Reformer Pilates vs Mat Pilates – which one is better?

Reformer Pilates vs Mat Pilates – which one is better?

When people think of pilates they’re usually either thinking of mat pilates or reformer pilates. Though both forms of pilates are an excellent choice of exercise for those looking to improve core strength, balance, flexibility and muscle tone, many people often wonder which is best for their goals and abilities – mat or reformer pilates? 

We break it down below to help you decide what’s best for you.


What is Mat Pilates?

Let’s start with mat pilates and what it is. Often confused with yoga because they both involve body movement on a mat, mat pilates relies on using body weight as resistance while performing consistent and controlled movements on a mat. For this reason it is often thought of as the true foundation of pilates, requiring only a mat and stripped down to basics so users can focus on form.

Thanks to its simplicity mat pilates can be adapted for all ages and fitness levels, but don’t let that simplicity fool you, as a workout it can pack quite a punch. Matwork pilates is great for building muscle tone, with a particular focus on core strength that is hard to beat. 

Some people choose to add fitness accessories such as weights or bands to add more of a challenge to their workout but the key to pilates is maintaining consistency and controlling your body movements.

There are those who say mat pilates is harder than reformer pilates because it relies completely on body weight and core but ultimately both reformer and mat pilates can be as hard or as easy as you make them. There are certain moves performed on the reformer that can be more challenging than those performed on the mat. Due to their similarity it is harder to conclusively determine which is more challenging or the better workout. Ultimately it depends on the trainer, the studio and how much you want to challenge yourself.


Benefits of mat pilates

  • Doesn’t require any special equipment
  • Can be less intimidating than reformer pilates for beginners
  • Can be adapted to suit beginners or advanced
  • Improves flexibility, mobility, posture and strength
  • Can provide a foundational introduction to pilates movements


What is Reformer pilates?

Reformer pilates also involves consistent, controlled movement; however instead of a mat, this is performed on a piece of equipment known as a reformer. Reformers can vary in appearance and functionality but for the most part involve a sliding base and a stable platform, with straps and pulleys, and springs to add resistance to the exercises. 

Though the reformer can seem intimidating at first glance, it was actually developed by Joseph Pilates to help rehabilitate immobilised soldiers. Exercises can be more easily modified with the reformer as it allows users to perform certain exercises without bearing too much weight on any injured body parts. As such, reformer pilates is perfect for anyone requiring rehabilitation exercise.

Reformer pilates can be more dynamic and versatile than mat pilates, allowing for a greater range of positions and movements. For those looking for fun and variety as well as an effective workout, reformer pilates is the best choice.


Benefits of reformer pilates

  • Can be modified for injuries and joint issues
  • Perfect for rehab as it allows the user to avoid weight bearing while exercising
  • Fun and versatile
  • The springs allows users to dictate their workout, making it easier or harder depending on their needs
  • The machine can support the body for a low impact, effective workout 
  • The reformer can assist with proper form
  • Sculpt lean muscle and improve posture and mobility


Which type of pilates is best for you?

Still not sure whether reformer pilates or mat pilates is for you? While both offer similar benefits in terms of mobility and strength, we think reformer pilates has mat pilates beat!

Far be it for us to say no to any type of pilates, but for us reformer pilates just adds that extra layer of versatility and modifiability. Whether you’re new to pilates, looking to return to exercise after an injury, or a seasoned pro, reformer pilates offers something for everyone. With enough variety to keep it fun, and enough modifiability to allow users to set the challenge for themselves and make it their own. 

Here at Vive we offer a number of different types of classes on the reformer to give you the freedom to tailor your fitness plan to your goals. If you’re new and ready to dip your toes in, try our intro class. Our friendly trainers will take you through the basics and answer any questions. If you want a clean and effective workout, try our total classes, a whole body workout on the reformer. Or if you’re looking for something different, try our circuit or fusion classes which are a little less traditional and incorporate more HIIT and cardio. If you’re looking for less of a workout but want to improve your flexibility and mobility, try our stretch class. 

Alternatively if you did want to try your hand at mat pilates, or get a taste of both mat and reformer, our stream classes offer both so you can compare the two.



– Written by: Jana Lepojevic