Reformer vs. Mat Pilates: Reformer More Effective Than Mat Pilates?

Discover the differences between mat Pilates and reformer Pilates, and choose the workout that best aligns with your fitness goals. Get expert insights today!

  • Author: lesley.logan
  • November 5, 2023
Home  »  Blog   »   Reformer vs. Mat Pilates: Reformer More Effective Than Mat Pilates?
reformer pilates vs mat pilates online pilates classes

Which is more effective?

Wondering which is better for you – Pilates on the Mat or Pilates on the Reformer? Maybe which one might be more effective for where you are in your life today? Well in this video, we’re gonna talk about which one you might want to consider doing and why.

Hi, I’m Lesley Logan, founder of OnlinePilatesClasses.com™. I’ve been doing Pilates since 2005 and teaching Pilates since 2008. My teacher was one of Joseph Pilates’ clients. I’m a second-generation teacher. And what I’m super excited to talk to you about is how I incorporate Mat Pilates and Reformer Pilates in my practice, and also how you can best incorporate Mat Pilates or Reformer Pilates into your life to benefit your goals and your needs. If you have any questions, make sure you put in the comments below. I go live every Sunday at 9am Pacific time to answer your questions.

Welcome to OnlinePilatesClasses.com™, the most supportive Pilates-loving community across the globe. Enjoy new weekly classes with our amazing teachers. Download the OnlinePilatesClasses.com™ app today.

Benefits of Pilates

So the benefits of Pilates happen no matter what piece of equipment you’re on. And we’ll talk more about that later. You can also check it out, what is Pilates and all of its benefits. But here’s the deal. When I did the mat work every single day for 90 days, I became the strongest I ever have been in my Pilates career. Because the mat doesn’t allow me to use any other pieces of support. I don’t have springs, I don’t have straps, I don’t have anything other than myself to perform an exercise. What’s really amazing about that is it really does challenge not just your body, but your mind and your confidence in yourself and what you’re capable of. Because you have to perform the exercises on your own, with nothing else, no other support. And so that really does not only benefit your strength and your stretch in your body but also prepares you for what life has to show for you. It’s one of my favorite reasons for people to do mat Pilates because it’s the thing that’s just going to really up-level your confidence and what your body is capable of. Want to see if you’re ready for mat Pilates, check out our 25-minute Mat Workout that you can do wherever you are, and you can do as many minutes as you have time for.

Pilates on the Mat

Let’s talk about Pilates on the mat. First of all, it’s actually what Joseph Pilates created first. So the mat work is what he envisioned. Everyone should be doing it everywhere. He envisioned people doing it in schools. He wanted everyone to do it all over the world every single day because it’s a low-impact workout you can do every single day. And might I just say not all low-impact fitness is Pilates? But Pilates is low impact especially when it comes to the mat work. So every single mat exercise is designed to include your entire body. It has an equal balance of stretch and strength happening every single exercise. You breathe consistently throughout the movement, really challenging your lung capacity, working from your center outward just like you do on every single Pilates exercise. However, what is the most amazing thing about Pilates on the mat is that you don’t need any fancy equipment. There is a fancy mat that you can use which I love and my favorite one is linked below. And it really does make the mat an actual piece of equipment with handles and a strap. In fact, if you look at my video about the types of Pilates equipment you’ll hear how I explain why the mat is so amazing when you have those things but if you’re just getting started the mat is a great place because you just need room to lay on the floor. You can do it in a hotel room, you could do it at a park, you could do it on a balcony overlooking a beautiful sunset. The mat work is something you can take with you anywhere you go. Whereas anything else with Pilates with equipment really does limit your ability to do it unless you have access to those things. You can check the benefits of Pilates mat and why it exists.

Pilates on the Reformer

Alright, let’s talk about reformer Pilates. Actually, is really just Pilates on the reformer. Let me explain why. A lot of people out there are trying to talk you into doing reformer Pilates and telling you, “Oh, you’re doing reformer Pilates, you should do reformer Pilates.” Here is the deal. It’s all Pilates, Joseph Pilates created each piece of equipment to help people with specific needs. Each piece of equipment supports from in a different way. As I mentioned the mat, there’s actually no support but from yourself. So it is the ultimate challenge. But the reformer actually does just that reforms you, it’s got a foot bar, it’s got shoulder blocks, and a strap and we have a whole video about the best reformers for your home. I actually talked about all the benefits of the reformer there and why it exists. But let me explain it really quickly. What happened was Joseph Pilates saw that people struggled with the mat work, it’s hard, you have muscles that are really easy to use and muscles that are dormant and like, “What you call in me?” So the reformer is one of the best places to actually understand how to move your legs, from the muscles from behind them. How to strengthen parts of your body that you don’t have access to yet, and it really does allow you to do the mat work better, but it’s not that you go and do reformer Pilates or you do mat Pilates, ideally, to be on your access I love for everyone to do all the Pilates that’s out there. However, I do understand that access is hard. So if you’re going to reformer class, that means the entire work that’s gonna be on the reformer. What I hope you also do is complement that with some mat work so you can see how the reformer is benefiting your body and allowing you to do the mat work better.

