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While you can perform the same series of exercises on the Reformer that you can on the Mat, the workouts are notably different.

Pilates Showdown!

Mat vs. Reformer – which method is best for you?

(Thanks to Oxygen Pilates for providing much of the information in this article)

Pilates has been proven to improve core strength, flexibility, mobility, balance, and muscle tone; however, which method is best, Mat or Reformer? Since becoming a reformer instructor last year, this is one of the most common questions I get asked. As both Mat and Reformer workouts provide similar benefits, it is no wonder that many (both Pilates newbies and regulars) often need clarification about which class best suits their current goals and abilities.

They Have Much In Common

They are both beneficial to building core strength and toning muscles. Both methods train you to initiate the movements from your body’s powerhouse (your core/centering) and will quickly translate into benefits across your day-to-day activities. While you can perform the same series of exercises on the Reformer that you can on the Mat, the workouts are notably different. Mat classes utilize the body weight for exercises (sometimes with props), while the Reformer adds resistance to the Pilates exercises by using the spring load. 

To the Mat!

Pilates mat work is the basis for the entire Pilates system of exercises. Generally, a traditional Pilates mat class will work your legs, stomach, and lower and upper back muscles. On the Mat, your body weight provides resistance against gravity, making the workout more challenging in many cases. You must be in complete control of your body rather than relying on the assistance or support of the springs and cables of an apparatus. 

Its emphasis on learning to control your muscles during exercises makes Mat work an excellent option for beginners.

But don’t be fooled; advanced mat classes are the hardest because you’re always using your body, and the Reformer isn’t there assisting or supporting you. While doing Pilates on a mat instead of a Reformer may not seem as exciting or challenging, many clients see results (improved strength, posture, agility, flexibility, toned muscles) within just a few mat sessions. And if you haven’t taken my class yet, you truly haven’t lived! 

Or The Reformer

The modern Pilates reformer is a narrow bed with a sliding carriage, straps, and pulleys, made more or less resistant by adding or removing springs. Many people are quite scared of the Reformer when they first see it as it looks pretty intimidating (almost medieval), but put any fears you may have aside because, after just one or two workouts on a Reformer, you realize it is the most versatile and effective piece of exercise equipment ever made. Not to mention, it’s great fun!

Due to the resistance created by the pulley and spring system of the Reformer, the repertoire of exercises available is significantly increased compared to Mat, providing far more variety. You can perform very basic to highly advanced movements in virtually any position on the Reformer. The Reformer can also provide a more challenging strength and endurance workout than mat classes, leading to visible results sooner. 

The Bottom Line

You can do more exercises on a reformer than a mat, and it gives you the option of performing exercises in many different body positions, from your back, side, stomach, seated, or on your feet or knees.

Mat or Reformer Pilates can be for anyone! 

Whether you are 18 or 81, Pilates is a great form of strength, postural, flexibility, balance, and endurance training and can be designed to target one specific area, smaller muscle groups, or as a whole-body muscular exercise.

So Which One Should You Choose?

So which one is best for your body? I suggest trying both, and YOU can decide that for yourself. Mat classes are scheduled throughout the week and are included in the “One Studio – Mind & Body” or “All Access” membership. Reformer classes are an additional fee, offered as either private or small group training. For those who have never tried Reformer, demo classes are available upon request by contacting me or any of our outstanding reformer instructors. 

This may be the change your body craves, so why wait any longer? 

You can email me at for more information. 

Sourced by

Linda Cunningham

Linda Cunningham

Linda Cunningham is a NASM Certified Personal Trainer, AFAA Group Instructor, AAAI/ISMA Pilates Instructor, AAAI/ISMA Kids Fitness Instructor, and also certified in Zumba. She shared portions of this article from

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