320 Libbie Ave. Richmond, VA 23226
804-282-9642 (YOGA)

Pilates Mat Work vs. Equipment

The Scoop 

Newcomers to Pilates often ask the question “what is the difference between mat Pilates and Pilates on the equipment”.  Although both do a phenomenal job delivering core strength, muscular balance, mobility, and overall conditioning, exercises on the mat feel differently than those on the equipment -largely because of spring-loaded resistance and straps that assist or resist the body and diversify exercises.

Mat Work

On the mat, the body moves through different ranges working against the forces of body weight and gravity. This is a powerful way to feel different muscles working to hold or move through an exercise, but for some, this can be challenging if there is tightness, weakness, or restrictions in the hips, shoulders, and neck. Pilates props, such as foam rollers, resistance bands, magic circles, and balls are often incorporated in mat classes which diversify, amplify, and modify exercises and often mimic those on the equipment. They add a creative “splash” to basic movements and are lots of fun to use. At Om On, we use props in our mat classes to inspire students to the max!


Even though Pilates equipment may look intimidating, they are versatile, user-friendly, fun, and easily adapted to each student’s needs and goals in how they deliver a power-packed opportunity to build strength, flexibility, and overall conditioning. Different colored springs, reflecting different resistance loads, intensify strengthening and lengthening results- just like weights or tubing.  Because the equipment is so adaptable to an individual’s needs, the type and intensity of exercises are immense- some very simple, and others more advanced.  The ingenious design of each of the four basic pieces, also referred to as Apparatus include the Reformer, Cadillac, Chair and Barrelsand each have their “personality and magic”- working synchronously together or just by themselves.

A great frame of reference to remember the different pieces of equipment and aspects of Pilates – is to think of entrees, appetizers, and dessert. The main dish entrees are mat work and the Reformer.  Mat work is the basis for the entire Pilates method, and the Reformer is the most versatile and commonly used piece of equipment among the apparatus.  Its unique sliding carriage, pulleys, straps, foot bar, and sitting box present options for hundreds of exercises that work small postural to large moving muscles simultaneously.  The Cadillac is an outstanding appetizer, as it offers options to sit, stand, kneel and lay down with springs on both sides of a tall canopy and a special “trapeze” swing for flexibility and strengthening.  Many mat exercises can be performed on the Cadillac, yet have a different emphasis from the spring resistance.  The split-pedal Chair is a power-packed appetizer.  Because the pedal can be one or two moving parts, it is easy to focus on asymmetries and differences with both sides of the body.  Exercises can be executed in a reciprocal motion, rotation, and in all planes to work the core, legs, shoulders, and arms.  The dessert is the Barrel,which is geared towards increasing spinal mobility and overall lengthening. Looking much like a rounded half circle mounted on a wood base, the Barrel is something we hope to add at Om On in the future.

Private One-on-One Equipment Sessions

At Om On we offer private and semi-private sessions on the apparatus.  When working in a private session with a trained instructor, all eyes and instructional focus is dedicated to you, your needs, background, goals, and modifications required to achieve specific goals.  All pieces of equipment are used in private sessions so that students have a complete and diverse experience.  With each successive session, exercises vary and intensify as strength and mobility goals are achieved.  Semi-private sessions are Reformer-based when two students share one teacher and work alongside each other flowing through a series of custom programmed exercises.  This option is a great way to enjoy working with a friend, partner, or family member.

Joseph Pilates had a vision. Contemporary research and science continue to recognize the importance and relevance of how core strength, body alignment, and mobility improves fitness, athletics, and even activities of daily living. One of my favorite quotes from Joseph Pilates sums up how effective Pilates really is.  I hope you will find this to be true from your experience as well!


“ In ten sessions you will feel the difference, in twenty see the difference, and in thirty you’ll have a whole new body”
Joseph Pilates

Om On yoga is excited to offer both Pilates Mat and Equipment Privates to our community and invite all of our students to explore the benefits of each method. We want to hear your thoughts, your goals, and your impressions about your experience. We will continue to share insights and highlights. See you on the mat or reformer soon!



Karen is a veteran Pilates instructor and educator in movement science. She holds international certifications from Polestar Pilates, Stott Pilates, and Pilates Method Alliance, as well as a Master’s degree in Kinesiology. Her focused style of teaching emphasizes the importance of form, function, and adapting each movement to suit individual ability. Her students consistently praise her expertise, enthusiasm, and creative instruction.

Karen Roodman, MS CPT
Senior Pilates Instructor





January 22, 2019 BY omon_admin // 0 COMMENT

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