Which one is better for you?

So which one is better for you, Pilates on the mat or Pilates on the reformer? Alright, let’s just talk about some things. If you are new to moving your body, you have maybe some aches and pains, and you have access to going to a reformer, class. Reformer is gonna be a really great place for you to connect to the muscles you need for the mat. That does not mean that reformer is better, it means the reformer is a great place to teach you where you should be moving from. Because as we mentioned before, many times the mat doesn’t have anything to tell you how to move those, from those right muscles, right? So you want to actually try out the reformer if you can have access to it. Otherwise, if you don’t have access to equipment, it’s not something you can afford or it’s not in your area, the mat work is going to be great. And it doesn’t mean that you can’t learn how to move from the right places. In fact, if you have a really great teacher, and if you have people who really can help you understand where those connections come from, you can absolutely do only the mat work. I actually did the mat work only for three years. I didn’t even know the equipment existed when I first started doing Pilates. And I loved the mat so much when someone put me on a reformer, I was like, “What is this?” I feel like I’m flying off of this machine. This doesn’t make any sense. It’s not even nearly as hard as the mat. And the truth is, is that as I’ve gotten stronger, as I’ve gotten more connected, there are exercises that are definitely difficult and challenging on the reformer. In fact, the coolest thing about Pilates is, the more advanced you get, the harder the beginner exercises get. However, I would say using the reformer to help you find those connections so that you can have an incredible mat practice be great.

Find the right Pilates teacher

So how do you know if you have a teacher who’s actually going to be able to help you? Here are the things I want you to look into. I want you to make sure that your teachers, you hear things like comprehensively trained, or you see that they’ve been doing, they did Pilates training for over 450 hours, maybe 900 hours. And I want you to look for those things. Some people are trained on a weekend. And while I want as many teachers out in the world as possible, the truth is, is that a weakened training does not allow them to have the best advice and information for you. And unfortunately, a lot of people do a lot of funky things on Instagram and then put it in a class and call it Pilates.

Pilates is designed to balance your imbalances

Pilates is designed to balance your imbalances, should never feel like you spot training, you should feel like every exercise you’re doing as a full body exercise from your center outward. And every exercise you do should be less than 10 reps. So here’s how I incorporate it. And I think you can use this as well. I actually do both. I love doing the mat work. I tried to do it several times a week. In fact, I let the mat work really reveal to me where I need to go in my practice and explore more on the reformer. And I use the reformer to really help make sure that I’m not overdoing it with one muscle group or another. Here’s the deal, our bodies change every single day. So some I can literally go on the mat on a Monday morning and do feel like a rockstar and then get on Tuesday and go whoa, my back’s tight because I spent all day Monday over Zoom. Right.

So the reformer really helps me find those sticky spots and work through them. And so when I have a day like that, I’ll hit my reformer first. And then I’ll get on my mat. And sometimes I’ll just do a one-rep mat drill. In fact, I have a one-rep max drill workout for you here on this channel. So make sure you check it out. Which means if you’re short on time, you have less than 10 measures you want each mat exercise and boom workouts complete. So it’s really a lot of fun. So you can do both. In fact, if you have access to both, I really hope you are able to do it. But if you only have access to the mat, do not think it’s less than it is the thing that Joseph Pilates for all of us to do. It’s really amazing. And it makes you super duper strong.

Ready to get started in Pilates

So if you are ready to get started in Pilates, yay, mission accomplished. I am on a mission to get as many people doing Pilates as possible because it really does help you do your life better. So what you can do is to check us out here. We have memberships based on the equipment access you have, so you only have access to the mat, then pick the mat membership. And every single week we’ll drop a new mat class, it’s 30 minutes long. And you get to compare yourself to yourself. Remember, I said our bodies change every single day. So you really get to become your own teacher. Every single week’s class has a different theme, helping you understand how to move from your center outward. And all of our teachers have been trained for more than 450 hours and are all comprehensively trained, we have a combined total of 92 years of experience, which is kind of amazing. So you’ll go there. And you’ll check that out. Plus, we have a really awesome community that’s there to help hold you accountable, to cheer you on where you can share aha moments. And you can send in a video of you doing an exercise if you’re concerned that you might be doing it wrong. And we’ll give you proper feedback just like you would get if you’re an in-person studio.

