Choosing the Right Pilates for You

Pilates has been around for about 100 years. That’s a lot of time to get devout followers of the exercise and for the form to change and adapt to the times, technology, and advances in understanding of physicality. All of this means that by 2022, there are numerous ways to practice Pilates. So, one of the biggest questions you might have is: what type of Pilates is the best for me? Read on to find out more about the different types of Pilates and what might work best for your own exercise journey!

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1. Mat Pilates

Mat Pilates is best for beginners. As the name suggests, mat Pilates does not require any equipment other than a mat. The mat that is used for Pilates is slightly thicker than a yoga mat due to the types of exercises that are done on the mat, so it is important for new practitioners to be sure they are practicing with the right mat. 

Mat Pilates is considered an excellent form of Pilates for building core strength and sculpting muscles as you rely on your own body weight to do all of the exercises. The movements you do in mat Pilates focus on the lower back, pelvic floor, hips, glutes, and abdominals. As such, this type of Pilates helps you achieve a lean look. 

Additional benefits of mat Pilates include: improved muscle tone, better flexibility, sculpted muscles, increased lung capacity, stress management, and improved posture. People also choose mat Pilates because it aids in burning fat, shedding calories, and reducing weight. Overall, may pilates helps give the practitioner a balanced body. 

2. Reformer Pilates

Reformer Pilates is best for intermediate to advanced practitioners. This type of Pilates is done with a special type of machine known as the reformer. If you decide to try reformer Pilates, you need to start under the guidance of a trained instructor. This means this type of Pilates can be more expensive to begin. 

Reformer Pilates is best for working the spine, legs, and shoulders. In fact, this type of Pilates was invented as a way to help World War I soldiers recover from injuries sustained in combat. The inventor of Pilates, Joseph Pilates, attached springs to hospital beds to invent the first reformer machines. As time went on, doctors noted that soldiers who followed this recovery schedule healed faster. Today, reformer Pilates is still used by physical therapists to help patients recover from injuries. 

Reformer Pilates works well for a variety of people. Some recommendations for whom reformer Pilates might be best are: people with sedentary jobs, pro athletes who need to work on recovery from injury, people looking for cross training, elderly people who want better coordination and balance, and pregnant people both pre and post natal.

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3. Clinical Pilates

When Joseph Pilates created the reformer to help soldiers recover from injury, it is unlikely anyone realized how lasting an impact Pilates would have on health sciences. Clinical Pilates is generally speaking only offered by physical therapists. As such, the goal of this type of Pilates is to help the patient recover from an injury. The physical therapist will look into the injury the patient sustained and work on a detailed and tailored plan based on the patient’s injury. The plan takes into account the patient’s weight, height, age, placement of injury, and any other health issues. 

Clinical Pilates focuses on posture, core stability, balance, strength, control, flexibility and breathing. Each of these key areas is important not only for injury recovery but also for living a healthy lifestyle after recovery leading to the least chance of reinjury. Recent studies show that clinical Pilates is best at helping people with neck and back injuries as well as re-training stabilizing low back muscles for patients with lower back pain. 

4. Classical Pilates

Classic Pilates is the original form of Pilates and is based on a sequence of exercises. The sequence starts with basic, foundational exercises and works up to more complicated ones at a slow and gradual pace. One of the key concepts of classic Pilates is that  exercises should transition seamlessly from one to the next. This type of Pilates can be done on the mat or on a reformer. 

The basic principle of classic Pilates is to achieve a balanced mind, body, and spirit. In this way, Pilates is similar to yoga. To attain this balance, Joseph Pilates propounded 6 principles for class Pilates: breathing, centering, flow, concentration, control and precision. More about these principles can be found in his book, Return to Life Through Contrology

There are two things you may want to consider when you decide which type of Pilates is right for you. One, classic Pilates is not designed for weight loss. This may affect your choice to begin practicing this form. Two, classic Pilates relies a lot on a flat back during exercise, which may not work for some people who have previous injuries.

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5. Contemporary Plates

Contemporary Pilates is also known as hybrid Pilates because it takes the classic Pilates created by Joseph Pilates and adds in elements from other forms of exercise. Common types of exercises that are added to classic Pilates are yoga, aerobics, and aerials. 

According to, “One of the best examples of contemporary Pilates is POP Pilates. Developed by Casey Ho, POP Pilates combines dance with traditional Pilates. It is a choreographed dance merged with Pilates that provides body flexibility and improves posture.”

Contemporary Pilates is modified based on the instructor’s desire to work with the user’s goals, body type, and physical condition. Additionally, this type of Pilates uses various props like bands, rollers, weights, exercise balls, mats, and reformers.  As such, this type of Pilates is best practiced under the guidance of a trained instructor to avoid the risk of injury. 

6. Stott Pilates

Stott Pilates focuses on restoring the original curve of the and protecting and improving the muscles surrounding the joints. Therefore, this restorative style of Pilates is best for people with severe pain or injury to the spine, neck, back, and shoulders. 

As mentioned previously, classic Pilates focuses on keeping the back flat while exercising. Stott Pilates are designed to work with the natural curve of the spine and restore that curvature when needed. In order to accomplish that, Stott Pilates uses props like bands, exercise balls, weights, and rings.

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7. Winsor Pilates

Winsor Pilates focuses on breathing coordination and targets your core to reduce weight. Much like Stott and Contemporary Pilates, Winsor Pilates also incorporates elements of classic Pilates. 

In Winsor Pilates, there are 13 breathing and physical exercises that are performed on a Pilates mat for 20 minutes. The breathing exercises are intended to increase the oxygen level in the blood. Both the breathing and the physical exercises are intended to strengthen the core and enhance your metabolism, which is what leads to the accelerated weight loss. 

No matter which style of Pilates you ultimately choose, know that you can always switch until you find the option that works best for you!

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