Choose Between Two Options
- $19 for 5 Pilates Mat or Barre classes ($70 value)
- $35 for 10 Pilates Mat or Barre classes ($130 value)
Reformer Vs. Mat Pilates: Two Means to Lean Ends
Groupon’s study of mat and Reformer classes can help you decide which one to leap into.
Pilates makes a lot of promises: strong, lean muscles without unnecessary bulk, improved posture, and even relief from chronic pain. With proper practice and instruction, Pilates can deliver these results via one of two paths: Reformer and mat workouts. The former relies on an apparatus with a sliding carriage, springs, and pulleys, and the latter is performed on a foam rectangle slightly thicker than a yoga mat. Both were part of Joseph Pilates’ original workout regimen and secret crime-fighting team, and both draw from more than 400 exercises adaptable to both experience level and existing injuries.
Reformer and mat workouts rely on the principal of eccentric muscle contraction, using exercises that lengthen the muscles as they resist a force. On the Reformer, eccentric contraction usually happens as students resist their own body weight or the tension of the springs as they slide the carriage back in place. During mat exercises, students might carefully control their abs as they roll down as if doing the tail end of a sit-up in slow motion, causing eccentric contractions that elongate and strengthen the muscles. Some students find that the Reformer helps guide them through each exercise, making them keenly aware of how their positioning affects which muscles are worked. Conversely, mat exercises are safest and most effective when students guide themselves into the correct position, making instructor feedback all the more important.
There is no right answer as to whether beginning students should launch their Pilates career on the Reformer or on the mat—some even pursue both. The Reformer may be less straining to pregnant students or those with neck or back injuries, and some believe that the machine’s full-body workouts can deliver faster results than mat work. However, mat classes tend to be more prevalent—and more affordable—than Reformer sessions, largely due to the expense of purchasing the equipment and feeding the tiny hamsters that work all the pulleys. With either workout, small class sizes and one-on-one attention are the primary keys to success.