How the reformer benefited your mat class

If you have access to the reformer, we have a reformer and mat membership. Nope, you can’t just do the reformer only because as I said, you’ve got to do them both ideally together. And a lot of times people who have reformer access just wanted to do the reformer. I get it. It’s a lot of fun. And it’s super supportive. So you’re like, “I’m rocking this out.” But I want you to also have access mat. So what we do is a mat class and the reformer class had the exact same theme. So you can see how the two go together. And, you can challenge yourself by doing the reformer and then hitting the mat class and seeing how the reformer benefited your mat class and comparing yourself to yourself. So if you want to try that out, check us out here. Thank you so much for watching. I’m so grateful for you. If you haven’t subscribed to this channel, make sure you do so, and then any questions you have drop in the comments below. I love answering them. I go live every single Sunday to answer your questions. Thank you so much and have an amazing day.

By lesley.logan

Lesley Logan, NCPT, is the founder of OnlinePilatesClasses.com, the first free online catalogue of Pilates exercise tutorial videos, where you can also find weekly online mat classes and workshops. When not teaching from her studio in Los Angeles, Lesley can be found traveling the world leading Pilates retreats, or offering Pilates business coaching to studio owners and other instructors through her private mastermind group. Connect with Lesley on instagram @lesley.logan or through the contact page on this site.

Loving this Pilates exercise tutorial? Take weekly online Pilates mat classes with OPC Teachers.
Enjoying Lesley's teaching style? Willing to travel? Explore the world while maintaining your practice by joining Lesley on a Pilates retreat.

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pop up summer tour | online pilates classes

SUCH A TEASE

ONLINE MAT & REFORMER PILATES CLASS DESCRIPTIONS:

Teaser is probably one of the most photographed exercises in Pilates. Which makes people think it's a "peak pose." But, it's anything but! It's simply another layer to your Pilates practice. This week we will acknowledge how each exercise contributes to your ability to do Teaser (someday) and then how Teaser teaches you where to get curious in your practice.

On the Mat we will use light weights for one round of Teaser as they can be helpful for those still adding into their practice.
No props on the Reformer.

See you in class,

xx~LL

MAT EQUIPMENT NEEDED: Your awesome self, light weights and a Mat!

>> Wondering what mat I’m using? You can find out more here.

REFORMER EQUIPMENT NEEDED: Your awesome self and a Reformer!

>> Wondering what reformer I’m using? You can find out more here.

UP, UP, & AWAY

ONLINE MAT, REFORMER, CADILLAC & WUNDA CHAIR PILATES CLASS DESCRIPTIONS:

We are all going to feel like Super Humans after this month!!

Whenever I’m in a hard exercise (for me) where I’m holding myself up with my arms and reaching my legs away I picture myself with super human strength!!! I can do ANYTHING! It makes me smile and helps me stay STRONG.

This month our exercise is Up Stretch and when you think about it - reaching your legs away and staying strong over the carriage may feel a lot like flying!

We’ll be focusing on stabilizing our strong cores while staying equally balanced in our arms and legs. We are giving you some amazing building blocks by merging strength and stretch in all directions. You are going to get a little bit of everything that you can use to connect to your Up Stretch (and even your Roll Up and Knee Stretches Off).

Chair: Please have a foam roller and a balance pad available. We are going to challenge your balance safely.

xx-LL

BACK IN THE SADDLE AGAIN

Online Mat & Reformer Pilates Class Descriptions:

Yes, we are focusing on Horseback in this week's workout. But, we are also giving a celebration to all of us who might be back in our Pilates saddle again. Or, maybe you've been in the Saddle but stuck in the mud. This week's workout it's designed to be a positive play time with an exercise many of us avoid and one that we may never get. But, hey, it's always fun to be out where a friend is a friend - get it? If you know the song you do!

Mat: Theraband and light weights
Reformer: no props needed

See ya in class,
xx~LL 💋

    MAT EQUIPMENT NEEDED: Your awesome self, Theraband, light weights and a mat!

    >> Wondering what mat I’m using? You can find out more here.

    REFORMER EQUIPMENT NEEDED: Your awesome self and a reformer!

    >> Wondering what reformer I’m using? You can find out more here.

    99 PROBLEMS BUT BRIDGE AIN'T ONE

    Online Mat & Reformer Pilates Class Descriptions:

    Shoulder Bridge has multiple phases. It's a phenomenal replacement exercise and also can be a huge challenge. You can balance your asymmetries while also revealing them. It's an exercise that can warm you up and can be part of an advanced series. This week we'll focus on exercises that benefit from Shoulder Bridge and what Shoulder Bridge is telling us about our practice that day.

