Here is a picture of Joseph Pilates guiding one of his students/patients who is working out on one of Joseph's adapted hospital beds.
Joseph Pilates was a cigar smoking fitness fanatic who performed in a circus, modeled for anatomy pictures, boxed, performed as a gymnast and studied Greek wrestling. An incredibly fit man who valued his body and worked hard to maintain his physique. He studied human anatomy and animals to understand how muscles, ligaments and tendons worked in unison to support the body.
Born in Germany in the 1880's Pilates came to England in the 1920's to help training our British Bobbies in the art of self defence. Sadly the First World War broke out and Pilates, being German, was sent to the Isle of Man as a Hospital orderly, for his own safety. It was at the Hospital in the Isle of Man that the Pilates Reformer was invented.
Joseph Pilates was so distressed to see patients wasting away at in their beds that he devised a set of 37 exercises that the patients could do in their beds. The beds were adapted to a system of pulleys and springs that could be pulled or pushed so that the patients could exercise their muscles. Pilates days as a anatomy student really paid off because he was able to adapt his exercises to help his patients. Many of his patients fully recovered.
After the War was over Pilates moved to New York in 1925 to open his first studio helping injured ballet dancers by using his Reformers to help rehabilitate their torn and damaged muscles.
Alan Hardman (one of Pilates students) brought the Pilates method to England in the 1970s but Hardman used mats instead of the Pilates Reformer and Mat Pilates was born. Mat Pilates has been a popular form of exercise and post rehabilitation ever since.
The modern Pilates Reformer is usually made of wood or steel with springs that can be used at different levels but the design is still very much based on the original prototype that Pilates devised many years ago.
Mat Pilates is common in gyms and classes and uses the Pilates Method.
Pilates Reformer is a far more intense work out and produces great results.