Different Types of Pilates: Which type of Pilates Class is Right for you? (2024)

What are the different types of Pilates? What type of Pilates class is right for you?

complpilates2024-04-10T15:56:20+01:00March 6th, 2024|

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Pilates is renowned for its excellent physical and mental wellbeing benefits. Not only is Pilates great for improving yourcore strength,posture,flexibilityand coordination, Pilates can also aid relaxation, helpmanage stressand reduce anxiety.

Whether you’re a complete beginner or advanced in the world of Pilates, finding which type of Pilates is right for you will be the key to unlocking success. If you have a set of objectives and goals you want to achieve, or if you simply want to take up Pilates as a hobby, this can really determine the type of Pilates is suitable for you. Each type of Pilates will offer a variety of different health benefits.

Regardless of the type of Pilates class you find yourself in, there are six coreprinciples of Pilateswhich remain the same. These include:

  1. Breath
  2. Concentration
  3. Centre
  4. Control
  5. Precision
  6. Flow

In this article, we will unpick the different types of Pilates there are to discover and discuss the differences. We’ll be focusing on classical Pilates, mat Pilates, contemporary Pilates, reformer Pilates, and clinical Pilates.

How many types of Pilates are there?

With its ever-increasing popularity, there are many different types of Pilates on offer. They can be subgrouped according to the method, according to the equipment used, or even according to which group of people the class is suitable for.

Here we focus on five different approaches to Pilates. Read on to work out which type is right for you!

5 types of Pilates

1. Classical Pilates

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Pilates from the 1920s. Joseph Pilates intended Pilates sessions to be a strong full body and mind workout executed in a particular order and included transitions between exercises.

Classical Pilates typically combines mat and apparatus work following a sequence which is designed to move the body through a full range of movement.

2. Mat Pilates

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Mat Pilates is the most accessible form of Pilates as you can do it pretty much anywhere and need very little equipment. This normally makes it much cheaper and also easier to do in a class.

During beginners mat Pilates, you’ll focus on learning and perfecting the fundamental Pilates movement techniques, suitable for beginners to Pilates.

That being said, mat Pilates is also great for more advanced students as exercises can be modified to increase complexity and intensity and use your body weight for resistance! As there is no assistance from machines, you really do need to know what your body is doing in space!

The benefits of mat Pilates are endless, from strengthening your abdominals, lower back muscles and pelvic floor, to your hips, glutes, shoulders and upper body. Just like most Pilates, mat Pilates also has a host of mental health benefits such as mindfulness, relaxation and reduced stress as a result of the breathwork.

3. Contemporary Pilates

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Contemporary Pilates is a variation of Classical Pilates combined with contemporary forms of exercise such as physiotherapy whilst also incorporating modern knowledge of the body and biomechanics.

In Contemporary Pilates, more often than not, classes will vary depending on the instructor’s teacher training but can also be guided by the objectives, goals and health of the student.

Exercises are commonly taught in a “neutral pelvis”, for example, when on your back, the lower spine will have some space between the back and the floor whilst the tail boneand ribs will be heavier. This follows the natural curves of your spine. This allows for a more functional approach which can be more easily tailored to you, inclusion of equipment and props as well as modifications to exercises.

This makes it great for rehabilitation, pre-natal clients and for post-natal Pilates clients.

4. Reformer Pilates

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Reformer Pilates, as suggested, uses the Pilates reformermachine. It is arguably more intense and dynamic than a mat Pilates class as the machine is designed to add resistance to each of the Pilates exercises. However, the springs can also act as assistance so if you are struggling to move, are partially weight bearing or going through rehab, the reformer can really help you.

The Pilates reformer machine comprises of a platform, sliding carriage, ropes and pulleys which helpthe body to work eccentrically against resistance, in turn, increasing flexibility, strength, stamina and posture.

Reformer Pilates is also suitable for injury rehabilitationas clients do not have to be vertically loaded with full weight bearing through their legs, particularly important if you have undergone knee surgery or are suffering from a knee injury.

Regardless of your ability, reformer Pilates can be tailored to beginners or those more advanced, helping you to achieve your health and wellbeing goals.

5. Clinical Pilates

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Clinical Pilatesis our area of expertise at Complete Pilates and offers a tailored experience for each individual.