    Mat: magic circle for the warm up. If you don't have a circle a ball and a theraband.
    Reformer: no prop needed but can use a theraband or circle for short box

    See ya in class,
    xx-LL 💋

    MAT EQUIPMENT NEEDED: Your awesome self, magic circle, a ball, a theraband and a mat!

    >> Wondering what mat I’m using? You can find out more here.

    REFORMER EQUIPMENT NEEDED: Your awesome self, a theraband or circle for short box and a reformer!

    >> Wondering what reformer I’m using? You can find out more here.

    AIN'T NO PARTY LIKE A 100 PARTY

    Online Mat & Reformer Pilates Class Descriptions:

    So many people don't love the 100. But the 100 is an incredible exercise that when you know all its capabilities can be something you might look forward to...maybe even like a little bit. Or a lot!

    We often wonder why the 100 is the first exercise. I mean, it's got a lot going on for a warm up. To me it's a survey, a feedback, a mirror to how our body is doing that day. And, how cool it is to know how your body is feeling as you go into your practice. This way you can explore what your body needs in other exercises.

    Let's explore what the 100 is telling us and how to make it our own each day!

    No props needed.

    See ya in class,
    xx-LL 💋

      MAT EQUIPMENT NEEDED: Your awesome self and a mat!

      >> Wondering what mat I’m using? You can find out more here.

      REFORMER EQUIPMENT NEEDED: Your awesome self and a reformer!

      >> Wondering what reformer I’m using? You can find out more here.

      STAND BY ME

      Online Mat & Reformer Pilates Class Descriptions:

      The key to longevity is being able to get down to the ground and up again with as little assistance as possible. In this weeks class we are going to focus on how to stand in your feet no matter where they are in space.

      On the Mat we will have a playful ending that Joseph Pilates would do!

      The Reformer we’ll end challenging ourselves standing on our carriage. (Options to do the exercises off the Reformer too!)

      No props needed.

      See ya in class,

      xx~LL 💋

      MAT EQUIPMENT NEEDED: Your awesome self and a mat!

      >> Wondering what mat I’m using? You can find out more here.

      REFORMER EQUIPMENT NEEDED: Your awesome self and a reformer!

      >> Wondering what reformer I’m using? You can find out more here.

      FRENEMIES

      Online Mat, Reformer, Cadillac & Wunda Chair Pilates Class Descriptions:

      Hello, it's OPC Teacher Christine here! I used to get commended for my form and flexibility in any type of movement class I went to, even if it was my very first class. But what I struggled with was always hitting a plateau where I couldn't make progress or improvement. For me, that changed when I discovered the strength and control I found in practicing Pilates.

      Getting on the apparatuses puts your body in a position where you find strength, stretch, and control through your center. I was unable to fold my body like origami anymore. One of the mat exercises - double leg stretch - is great for finding a strong center regardless of what the arms and legs are doing.

      For this month, we'll explore using the concept of finding an inner lift of the belly away from the thighs to find a strength in our center, the two-way stretch of the limbs, while controlling the movement of the arms and legs whether they move away from center, or come back to center.

      Mat class: Magic Circle and squishy ball

      See you in class,

      Christine

      HANG 10

      ONLINE MAT, REFORMER, CADILLAC & WUNDA CHAIR PILATES CLASS DESCRIPTIONS:

      Grip strength as well as upper body strength plays an important role in so many different exercises throughout the mat and all apparatus. Our grip can influence the connection from our wrists - to our arms - to our back. And building strength in our chest and upper back can help us connect more to our center in every exercise.

      All month long we’ll explore the feeling, the strength, and the position of our hands and upper body to see how our exercises change with a little extra focus. We’ll also play with ways to gain more strength and awareness in our chest and upper back to create even more connections to the exercises.

      Props:
      Chair - short pole* and a foam roller for balance
      *A thicker pole or roll down bar size might feel nice, but no worries you’ll find your connections no matter what you have on hand!
      Mat: a pole
      Reformer: No props needed
      Cadillac: No props needed

      See ya in class,
      xx-LL 💋

      I LOVE ROCK & ROLL UP

      Online Mat & Reformer Pilates Class Descriptions:

      Finding some love for Roll Up and Open Leg Rocker isn't easy! But, these two exercises unlock the potential for so many other exercises. And what we don't like we often need. So, let's dive into what we need to rock our Roll Ups and Open leg Rockers and see how that changes the rest of our practice in the meantime.

      Mat: Magic Circle, Pole or Theraband
      Reformer: have your shortbox pole near by

      xx~LL

      MAT EQUIPMENT NEEDED: Your awesome self, Magic Circle, Pole or Theraband and a mat!

      >> Wondering what mat I’m using? You can find out more here.

      REFORMER EQUIPMENT NEEDED: Your awesome self, short box and a reformer!

      >> Wondering what reformer I’m using? You can find out more here.