Classical Pilates, Reformer Pilates

Pilates is not having “a thing” at the moment!

New year, new fitness fads. It’s the same every year.
Journalists and health bloggers go mad trying to find the next amazing workout or fitness gadget that is changed everyone’s lives in a quick fix.

This year is now exception. You only have to google the term Pilates and you will find endless headlines of Tik Tok fans rushing to do “Plank challenges on a Reformer”, or how to do a “Killer Abs Pilates challenge” or the latest Instagrammer announcing how “Pilates is a thing right now” and how to do “HIIT Pilates.”

A word of caution

All of the above really needs to be taken with a healthy pinch of salt!

Let’s first de-bunk some of the myths out there….

  • Pilates is not “a thing.”
  • It was created by Joseph Pilates back in the early 1900’s. He called his system of thousands of exercises done on (many) pieces of apparatus and floor based mathwork; Contrology.
  • Reformer Pilates is not “formally what was known as Contrology” as it was recently referred to in one article.
  • Reformer Pilates is not the new Pilates.
  • Reformer Pilates is not better.
  • Reformer Pilates is not :a modern variation on the boring old Pilates Mat class for old people: as one charming Instagrammer put it!
  • There is no such thing as HIIT Pilates in the Pilates world as it was intended it to be.
The Pilates Pod in Hitchin

So what’s the difference between “Reformer Pilates” and Pilates done in a fully equipped Pilates studio?

A reporter for a style magazine summed it up well so here’s what she had to say…

If the word Pilates brings to mind thoughts of packed in Reformer beds, pounding club-esque music and fast-paced movements that feel impossible to keep up with, know you’re not alone. Contemporary Pilates has a “base” in the classical movements prescribed by founder Joseph Pilates but, often, a base is all it is. 

Classical Pilates is never performed to music, it’s not changed up every week for leg days and arm workouts. It’s executed in a pre-determined series and sequence on the Mat and Reformer that Joe Pilates himself created.

Not only that, but classical Pilates uses a range of equipment not commonly seen in pop-culture Pilates studios. It’s not all about the fashion Reformer that we often see these days pop up. A fully equipped classical studio houses various types of equipment (all created by Joseph Pilates too) that all give a different feeling, for different reasons and work different parts of the body, all while giving the muscles different feedback to work on. These include the universal reformer, cadillac, wunda chair, high chair, baby chair, barrels, neck stretcher, a ped o pull and many other pieces. Worked together like this, Pilates is an incredibly powerful system.”

MacDonalds Pilates?

Having tried a large group Reformer class or what was described as “dynamic Pilates” one of our clients called her experience to be “like doing a quick fix version of Pilates, like MacDonalds Pilates”
Now, we have nothing wrong with the occasional burger, and everyone should be entitled to do you (Maccy D’s may be your thing) but we get her gist. Her experience of doing Pilates in a fully equipped studio with comprehensively trained teachers? “It’s like having access to the whole menu, all the ingredients and someone who knows how to make it turn out great.”

There are of course some great Reformer classes out there, taught by people who know what it’s like to have the whole menu. What it means to take just the Reformer on its own, how that may help someone get so far, but why you may need the whole apparatus too.

You can’t fix a car with just a wrench

My car got repaired recently. I didn’t know what was wrong with it, just that it starting niggling and grumbling. The engine overheated and the fan wouldn’t shut off, the car made some rattling noises and all the warning lights were on.

The mechanic who fixed it said it was probably just the spark plugs but he needed to take a proper look. I stood amazed at the array of tools he used to check it out, to access what he needed, to change one thing because it affected another. Wrench, spanners, jack, screwdrivers, magnetic pole thing, oil, rags, protective gear, pliers….

I remarked on what a lot of stuff he needed to do this simple job.

“Well, you can’t fix everything just with a wrench.”

He’s right!

Reformer is known as the Universal Reformer, meaning that everyone should be working out on it. It teaches you how to move without aid and support ie the Matwork! But what if the exercises on the Reformer (the ones Joe Pilates and his elders created, and not the ‘squat – lunge – plank modern combos you often see) aren’t working so smoothly? Well that translates to movements in your everyday life not going so smoothly too, and for that we need everything else. The Cadillac, high chair, Wunda Chair, ladder barrel, toe gizmo, sandbag, pod o pull, etc.

Because you can’t fix everything with just a Reformer!

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