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Pilates Mat vs. Pilates Reformer: Which is Right for Me? - Pilates Reformers Plus

Pilates Mat vs. Pilates Reformer: Which is Right for Me?

While we’re all familiar with the number of celebrities who use a Pilates reformer, it’s also very popular among sports athletes.

For example, Lebron James incorporates Pilates to assist muscle recovery and improve his flexibility and strength. In addition, athletes like Tiger Woods have used Pilates reformer machines and exercises as a form of physical therapy.

Overall, getting started with Pilates can be a great way to build core strength, lose weight, and overcome sports injuries. In addition, Pilates on a mat or a reformer can help alleviate back pain, improve posture and flexibility, and even improve your lung breathing capacity.

With that in mind, where should you start with Pilates? The age-old question of the Pilates mat vs. the reformer still rages today, which is why we’ve provided this quick guide to help you understand the difference between a Pilates mat and a Pilates reformer machine and the pros and cons of each piece of Pilates equipment.

What’s the Difference Between a Pilates Mat vs. Pilates Reformer

The difference between mat Pilates and a Pilates reformer is the equipment used for a Pilates exercise. Traditional mat Pilates uses a basic yoga mat and your body weight to create resistance through exercises without weights or a machine.

On the other hand, Pilates reformer utilizes advanced reformer equipment, ranging from the Cadillac reformer to the Wunda Chair, to add resistance to exercises using Pilates reformer springs.

The same exercises can be done for each piece of equipment, although a Pilates reformer machine provides users with a greater range of flexibility and variability throughout each exercise. For example, a body roll up and roll down can be combined into a single exercise with the added resistance of springs using a reformer machine.

In addition, a Pilates reformer machine is often used by people with sports injuries who need special help using straps and footrests to assist in Pilates exercises.

For that reason, Pilates reformer machines are popularly utilized during sports rehab and physical therapy exercises to help people overcome injuries quickly and still maintain their strength.

So what are the perks of having a Pilates reformer vs. a mat, and which one is right for you?

Pros and Cons of Mat Pilates

Pilates mats are a great introduction to Pilates and offer a full range of workouts that can help strengthen your core and provide numerous health benefits.


  • Super affordable
  • Full range of classic and contemporary Pilates exercises
  • Help achieve better balance without assistance
  • Mats are easy to transport


  • Requires proper form to achieve big results
  • Limited resistance options

Pros and Cons of Pilates Reformer Machine

A Pilates reformer machine is a great piece of Pilates equipment that will help you build strength and muscle tone through progressively more intense Pilates exercises.

You can complete the same exercises on a reformer Pilates machine as you can on a mat, but a machine adds the option to switch up exercises and add greater resistance that matches your strength and experience level.


  • Progressive weight resistance adds strength
  • Added resistance helps achieve a full-body workout
  • Full range of mat exercises can be done on a reformer 
  • Equipment and accessories add variability to workouts
  • A wide range of equipment is available
  • Assists people with injuries


  • A steeper learning curve to learn equipment
  • Equipment can be quite expensive
  • Reformer machine is difficult to transport  

Best Pilates Equipment for Beginners

If you are getting started with Pilates, it’s a good idea to test out a Pilates mat to see whether or not Pilates is right for you. A Pilates mat is super affordable and easy to transport or use for additional activities like Yoga or Meditation if you’re not satisfied.

With that said, mat Pilates may actually require a steeper learning curve to master exercises. Without the stability and resistance of a reformer machine, you will need to rely on your body weight and train your muscles to achieve proper balance and form through each exercise.

On the other hand, a Pilates reformer will yield better results for beginners who struggle with balance issues.

Furthermore, a Pilates reformer may not require as much hands-on instruction and classes to master various exercises as a traditional mat Pilates workout. However, the greatest impediment to the Pilates reformer machine is simply learning how to use it; once you understand the basics, you’ll be well on your way.

For this reason, while mat Pilates may seem ideal for beginners on a budget, a Pilates reformer machine offers many benefits for beginners and people of any experience level.

Best Pilates Equipment for Strength

Unquestionably, a high-end Pilates reformer machine like a Cadillac or Pilates Reformer with Tower will provide users with the best resistance to increase their strength with each workout.

For that reason, a Pilates reformer machine is ideal for people looking to build muscle, shed weight quickly, and even overcome a sports injury through physical rehabilitation.

In addition, a Pilates reformer machine can be used to complete complex workouts that are otherwise difficult or impossible to complete on a mat without proper accessories or balance.

The Verdict

Choosing between a Pilates mat vs. a reformer machine comes down to your budget, preference, and experience level.

Overall, mat Pilates is a great way to get started with Pilates without paying too steep of an upfront investment.

However, reformer Pilates machines are far more versatile and allow users to achieve a full-body workout using many of the same exercises as on a mat. Additionally, progressive weight resistance will enable users to up the resistance and conditioning of each exercise to achieve better results.

It’s why so many athletes ranging from Lebron James to Tiger Woods use Pilates reformer machines for strength training, muscle recovery, and physical therapy.

For the widest range of Pilates reformer machines available, browse our selection and contact a representative to help you find the right Pilates reformer for your home and your budget.

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Need Help Choosing The Right Pilates Machine?

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