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May 23, 2019

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Mat, Reformer or Private Pilates?

May 24, 2019



History of Pilates 


Pilates exercises was invented by Joseph Pilates in the late 20th Century to help injured soldiers on the Isle of Man who were wasting away in their hospital beds.


Joseph Pilates was  sickly child who suffered from the childhood disease Rickets which was probably due to being born into a poor, large family in a wrecked Germany prior to the First World War. It bothered Pilates that he was not fit as his peers and worked hard to build his body up to become a fitness professional. Pilates trained as a circus gymnast, boxer, wrestler, anatomy model and student, may have studied Yoga and Greek wrestling. 


Pilates came to England around 1912 to help train the Metropolitan Police in the art of self defence but then the First World War broke out and Pilates was sent to Lancaster Castle with other German escapees of the turmoil in Europe. It was here that Pilates started to devise his exercises using a mat for his compatriots.


Pilates was then sent to the Isle of Man as a hospital orderly where he helped the injured soldiers to exercise using a system of springs and pulleys that worked their wasted arms and legs. Pilates used the mat exercises from his time at Lancaster Castle.


Pilates named this method of working the body on a hospital bed as Reformer because it reformed the body.




 Picture down loaded from Pin interest



Pilates then moved to New York after peace was declared in Europe (having met his third wife Clara on the ship going to New York)  and he set up his first Reformer studio helping injured dancers.





 Picture downloaded from Pin Interest.



Pilates continued to perfect his  system of exercises and went on to produce 34 exercises that could be done on a reformer (adapted from the beds in the Isle of Man) based on his experience as a fitness specialist. Pilates called his system Contrology.


One of Pilates disciples - Alan Hardman - moved to England from New York in the 1970's to Hammersmith in the UK and transferred Pilates' Method of Contrology to mats and Mat Pilates was created then and is still taught like this today.









Mat Pilates is taught by specially trained Instructors who have trained for eighteen months to learn how to teach Pilates safely and effectively. These Pilates Instructors are usually self employed and operate within local communities hiring village halls, church rooms, community centres or outside during the summer months. The classes tend to be smaller - nine to twelve people - more intimate so this means more attention and hands on guidance.


The classes usually start with the Pilates Set Up where the class start to stretch and follow the kinetic chain of head over shoulders, shoulders over ribs, ribs over hips, hips over knees, knees over ankles. This is followed by a  ten minute warm up, seven or eight Pilates exercises and a ten minute cool down.


Mat Pilates is also offered by Pilates Instructors at gyms, spas, sports centres, hotels and leisure centres where the classes tend to be bigger so possibly less attention is given to a class that could be up to forty people.


The exercises are taught from basic, intermediate and advanced and can be adapted to suit all ages an abilities. The only criteria is that the participant can get up and down off a mat and, if this is not possible, then chair Pilates is a great alternative or the Pilates Reformer - ideal for those suffering mobility issues.


The first few lessons are spent just learning how to stand correctly, how to work the core (powerhouse) to drive the body during exercise, how to breathe correctly as well as balance and posture skills. The basic exercises such as the Clam, the 100, Swimming and Spine Twist are usually learnt at a Beginner's Pilates class.


After about twenty lessons you would probably be at an intermediate Pilates class exercises such as the Crab and Open Leg Rocker would be practiced.


It will take several lessons before the technique of Pilates is understood and the body gets used to the exercises. As a beginner you will sweat quite a lot because you are working muscles that may have not been used for a while.


The cost of the classes for a local instructor varies from £7.50 to £9.00 and often Pilates equipment such as soft balls, bands, Pilates Magic circles and Yoga blocks are incorporated into the exercises to add more interest and dimension.


The cost of the classes at gyms and sports centred are usually included in the membership.





A great piece of Pilates equipment used in a lot of Pilates classes - adapted from the steel girth from a beer barrel by Pilates to strengthen the upper body.










Private Pilates sessions are invaluable for those people new to Pilates, who may lack confidence or have injuries such as lower back pain, knee or shoulder problems. I recommend to anyone new to Pilates to try a one-to-one session before joining a Pilates class so that they have a basic grounding in the technique of Pilates. This is very important for those who are recovering from surgery such as knee or hip replacement and have been recommended by their surgeon to try Pilates for post rehabilitation. 


Postural assessments can be done in a private, quiet, intimate setting which helps the Instructor to assess their client and tailor the exercises to suit their goals and abilities. Mirrors in the studio help the client to watch themselves exercising and self correct their posture and to do the exercises safely and effectively.


The private sessions mirror the mat Pilates classes in that there is a Pilates Set Up, a ten minute warm up, seven or eight exercises and ten minute cool down. The difference is that, whereas in a group Pilates class you may only get about a couple of minutes attention, in a private Pilates session you would get an hour's worth of private tuition. There is a lot more attention to detail, technique, posture, balance, flexibility and mobility in a private studio setting.


The cost of a private Pilates session is £30.00 and all equipment is supplied and, for my Pilates Studio, I usually ask for payment in advance.







This is a picture of two people doing the Mermaid Stretch on a Reformer.



Today's Pilates Reformer has come along way from the original invented in New York by Joseph Pilates. Today's version is carbonated steel frame, leather padded seating, wooden legs and rubber protection around the footbar.


The Pilates can be adapted to add a piece of equipment called a Half Cadillac that is fixed to the back of the bed of the Reformer which performs very much like the TX equipment. The next one up from the Half Cadillac is the Full Cadillac that extends from the front to the back of the reformer over head and consists of pulleys and straps for a very intense workout. You can dangle from the top of Cadillac upside down just balancing on leather straps! Or there is the Trapeze that is attached to the Cadillac - a wooden bar attached to springs that is pulled overhead for an really intense workout.


The Pilates Reformer is intended to be used with all thirty four exercises of the Pilates repertoire and another three more. It is a far more intense, powerful workout than mat Pilates because of the need to hold whole of the middle of the body (the Powerhouse) ALL of the time! 


When using the Reformer you lie on the main bed with your feet on the foot bar with your hands in straps and it looks and feels like an instrument of torture! The bottom of the Reformer is on a carriage that slides up and down so that the person can 'push off' the foot bar to slide up and down. There is a system of springs at the end of the Reformer of different strengths that provide resistance for the sliding carriage. 


There is over 500 exercises that can be used with the Reformer with the addition of a Top Box (a large box that sits on the bed of the Reformer), a Jumpboard, Bosu Balance Board, Pilates Magic Circle and hand weights. 


The average cost of a Reformer session is £35.00 and is the equivalent in intensity as five Pilates mat lessons.



In conclusion then:


Private Pilates sessions in a Studio are ideal if you are new to Pilates and want to gain confidence before joining a group class, or you have an injury that you are recovering from and need help with your rehabilitation. Private sessions are also ideal for a small family that would like to exercise together or a couple who want to tone up ready for a holiday or that special Cruise, or for a Bride and Groom who want to look perfect for that special day.


Mat Pilates classes are perfect for those people who want to exercise and maybe socialise on a regular basis who don't want to join a gym and don't want to spend a lot of money. It just needs a regular commitment to keep your figure trim or prevent back pain if you have a sedentary job or history injury. Mat Pilates is great cross train for gym goer


Pilates Reformers sessions are for those who take their fitness very seriously or who have used the Reformers before and find that mat Pilates is just not enough for them.Reformers are ideally suited for those who want to compliment their gym workout or enhance their sporting abilities.
























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