Pilates is a fantastic full-body workout that was developed by Joseph Pilates with the intent to increase your strength, flexibility, and stability. All of the exercises and poses are designed to improve core strength, which is the powerhouse of your body. Pilates also makes use of different types of Pilates equipment that has been designed to facilitate safe practice.
Though there are many gyms and Pilates studios that offer classes, the beauty of this form of exercise, is that it can be practiced at home. With Pilates, you don’t have to leave the comfort and privacy of your own home to experience its benefits.
In this article, I will delve into the types of Pilates equipment you will need to get started. I’ll cover the basic equipment needed as well as some more advanced Pilates props that will allow you to increase the intensity of your workout.
What Types of Pilates Props and Equipment Do I Need When Doing Pilates at Home?
Though you do not need much to start practicing Pilates, there are a few pieces of Pilates props and equipment that can be used to increase the intensity and support your experience during your practice.
1. Pilates Mat
A Pilates mat is the most basic and essential piece of Pilates equipment that you will need when starting your practice. Though they might look similar, a Pilates mat is different from a yoga mat, or a normal gym mat.
Pilates mats are typically larger, smoother, and thicker than yoga mats. This allows for your back and spine to be protected when performing certain movements.
When looking for the best Pilates mat for your practice, ensure that it’s wide and long enough for you to move around comfortably. It’s also important to ensure that it is thick enough to carry your weight, while still providing enough cushioning.
2. Pilates Band
Also known as resistance bands, Pilates bands are used to increase flexibility and strengthen your muscles. They do this by both deepening one’s stretches and providing resistance when performing strength exercises.
Pilates bands can be utilized in most stretches and exercises. They make a great addition to your growing Pilates prop collection, after purchasing your mat.
Pilates bands range in strength and it’s therefore advisable to opt for a lower resistance band when first starting out. You can then increase the level of resistance as you progress and become more advanced in your practice.
It’s also possible to buy a set of resistance bands so that you can chose different resistance depending on the exercise.
3. Foam Rollers
A foam roller is a favorite piece of equipment for many Pilates students. Not only can it be used to massage sore muscles, but it can also be utilized to warm up your muscles. It’s also a prop to increase the difficulty of certain exercises.
This prop is also used to increase flexibility. So, if you are looking to further improve your mobility, a foam roller will be essential. There are a wide variety of foam rollers to choose from, depending on your specific requirements and goals, you will choose the correct option for your body and practice.
4. Pilates Ball
A Pilates ball is most notably used to increase the difficulty and intensity of muscle activation. It is utilized in many different exercises and demands a focused core.
This Pilates prop is also known to increase balance, coordination, and mobility due to its unstable surface. A Pilates ball, though relatively cheap is probably the prop that can challenge you the most and is the most versatile in its use.
5. Pilates Ring
Also known as a magic ring, a Pilates ring is known for its benefits when performing inner thigh and arm exercises. Though this is a simple tool, it is a Pilates prop that is a must-have piece of equipment.
One would typically hold the ring between your palms, thighs, or ankles. As it provides resistance, it intensifies arm and leg exercises. This prop was originally created by Joseph Pilates himself. This tool is intended to help students find their center and activate their core.
If you would like to add weights to your Pilates practice, then it is best to opt for light hand weights. This is due to the many repetitions that one performs in Pilates. They will help tone your body and add an extra level of resistance to your practice.
These weights should typically not be heavier than 1kg (2 lbs). It’s important that you ensure you’re supporting all of your exercises with your core; even when making use of light hand weights.
7. Tennis Ball
Tennis balls are often utilized when performing and focussing on release work. A large focus of Pilates is to increase one’s range of motion and therefore release tension. A tennis ball is a great way to focus on certain tight muscles and areas in the body.
It should be mentioned that older tennis balls are more worn in and will, therefore, be more forgiving when rolling over them.
8. Yoga Block
Though it might seem ironic to use a yoga block in Pilates, it is a great prop to invest in.
These blocks are typically used to increase alignment and therefore “force” you to activate your core. Ultimately, they prevent you from compensating with other muscles in your body and allow you to perform certain exercises properly. They can also be used to shorten the distance between you and the floor, softening certain exercises.
This is a great support if you do not have the flexibility and strength to perform these exercises on your own as of yet. You can either invest in a wooden or foam block, depending on your personal preference.
If you are a beginner and struggle a lot with flexibility and mobility, you need not fret. Many Pilates positions and exercises can be adjusted to be performed from a seated position by making use of a chair.
Most chairs will work for these exercises. A dining room chair with a straight back and no side arms is ideal.
What Types of Pilates Equipment Are Used in Studio Pilates?
Though Pilates can be performed at home, there are a few pieces of equipment that you will typically find in a Pilates studio. When equipment such as this is used in practice, it is known as reformer Pilates.
It is possible to purchase these types of Pilates equipment, and have them installed at your home gym if you find yourself really getting into this form of exercise and wish to add some external resistance.
What are the Different Types of Pilates Machines?
A Pilates reformer machine is typically used in reformer Pilates. These Pilates machines consist of a sliding bed-like platform that is held in place by springs. It also sports a variety of ropes and pulleys. It provides a large amount of resistance as you perform your exercises on the machine.
A cadillac reformer Pilates machine, also known as a trapeze table, has a bed-like base. However, it sports a frame with various ropes and pulleys hanging from the top of the frame. This form of Pilates practice requires you to often hang from these ropes and work against gravity to perform your Pilates exercises and movements.
A Pilates chair (also referred to as a Wunda chair) consists of a box-like structure that has a padded seating area. It also has a bar or pedal on one side of it. This pedal is supported by springs, allowing it to move under pressure. These chairs are often used for balance and strength exercises that focus on the core.
Similar to the Wunda chair, a Pilates high chair is a box-like seating structure with a pedal that has been attached to it. However, it also has a backrest and two poles on either side. The poles have hand grips at the top and are often used to perform a press-up exercise.
A Pilates arm chair is a chair-like piece of equipment that has two sets of springs attached to the back of the chair. This chair is typically used for upper body strengthening and can also accommodate older individuals, or those starting their Pilates fitness journey.
Also referred to as a ladder barrel or a spine corrector, a Pilates barrel, is mainly used to increase flexibility by means of intensified stretching exercises. This machine received its name from its iconic barrel shape.
Is Mat Pilates as Good as Reformer Pilates?
Mat Pilates is a fantastic way to start your Pilates journey. Though it is commonly believed that the reformer Pilates method is an intensified version of mat Pilates, the difficulty of mat Pilates is determined by you and the variations of the exercises you perform.
If performed correctly, and when props are utilized, mat Pilates can be just as challenging. It can also provide you with as many health benefits as reformer Pilates. The practice of Pilates can also be used to empower one emotionally, spiritually and physically by finding true balance. This is present in methods of Pilates such as Lindywell Pilates, which was developed with the specific intent of empowering women.
Now that you have a wealth of information of all the types of Pilates equipment required to start your practice, all you have to do is find an online Pilates instructor, grab your mat, pick up your Pilates props, and enjoy the journey you are about to embark on.