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Pilates Matwork or Reformer with Caroline Leon
Apr 23

Pilates Matwork or Reformer with Caroline Leon

Pilates Matwork or Reformer

At least a few times a week, I am asked, “What should I do Matwork or Reformer?

Unfortunately the answer is different for everyone as both provide very different forms of achieving the same outcome.

Most find that they begin favouring the Reformer, then as time progresses that preferences changes to mat work.

Understanding the nature of Pilates is the key to discovering the answer for you.

The very basis of Pilates began with one man, who at the turn of the century realised the importance of developing a pattern of health amidst the chaos of Modern age.

Joseph Pilates was a pioneer in physical rehabilitation and the art of wellbeing.

His principals advocate balance, symmetry,concentration and the control of muscles in order to achieve greater flexibility and efficiency of movement.

In his first book, “Return to Life through contrology”, published in 1934, he expressed that, “We are not interested in merely developing muscles, as over developed muscles interfere with the proper development of the under developed muscles. True flexibility can be achieved only when all the muscles are uniformly developed and mobilised. “His Contrology, or exercise, were conceived for this very purpose- to keep us strong, flexible and connected to our own body. So, how do we achieve what Pilates is advocating? Good health, strength and flexibility, not to mention an amazing body!

There are two avenues to achieving a Pilates body: Matwork and Reformer. Both can be performed on their own or as a complementing system. Beginners and advanced students get important yet different things from both of these methods. So what is the difference between the two famous Pilates systems?


Matwork was the first of many strength based exercises developed by Pilates. The Matwork series are floor exercises which aim to target, strengthen and recalibrate the deep postural muscles of your body  using its own weight and gravity. Interestingly, many people find Matwork more difficult at first because gravity is in fact , very hard to defy.

A Matwork class aims to isolate a key muscle group while stabilising the rest of the body. It is orientated at strengthening centrally rather than peripherally while also stretching the muscles and connective tissue so that your strength never exceeds your flexibility and your flexibility is always supported by strength.

Key elements: 

Stabilising your pelvis, mobilising your spine and engaging your abdominals. “The hundreds”is probably the most famous deep core exercise. It can be modified to fit any any age or fitness level and is the perfect way to activate your upper and lower abdominals and hip flexors.


Mat exercises are based on flexion of the spine and are therefore contra-indicated for people with spinal injuries. It is essential to seek private tuition, filled by sessions on the Reformer.

Benefits: Core strength and a toned Tummy



Reformer or Mat article


The reformer is a unique piece of equipment, firstly used as a rehabilitative tool then as a creative conditioning apparatus for peek performance athletes. It is a bed like contraption consisting of a sliding carriage, ropes, straps, and various springs of different tension. Core strength, muscular integration and control are all achieved by varying the resistance during an exercise. This results in the isolation and development of muscle groups creating a multidimensional approach to strength work, which helps tone and build muscle faster than Matwork.

Beginners: The reformer is a great tool as it can assist the body in maintaining the correct posture.

For those with injuries: Unlike many Matwork exercises the Reformer repertoire is mostly performed in neutral spine, which is a safe way for clients with spinal injuries or lower back pain to comprehensively strengthen.

Key elements: The “feet in straps” series places your feet in pullies, which attach over your head. This way resistance destabilises your pelvis, so your core has to work harder to maintain its stability.

Both Matwork and Reformer bring balance and attune to the body. Each in its own way is beneficial but combined they can achieve astonishing results. Over the years my preference has changed again and again, yet in the end I remember they are two sides of the same coin with the same goals: Concentration, control, centring, precision flowing movement and breath. Keep in mind that patience and persistence are vital to successful accomplish any worthwhile endeavour.

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