Pilates Mat or Equipment – Which is Right for Me?

Mat class or equipment class – which do I choose?  It’s a question I often get asked by clients who are new to Pilates.

Client performing an exercise on a Pilates reformer

Many experts believe mat work is the ONLY place to start.  They view mat exercises, where you use your own body weight to create resistance, as the rock-solid foundation for learning proper form and muscle control.

Others prefer to train newcomers on the reformer – equipment where pulleys and springs create resistance.  They feel it helps clients learn form and understand mind-body connections more quickly.

My response?  

It depends on you.  Maybe you’re a young athlete interested in cross training or a baby boomer looking to ease back pain.  Perhaps you fall somewhere in between.  Whichever the case, these scenarios call for very different training, so the one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work.    

It’s also up to you.  What is your budget?  What is your availability?  Are you motivated by the camaraderie of a group class or do you prefer individualized instruction?

An overview of the basic differences between mat and equipment workouts will help shed some light.

Classical Mat repertoire encompasses about 50 different exercises.  You use your own body weight for resistance, firing core muscles to hold positions.  In general, mat classes cost less than equipment classes, accommodate small- to medium-sized groups, and with proper form, can be done anywhere.

Equipment classes, on the other hand, make use of hundreds of exercises.  The reformer, which resembles a small bed frame, uses a system of pulleys and springs to create resistance and provide support.  Equipment classes are more expensive and accommodate a smaller class size than mat workouts.  With smaller classes you also tend to get more individualized instruction.  To start, they generally require a few private sessions to learn equipment use and safety.   

Ultimately, an introductory, one-on-one session with an experienced, certified instructor will help you find the answer.  This is vital to a mutual understanding of your fitness goals, strengths, postural issues and range of motion.  It also teaches the basic principles of good Pilates form and breathing.    

The beauty of Pilates is its flexibility.  An experienced instructor can modify exercises on either the mat or a piece of equipment to make your workout more low impact or more challenging and intense, depending on your needs.  

Mat class?  Equipment class?  You may end up choosing a combination of both.

Contact Intelligent Exercise and we can help get you started!