In today’s fitness clubs and spas, you’ll often see one of two (or both) types of Pilates classes offered: Mat Pilates and Reformer Pilates. Those new to Pilates might be wondering, “What’s the difference?”

Mat Pilates VS. Reformer Pilates

Created by Joseph Pilates, this mat exercise was originally developed as a method centered around five basic principles: breathing, pelvic placement, rib cage placement, scapular movement & stabilization, and head & cervical placement. This probably sounds WAY too scientific for you, but the bottom line is these exercise movements involve the entire body and are designed to strengthen the ‘core.’

Simply put, Mat Pilates stays true to the teachings of Joseph Pilates. Most of the exercises focus on strengthening your core by targeting key muscle groups. It’s really all about balance and coordination. A typical Mat Pilates class lasts for roughly 45 minutes and usually doesn’t involve any props.

Reformer Pilates incorporates an apparatus that introducing the element of resistance training, which challenges the body – in a slightly different way – to build core strength. The apparatus has five different coils providing varying resistance. Depending on the exercise movement, the resistance can be modified to be easier or harder. While the exercise fundamentals are the same as those you would do in a Mat Pilates class, the added resistance creates an additional challenge for the muscles of the body.

These days, there are additional variations on the “reformer apparatus’, including the barrel, the chair, and the megaformer. Pilates has branched out in different forms (in very much the same way that Yoga has); however, the main thing to remember is that, with most Pilates classes, the fundamentals, exercises and goals of the exercises remain the same: to involve the entire body and strengthen one’s core.

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Anita Mirchandani, M.S, R.D, C.D.N received a Bachelor of Arts and then a Master of Science in clinical nutrition from New York University, and completed a dietetic internship at New York-Presbyterian hospital in 2011. She is now a practicing registered dietitian and recently co-founded FitMapped, a free ‘GPS for fitness’ concept that helps users find fitness easily and connect with fellow enthusiasts. Follow her @FitNutAnita for interesting updates of fitness and nutrition.