Whether you’ve just started Pilates or have been practising for years, both mat and reformer Pilates offer you a range of benefits, including improved posture and muscle strength, better balance and coordination, increased flexibility, improved mobility and stability, and more.
And while they offer similar benefits, many people believe that mat is easier than reformer Pilates – and maybe even a bit boring. However, that’s definitely not the case. Here’s a look at why you should consider adding a mat class to your weekly routine.
Added resistance vs body weight
A reformer uses springs to add resistance, which enables you to do a variety of movements with the challenge of added weight, and this does help to build strength.
However, it also means that the springs assist and support you through the movements and can be a distraction as you take instructions and adjust the machine.
In a mat class, on the other hand, there’s nowhere to hide.The resistance comes primarily from your own body weight, although resistance bands or circles are often used for an added challenge. And, as you don’t have to wait for the class to get set up on the reformers, there’s more time to dedicate to the exercises.
Matwork: Not just for beginners
Members often tell me they want to strengthen a certain part of their body to help alleviate a pain they’re experiencing somewhere else. While it’s wonderful that they have this body awareness, strength building is not the first step to a healthy, functional body. You first have to mobilise joints that need to be mobilised and learn to recruit the stabilising muscles around them correctly. It’s only once you are sufficiently mobile and have the necessary control to stabilise muscles that you should progress to adding load e.g. using reformer springs for specific movements.
Mat Pilates shouldn’t be viewed as a beginner form of exercise, but rather as a supplementary form which helps our bodies reap maximum benefits from other forms of Pilates and exercise.
Building a solid foundation
When you train with intensity and resistance, as in reformer Pilates and other exercise classes, your muscles experience small tears which assist with growth and strength. But these tears also often tighten the muscles around the joints, which can make you less efficient at using these joints and recruiting the muscles around them.
Mat Pilates, however, has less resistance and therefore causes less tightening and provides more opportunity to release and mobilise around your joints. The seemingly low intensity exercises work to stabilise the joints and require focus and concentration. Once you’ve learned to correctly engage and recruit the targeted muscles, these ‘boring’ exercises become far more challenging and intense. The result is greater control and coordination over more mobile joints – and you can use this, along with your increasing core strength, in a reformer class or your own workout to really build strength.
You’ll also start to see even deeper results in your daily life, through improved posture, strength and athletic performance. So, are you ready to commit to a mat class? Try it for just four weeks and see the benefits for yourself!
New to Pilates?
If you’re keen to find out what Pilates is all about, join one of our classes, book a private lesson or sign up for a free introductory course.