What's the Difference Between Reformer and Mat Pilates Classes?

So you’ve had someone tell you to start Pilates, but just like when it comes to eating super foods like Kale, you are a little worried. It looks a little funny, can be a bit pricey at times and you really have no idea what good it will do you? Well, after reading this, hopefully you will have more insight into what Pilates is, what the difference is between Mat and Reformer Classes, and you will realise that you should definitely spend your hard earned cash on a Pilates class instead of Kale.

What is Pilates and Why Should You and Everyone You know Do it?

The main aim of our classes at Pilates HQ are to improve your overall strength and endurance of your stabilising muscles (deep abdominals, pelvic floor, gluteals and shoulder stabilisers, just to name a few), teach you how to move your body efficiently and effectively, improve your body awareness and your posture and help you teach your muscles to do their job most efficiently.

The great thing about Pilates is that you learn how to move your body efficiently and appropriately, the way you learnt to move as an infant. And it is done in a gentle and low impact way enabling many people, who may find other forms of exercise too rigorous or taxing on their bodies, to get themselves moving again.

So now that you know what Pilates is all about and why we love it so much, the next question is…

What is the difference between Mat Pilates and Reformer Pilates and What the **** is a Reformer?


Mat/Floor Pilates – Is just as it sounds; Pilates exercises that are performed on the floor or on a mat. The Repertoire can be performed with little to no equipment and only requires you to be able to get on and off the floor without too much difficulty.

Mat Pilates teaches you the basics of Pilates and in some clients is the perfect place to start to teach alignment and posture, as well as activation of your deep abdominals and control of your movement.

However, Mat Pilates is not for everyone, some people find that is quite difficult to get onto and off the floor, some can’t place much weight through their hands and knees and others find that they prefer a little more resistance. And in these instances, Reformer Pilates Classes are often the way to go.


Reformer Pilates uses the same principles of movement and postural alignment, but is performed on a Pilates Reformer, as seen below. The Reformer, may look like a medieval torture machine, with hooks and ropes and springs everywhere, but once you know your way around them they will no doubt be your new favourite exercise machine.

So what is a reformer? Well, it is basically a large base/frame with a small cushioned bed (called the carriage) which slides up and down producing your movement. The Carriage has springs attached from it to the frame, which resist it’s movement, these springs are all weighted differently, and we use combinations of these springs to make the exercises harder or easier. Finally you have ropes with handles on the end of them, which act as a pulley system, you place your hands or your feet in these straps to produce different movements allowing us to both strengthen and stretch our bodies.

Pilates Reformer

Pilates Reformer


So now that you know what the scary looking wooden contraptions are that line our studio, now the question is... what the hell do you do on them and why do people rave about them so much?

Reformer Pilates Classes, are actually quite similar to mat Pilates classes, the difference being, in a reformer class you are able to add resistance to certain exercises via the springs, challenging your strength and your muscles a little more.. You also have the ability to make certain exercises easier by using the springs to assist you, teaching you movement patterns with less stress and strain on the body.

Why do we love the Reformer and Pilates Reformer Classes? Well, whilst we like teaching Mat exercises, we love the versatility and variety that comes with creating a Pilates Reformer Class. We love that we can add resistance to make your legs and arms work harder, and that we can put the straps aside and use exercises from our Matwork repertoire in the same class. And most of all we love that we can adjust the springs to make one exercise available for multiple ability levels within the same class.

So there you have it…Reformer and Mat Pilates, may have some small differences, but ultimately it comes down to what you and your body prefer doing. And whilst we may be a little bias in telling you that we love Reformer Pilates, we respect that everyone is a little different, so the only way to really find out if Reformer Pilates is for you, is to give it a go for yourself.

Steph & The Pilates HQ Team


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