A clinical Pilates class at Complete is 1:1 and will be taught by, or overseen by, a qualified physiotherapist. An initial one-to-one assessment will be conducted to get a thorough understanding of your medical history and any pre-existing medical conditions you may have. This is designed to help your physiotherapist or clinical Pilates instructor tailor your clinical Pilates session to your rehabilitation and goals.

Whether you have a current injury, have had recent surgery, suffer from recurrent or chronic pain, have had a baby or are pregnant, clinical Pilates is suitable for everyone.

By incorporating safe, effective and specific Pilates exercises, clinical Pilates will help to build core strength, correct muscle imbalances, aid rehabilitations and prevent future injuries.

The different types of Pilates classes

With a variety of Pilates types to choose from, it can be difficult to know which is right for you. Whilst the core principles of Pilates remain the same, particular types of Pilates will enable you to achieve your goals more effectively than others. At Complete Pilates, we’ll be happy to help you find the right class for you based on your needs and goals. We have a range of classes to choose from including:

  • Pilates for beginners– if you have never done any Pilates before or have not exercised for a long time, then beginner-level Pilates is suitable for you! Beginner Pilates should move at a slower pace, with less complex repertoire and paying attention to teaching good form and understanding of the exercises.
  • Pregnancy Pilates– Pregnancy Pilates is designed to meet the unique needs of the pregnant woman. Taken by instructors with specialist knowledge, these classes are safe for you and your growing baby, and target specific areas that can become problematic during pregnancy, such as a stiff upper back.
  • Postnatal Pilates– Whether you have had a natural birth or c-section, your body is not the same after your baby is born. It can take a long time to feel like yourself again. Exercise is really important for your recovery but it can be hard to find the time or know what is right for you. Our classes are run by physiotherapists and clinical Pilates instructors who understand what exercises are safe and effective to get you back on track following the birth of your baby.
  • Physio Pilates – Physio Pilates is Pilates delivered by physiotherapists, who are medically trained. If you are recovering from an illness or injury, or have recently been diagnosed with a chronic health problem then this type of Pilates is suitable for you. Doing Pilates under the guidance of a trained physiotherapist will give you extra peace of mind, knowing you are in the hands of someone who can modify your exercise programme to suit the needs of your condition.
  • Online Pilates –Online Pilates is suitable for those who are on the move, are very busy or who need to travel a long way in order to access Pilates. These classes normally take place on the mat, however, if you own any Pilates equipment, such as a Reformer, these classes can incorporate some equipment work.
  • Group Pilates – Group Pilates is a good option for those who enjoy the social element of exercise or feel more motivated with others there working alongside them. Group Pilates can take place online or in the studio. Here at the Complete Pilates studios, we offer Duet classes where you can bring a friend and work out together. We also offer 3:1 classes which you can attend without bringing a friend.

Come and visit one of our Pilates clinics.

Come and tryPilates in the City of London, or any of our studios (see ourChelsea Pilates studioorNorth London Pilates studio) for more information, please get in touch online or contact us on 0203 764 5668.

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Education is key:

These blogs are designed to give information to everyone, however, it is important to remember that everyone is different! If you have not seen one of our therapists and have any questions about injuries, what you have read or whether this may be useful to you, please just ask. We are more than happy to help anyone and point you in the right direction. Our biggest belief is that education is key. The more you understand about your injury, illness and movement, the more you are likely to improve.

If you are not sure whether this is for you, simply get in touch. We are here to help!

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Different Types of Pilates: Which type of Pilates Class is Right for you? (2024)


What type of Pilates is best for me? ›

While beginners may benefit more from mat Pilates and strength-training devotees might gravitate toward the reformer, both types of Pilates are a valuable part of your workout routine. "The Pilates method includes many different modifications and variations that make it accessible to everyone," says Poku.

What Pilates class should I take? ›

If you're a Pilates beginner, mat work is a great place to start. The fundamental movements and Pilates exercise principles are incorporated into the mat exercises. Mat exercises will help you gain strength and confidence in the Pilates method.

What is the 3-2-8 Pilates method? ›

What Is the 3-2-8 Workout? There are two variations on the 3-2-8 workout around: One has three days of strength training, two of barre and Pilates per week, with 8,000 steps per day; the other swaps the strength and Pilates to be two days of strength, three days of barre/Pilates per week and 8,000 steps per day.

