Pilates equipment is a great compliment to the Pilates mat work, and can be accessed in fully equipped Pilates studios, and some home studios. Pilates equipment was originally created by Joseph Pilates in the 1920’s, and has since then proven to be one of the most effective forms of exercise available. The equipment is low impact and is used to strengthen, lengthen, and tone your entire body, which will encourage better fitness and decrease your risk of injury. It is always best to work with a certified Pilates instructor when using the equipment, as this will help to keep your practice safe and effective.
The Pilates Cadillac is a raised mat table that includes metal poles, various wooden bar systems, and springs. The raised table allows for easy accessibility, and it includes a strap which assists with grounding your legs during certain exercises.
From left to right in the picture below there are: leg springs, the roll down bar, fuzzy straps, the ballet bar, and the push through bar. The legs springs can be used for supine or side lying leg exercises, as well as for supine and standing arm exercises. The roll down bar can be used for numerous exercises, which include the roll down with an added arm press and side bend, as well as chest expansion and thigh stretch. The fuzzy straps are used for inversions such as the half and full hang, which allow reverse blood flow to your brain. The ballet bar is classically used for the ballet stretches, and the breathing exercise. The push through bar can be used to stretch your legs, shoulders, and spine in numerous ways, and can be connected from the top or bottom of the Cadillac depending on the exercise.
The Pilates Reformer is usually raised a few inches off of the ground for easy accessibility, although some models are lower to the ground. In most Reformers, the spring load varies from light, medium, and hard, and these resistances are known by their correlating spring color. No matter the spring load, the Reformer allows you to have a smooth, non-impact workout which is ideal for your organs, muscles, and joints. From left to right in the picture below is the foot platform, footbar, gear bar, springs, mat, shoulder blocks, head rest, and adjustable straps. The foot platform is used in standing exercises such as side splits. It generally has a wide base, which helps to support your entire foot. The footbar has various height options that can be adjusted depending on the exercise or if you need to modify an exercise for any specific injury or tightness. The gear bar may be moved in or out depending on your leg length. The springs are fed from bellow, which gives a unique, non-impact, resistance to each exercise. Generally, the Reformer mat is used while you’re supine with your shoulders resting against the shoulder blocks. These blocks help keep your shoulders down away from your ears, and the head rest is slightly elevated to support your neck during the exercises. Finally, the adjustable straps can be used for arm exercises such as the 100, supine arm circles, and the rowing series. The straps can also be used for leg exercises such as leg circles, frog, and short spine.
The Pilates Tower is similar to the Cadillac, but it attaches to a wall, versus free standing. The Tower is ideal for smaller studios, as it does not take up as much space as the Cadillac. The Tower can be doubled as a Pilates Mat as well. A benefit of using a Tower is that it you can perform standing exercises on it such as standing arm springs and Russian squats.
The Pilates Chair is another extremely valuable piece of equipment that has more function than what meets the eye. The chain utilizes tension springs, similar to many other types of pilates equipment. While the pilates chair may not offer the same number of exercises as the pilates reformer or cadillac, the chair is a less expensive piece of equipment and is a great tool to have at home for quick exercises routines when needed. The handle bars located on the side of the chain are typically adjustable for different heights, allowing it to work with different body types. While there are many exercises that can be practiced while sitting in the chair itself, there are countless other exercises that can be practiced by standing and balancing on different parts of the chair itself.
The Pilates Mat is very similar to a yoga mat although it is typically a bit thicker for added comfort and protection. A pilates mat can double as a yoga mat, making it an easy decision when deciding what equipment to start purchasing and collecting. The pilates mat and the exercises associated with it are a great place to start when just beginning the pilates practice.
The Magic Circle is a simple yet effective tool used in many pilates exercises. The magic circle can be used while standing, sitting, laying down and in many other positions, making it very versatile and beneficial to the pilates practice.
Even though there are many different types of pilates equipment available to the practice, it is best to first understand you body mechanics so that you can decide what types of equipment you may want to utilize. Each piece of equipment acts as a supplemental tool and there is no one piece that is totally necessary to the practice. While it is very beneficial to try all pieces of equipment eventually, a good pilates mat and well-guided instructional is perhaps the best starting point for anyone new to the pilates practice.