Whether you’re a beginner, intermediate or total enthusiast, when it comes to selecting a Pilates style that is right for you it can be a tad overwhelming. There are countless types of Pilates classes around the world that cater to all kinds of people, fitness levels, conditions, preferences etc.
In this article, we will be diving into each of the styles and what you could expect from attending one of these classes. We will talk about what pieces of equipment are involved and what type of person would most likely benefit from each respective method.
Let’s get into it!
Classical vs Contemporary
Before we go any further, it’s important that we point out that there are two main categories that the Pilates practice is divided by. They are: “Classical Pilates” and “Contemporary Pilates”. As the name suggests, classical Pilates was the first to originate. All classical styles of this practice refer to the movements and exercises that it’s founder (Joseph Pilates) created back in the 1920’s. All of these workouts are based off of the original techniques.
On the other hand, contemporary Pilates is often made up of exercises that have been developed by industry professionals over the many decades that this practice has been around for. However, it is quite common to see a mixture of both classical and contemporary movements within these modern-day class styles.
Now that we’ve that cleared up, let’s take a look at each individual style…
One of the two most popular methods and the OG of all styles is non other than the “Reformer Pilates”. If you have already read our previous blog article (What is a Pilates Workout Reformer?) then you will be well acquainted with what this style entails and the many wonderful benefits that come with regular training of this kind. To be honest, this is our personal favourite!!
The Pilates reformer is quite simply put, the ultimate full-body workout for anyone of any age, gender and fitness level. In some parts of the world, it may also be called a “Universal Reformer”. This style is performed on a dynamic, bed-like machine consisting of a center carriage, straps for your hands or feet, resistance springs, a standing platform and an adjustable foot bar.
This form of Pilates is proven to be superior to that of Mat Pilates in many ways as the range of movements and exercises are substantially increased, providing far more variety and opportunity for personal growth. These exercises generally work to target all the larger muscle groups within the body, promoting an ideal technique for anyone to build and tone muscle, improve flexibility and increase joint stability.
Depending on whichever studio you visit, various tempos of reformer class may be available to you. It is quite common for studios to offer their clients both a gentle, flow version as well as a more upbeat, cardio-inspired class. Regardless of what level you are at, if you are searching for a fun, full-body burn then this is the perfect style for you!
Stretch on Reformer
Before we move away from the reformer, if this is up your alley then there is one more class style that you should be aware of. Whilst all Pilates lessons tend to offer a short stretch at the end of every class, a lot of studios out there are choosing to offer an entire class dedicated to stretching the muscles, lengthening the spine, straightening posture and calming the nervous system. This is often referred to as “Stretch on Reformer”.
This sub-style of Pilates can definitely be compared to the practice of Yoga. If you’re someone who carries a lot of tension in the body, has poor flexibility, various aches and pains and/or, finds it hard to relax… this may be a fantastic class for you to try!
Enter the second most popular style of the Pilates practice, “Mat Pilates”. Unsurprisingly, this method is performed on the ground with a cushiony, padded mat similar to Yoga. In many cases, various props and apparatus are used throughout the sequence to increase level of difficulty such as free weights, magic circle, resistance bands, balls and different sizes of blocks.
Whilst this kind of Pilates also works the entirety of the body, the main focus when it comes to mat work is the perfection of spinal and core strength.
Believe it or not, even though this style is extremely common it is actually a rather new concept to the world of Pilates. Mat Pilates was not a technique developed by the founder of the practice (Joseph Pilates) but instead it has been established over time. The wonderful thing about this method is it can be practiced absolutely anywhere. All you need is a good quality mat, a few small tools and you’re good to go.
Although any style of Pilates can be modified to suit each individual, without the support of spring resistance that you find on most Pilates machinery, taking part in mat classes may not be the best starting point for some (especially those with little to no strength or, troublesome joints and injuries).
If you are unsure whether this style is suitable or not for you, we recommend consulting a doctor or health professional first.
Pilates Barre & Fusion
Strap yourselves in for a super exciting, varied, contemporary workout style. Lets just say that these classes are absolutely perfect for those who get bored easily or, often have a great deal of energy to burn.
“Pilates Barre” is a mixed style that meshes together various elements of traditional Pilates, dance, ballet, yoga and strength training. A variation of this class is “Pilates Fusion” which is generally the same concept but tends to focus solely on Pilates mat and reformer, ballet and strength. Sometimes, boxing inspired moves are incorporated too.
Quite like Mat Pilates, this innovative style frequently uses small props and equipment such a booty bands, circles, balls and straps to enhance the workout and to ensure that every little muscle in your body is activated. Ouch!!
My goodness, if you are after a Pilates style that is going to have you feeling the burn like nothing else… look no further!!
If you are someone who is recovering from surgery, an accident, broken bones, torn muscles and ligaments, a biological ailment etc. than you will most likely want to look into some form of “Clinical Pilates” as your first step. In short, clinical Pilates is usually a one-on-one class that is designed especially for the user in order to address and work on the individual’s specific condition/s.
Identical to all other Pilates styles, clinical methods also work to hone in on posture, core strength, flexibility, balance, coordination, control, stability and proper breathing technique. Most clinical Pilates sessions will incorporate one or more types of Pilates machinery in order to access an endless supply of exercise variation.
Keep reading for more information on this.
Other Pilates Machinery
Aside from the reformer, there are other machines that are used throughout this form of exercise. Each equipment piece has their own distinct purpose and will be best suited to certain kinds of users. Typically, these machines aren’t supplied in everyday Pilates studios but, they can be found in most clinical studios. As well as this, those who prefer these types of apparatus commonly tend to invest in buying them for their own home environment.
1. The Wunda Chair
A compact box seat with one or more pedals and the same type of resistance springs that a reformer has. This piece of equipment aims to focus a bit more on the lower body but, can be used to target any muscle group in the body.
2. The Trapeze Table
This is quite an impressive structure. It features four poles set on a secure, cushioned platform with an overhead trapeze. Many people can feel a bit scared when they see this contraption for the first time as it looks like some sort of torture device. However, this is definitely not the case and it is a fantastic piece of equipment that can offer its user a diverse, full-body workout of any kind.
For those brand new to Pilates, this can be an excellent alternative to the mat. For those more experienced, the trapeze can provide an impeccable physical challenge.
3. The Tower
This is a tool that is commonly attached to the reformer or, sometimes placed against a wall with a mat below it. It basically allows the user to undergo a portion of the exercises that you would perform on the trapeze table without having to contend with the entire, large contraption.
Again, this is an awesome option for a whole-body workout but it also has the benefit of supporting a deep, restorative stretch.
There is a Pilates Style for Everyone
First of all, if you have managed to make it through this entire article, thanks so much for taking the time to tune in and read what we have to say! Here at My Pilates Collective we are so passionate about the industry and we want to help you as our client in any way that we can.
As you can probably conclude yourself, there really are types of Pilates classes out there to suit every single person. While every option provides a terrific workout in its own right, we urge you to try a few styles for yourself to find the perfect fit.
If you have any feedback for us or any questions at all, please don’t hesitate to leave us a comment below and we will endeavour to respond as quickly as possible.
Kiara – Site Founder
My Pilates Collective