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  • fayburchell

Equipment Pilates - what is it?

Updated: Apr 26

Did you know, traditionally, Pilates matwork was the bit you did at home? It was also the hardest part of the Pilates method.

The equipment was designed to help build strength toward the matwork which was much more advanced.

However, for accessibility, over the last few decades Pilates matwork has been adapted to make it suitable for all, with modifications to help us build up to the full exercises, making it an activity that can be done by anyone, anywhere with just a mat. Classically, if you couldn’t do a mat exercise, it would be skipped and another equipment based exercise would be used to help you work towards it.

What are the main pieces of equipment?

The most well known piece of Pilates equipment is probably the reformer - a moving carriage with adjustable springs for resistance. The reformer is great for building strength, and as a lot of exercises can be done lying on the carriage, it can be great for people with back problems or other injuries as it’s very supportive.

The Cadillac - a frame over a bed with springs and poles/bars attached. I use a Tower or half Cadillac - a vertical frame which attaches to the reformer bed so allows a greater range of exercises (and takes up much less space!). The Cadillac and Tower are great for increasing length. The springs can also assist you in lifting yourself from the bed, again building up for the more advanced mat versions.

The Chair(s) - classically there were three chairs: the Wunda chair, baby chair and high chair or electric chair. These days the most common is an adaptation of the Wunda chair with the handles of the high chair added. These vary depending on the manufacturer. I use a contemporary stability chair. The chairs were designed as the piece of equipment you might have at home and some turned into a normal ‘easy’ chair so you could keep it in your lounge as an extra seat! The chair includes some very advanced exercises but it’s also great for helping to find greater abdominal connection in exercises that could also be done elsewhere on the equipment.

The Barrels - Joseph Pilates designed several barrels which help with spinal articulation. The barrels can be helpful to help better align our spines as well as increasing mobility. Often the smaller ones are used to support people with limited mobility, injuries or during pregnancy.

By using the equipment you can focus on your body’s specific needs and build strength where needed, improve your technique and understanding and be able to build up to the matwork series, or Contrology as it was originally called.

The equipment helps us to better understand the exercises in our bodies, by providing resistance that we can then aim to replicate using just our muscles on the mat.

One to one classes are a great environment to try out the equipment under close supervision. It's a brilliant way to work on any particular goals you have, to improve injuries and to increase body awareness and technique. One to ones are also great for building strength and confidence if you don't yet feel ready for group classes.

If you’re interested in giving equipment Pilates a try, get in touch to find out more.

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