You may have heard of Pilates as a core-conditioning class done on mats at your local fitness centre, but do you know that Joseph Pilates invented an entire system of training based on exercises on various pieces of equipment that he designed to work the entire body?
For Pilates fans, they know that it’s not a question of choosing work on the mat vs machine-based Pilates, as each piece of equipment such as the Cadillac, Tower and Chair – all have special purposes. In fact, they complement each other beautifully.
The Mat is the foundation of Pilates. Consisting of 34 exercises that first appeared in Joseph Pilates’ 1945 book “Return to Life through Contrology”, Pilates Matwork has endless variations but the bones of the original work – a focus on the center, mindful breathing, and spinal mobility – are apparent. Matwork can be a challenging discipline in its own right, and is the most accessible of Pilates’ exercises because all you need is a mat!
Under the guidance of a good teacher who should ensure proper technique, you can enjoy all of the benefits of Pilates Mat as it is adaptable to all fitness levels and life stages. You use only your own body weight as resistance.
The Reformer is arguably the most well-known and most popular piece of Pilates equipment. It consists of a flatbed, called the “Carriage,” that sits on a wooden frame with springs and pulleys that control the resistance. That resistance makes the Reformer a very efficient form of exercise, as your muscles work against the resistance. A great advantage of the reformer is the ability to fine-tune the resistance according to your body’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as monitor your progression in a way that cannot be done working simply on the mat.
The Reformer works the muscles in a balanced way, concentrically and eccentrically, neither under- nor over-training any of them. The Reformer workout is suitable for most clients and provides a great, full-body workout.
Named after the General Motors’s car that was a symbol of American prestige, Joseph Pilates’ original Cadillac closely resembled a hospital bed with a frame at each and above the mattress area. With the trapeze bars, springs and straps with hanging fuzzies, the Cadillac may look like an intimidating piece of Pilates equipment, but it can challenge the body in multiple planes of motion. Some studio’s choose only to have Tower Units, but I love the Cadillac as you can sit, stand, lie down, roll, hang upside down while focusing on alignment without stress on your joints. It is a total body strengthening workout.
It’s called The Tower of Power – a vertical unit that uses a variety of attachments – bars and springs that provide the amazing neural feedback. As these springs hook in different locations, they allow the legs, arms and torso to work directly with the springs. Wherever you are weaker or not as agile will shake! You will see this and feel it.
Those that want to stretch and develop long lean muscles love the Tower.
The Stability Chair
Originally called the WundaChair, this piece of equipment has a platform with pedals attached by springs to either support body weight or create resistance. The Chair is all about strength as it involves lifting your own body weight and a lot of isometric contractions.
With a focus on lower body strength and power, upper body strength and core stability, it’s easy to see why many of our athletic clients enjoy a program that includes exercises on the Wunda Chair.
The Ladder Barrel
The Barrel is all about spreading out and having a supported base to open your spine, in all directions! The Barrel helps counteract the common forward head position caused by modern lifestyles and the wooden rungs provide versatility for different users.
Here is some vintage footage of Joseph Pilates doing his exercises on the Spine Corrector, the predecessor to the modern Ladder Barrel.