What is the difference between Stott Pilates and regular Pilates? ›

The normal method of Pilates makes use of your flat back (imprinted spine) during exercises, but the Stott Pilates method favors a neutral spine: i.e., the natural curvature of the back. In classes practicing Stott Pilates, the students maintain a neutral spine alignment with one foot on the ground.

What type of Pilates is best for weight loss and toning? ›

You can also try more advanced Pilates classes like Pilates reformer classes and combination classes like Piloxing (Pilates and boxing) or Yogalates (yoga and Pilates.) You'll burn more calories in these full body classes than in a traditional Pilates mat class.

Should I do mat or reformer Pilates? ›

Matwork Pilates and Reformer Pilates are both excellent practices for improving strength, coordination, balance, flexibility, and mobility. Ultimately, it comes down to your goals and personal preference. If you are brand new to Pilates, we highly recommend starting with Reformer Pilates.

How many classes of Pilates until you see a difference? ›

To quote Joseph Pilates: “In 10 sessions you will feel better, in 20 you will look better, and in 30 you will have a whole new body.” If you are doing 2-3 classes a week, you should start to see results in 10-12 weeks. If you attend one class a week, you will still see results but it might take longer.

Is 2 Pilates classes a week enough? ›

The recommended starting point is twice a week, but remember to listen to your body and adjust as necessary. Consider seeking guidance from a Pilates instructor or exercise professional to develop a personalized plan for optimal results.

What is a beginner Pilates class called? ›

Mat Pilates

This normally makes it much cheaper and also easier to do in a class. During beginners mat Pilates, you'll focus on learning and perfecting the fundamental Pilates movement techniques, suitable for beginners to Pilates.

What is the 80 20 rule in Pilates? ›

The 80/20 rule simply means: 80% of the effects come from 20% of the things u do. 20% from exercise. It isn't just about the weight loss but actually about the fat loss and muscle gain.

What are the 4 S's of Pilates? ›

Pilates is a functional form of fitness that aims to enhance mobility by integrating and working the four S's: Strength, Stamina, Stretch and Stability. Inadvertently, every Pilates exercise incorporates these working points.

What is considered the hardest Pilates workout? ›

The boomerang is considered one of the hardest Pilates exercises, as it requires every muscle in your body to do. How to do it: Sit tall on your mat, legs in front of you, ankles crossed, and hands by your sides. Scoop your belly and round back, lowering yourself onto your mat one vertebra at a time.

Why is Pilates class so expensive? ›

As compared to other forms of fitness training where instructors can be certified via a weekend course, without a practical exam, Pilates certification courses require much more effort, time and money. This is one of the key reasons why Pilates classes are more expensive than most group fitness classes.

Which is better, classical or contemporary Pilates? ›

Which style should you choose? There is no right or wrong style of Pilates. However, if you are dealing with a limited range of motion or injuries, Contemporary Pilates might be better for you. For those looking for a Pilates style that is much closer to Joseph's original work, I recommend going with classical.

Are there different levels of Pilates? ›

The division of the method into basic, intermediate and advanced is more recent and slightly artificial, but that's not to say it's not useful. The levels are a template or guide, not a competition. They are made up of developmental goals and a way of moving rather than exactly what exercises you do.

What is the 3 2 1 Pilates method? ›

The "3-2-1 method" is a weekly workout routine that calls for three days of strength training, two days of Pilates, and one day of cardio or conditioning. This combination is supposed to help deliver consistent, impressive results.

Which Pilates for beginners? ›

Mat Pilates is a great introduction to Pilates for beginners. Because you only need a Mat, Mat Pilates is accessible for an at-home practice. When done with focus and precision, Mat Pilates can be an incredible full-body workout.

Is wall Pilates better than floor Pilates? ›

One of the greatest benefits of Wall Pilates is that it gives you instant feedback in a different way than you get on a Mat. You may find some exercises that seem "simple" to be more challenging due to the nature of being upright. The wall is a great support for your back, hips, and shoulders.

What's the difference between classical and contemporary Pilates? ›

The Classical method adheres closely to Joseph Pilates' original approach, with minor variations across different schools. Contemporary Pilates represents a fusion of the Classical method with influences from various fitness practices, such as physical therapy, yoga, boxing, and more.


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