditions such as depression , and those who need rehabilitation from injuries.

What are mat classes like?

Mat pilates focuses purely on body conditioning without the reformer board. The reformer’s spring-based resistance system is replaced with your own body weight to provide resistance, giving you more mobility than reformer classes . With less equipment needed for mat pilates, these classes are great for private studios and gyms that don’t have enough reformers to accommodate the growing number of reformer pilates practitioners .

While reformer pilates has an emphasis on building strength , mat focuses on flexibility, endurance , and toning through correct breathing and a series of repetitions with a smooth but challenging flow. That said, reformer pilates also teaches correct breathing techniques  and will improve your posture as well as balance and coordination . Many people feel that both reformer and mat pilates are complementary, rather than competing with each other.  

Should you do reformer or mat classes?

Both reformer and mat pilates provide all the benefits of a regular workout routine  and more! They’re not mutually exclusive  and can complement each other. The only real difference between reformer and mat classes is that reformers have spring-based resistance while mats focus on using your own body weight for resistance.

The reformer’s additional resistance provides extra conditioning , which is great if you already have a mat class pass but don’t know what to do with it . If reformers aren’t available at your gym, opt for a mat class instead! You’ll find many instructors will incorporate reformer reformer pilates exercises into their mat reformer pilates classes.

Reformer or mat classes: which should you choose?

Try reformer and mat reformer pilates classes to find the best pilates workout for your needs! Obviously we got into this industry because we believe in reformer and welcome you in joining us on discovering reformer with Vibe Pilates!

Ready to join the tribe at Vibe Pilates?

We encourage everyone, of any age or ability, to join us for a Foundation class and see what Vibe Pilates is all about for yourself. You get to have a play with the machine and have fun learning new moves across a 45 minute workout.

Our Foundation session is a focus on the core foundations of the body. It’s a set up class designed for our beginners to get you started with confidence. The session is set at a slower pace to ensure you develop the understanding of the movement and feel why a reformer workout is so beneficial for your body.

Click here to join the tribe at Vibe Pilates today