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Mat Pilates Benefits Vs Equipment Use

You will face this decision when deciding which Pilates class to join - Do I go for a mat/ floor based Pilates routine or an equipment based, such as a Pilates reformer class?

There are some important differences which must be considered to ensure you make the best choice to suit your goals.

Let's explore those differences here.

Target muscle toning

You will often hear (or read) that a mat routine primarily focuses on your core, specifically your abs (stomach muscles). Where a reformer for instance enables a far greater range of movements to target specific muscles all over the body. A reformer is a truly dynamic piece of equipment and will certainly offer you the option of doing intense blocks of leg exercises, for example.

Mat based Pilates is not simply an abdominal muscle workout.

Following a well structured floor routine will develop your entire core. All of your core muscles are essential for maintaining a strong and flexible body. Your core includes muscles from these important body areas:

  • Back
  • side
  • pelvic
  • Buttocks
  • Stomach

Each mat based movement flows smoothly into the next activating numerous muscle groups at the same time. Your own body weight becomes your force of resistance which is an excellent method for avoiding the development of unbalanced strength in any one area, potentially having negative consequence on weaker areas.

Range of movements

On a reformer it is suggested that you have anywhere between 250 different exercise movements and upwards with the use of additional props. This degree of flexibility is ideal if you really want to hone in on each individual muscle at a time. Following a well structured class or personal 1-1 instruction through a series of classes will ensure you achieve a balanced workout schedule.

On the mat there are approximately 50 movements to start with and flowing between these will offer you a challenging workout. The pace can be varied with static holding positions to increase or decrease the intensity.

A mat routine's range of movement can easily be extended significantly by adding the use of simply props such as resistance bands, light hand weights and the fitness circle.

Calming effect

If you practise Pilates regularly, whether in class or on your own at home, familiar mat routines allow you to perform them almost on autopilot. When you have mastered correct form and properly integrate your breathing rhythm to your movement - a 30min or an hours mat routine can also become an incredibly effective stress reliever. It can become a form of active meditation if you like to look at it that way.

Why your core muscles are so important

When ever you move your body your core is involved in some way. The stronger and more conditioned your core muscles are the greater stability you will feel in everyday activities. A weak core will make many movements more difficult and drain you of power.

Read more about the benefits of a strong core over on HarvardHealth.edu


Both mat and reformer Pilates will offer you great health and fitness benefits. Both systems offer low impact movements making sure you don't put extra strain on the joints and can offer suitable routines for the novice or more experienced person.

The reformer will enable you to focus your conditioning more intensely for specific rehab or sports performance gains.

Mat Pilates is perfect for a total body workout while offering a calm and flowing routine, great for stress relief. A regular mat routine will improving general wellbeing with greater flexibility, strength and stability. Becoming familiar with progressive mat routines will also enable you to quite easily and effectively take what you have learnt in class and practise on your own at home or even in the hotel room.

Best wishes for finding the right system for you.


PhysioPilates ~ healthy moving since 2011
Mount Merrion Physiotherapy
105 Trees Rd, Mount Merrion, Co Dublin. Tel. 01 283 4303