October 11

Pilates Apparatus, More than just a Mat

If you are here, you have probably heard of Matwork Pilates, but you may not have seen the many apparatus designed for Pilates. These are not newly created due to Pilates popularity. These are tried and tested pieces that were invented by Mr  Joseph H. Pilates many decades ago. In fact, Mr. Pilates invented a whole gym around his Method.

Pilates is a fabulous system of movement. The equipment and exercises were designed to work not only separately but to mesh and interconnect together. Each piece supporting each other and the practitioner along their journey. This makes for a fabulous intricate richly flavoured recipe and produces unique Pilates results.

Read more: What is Pilates?

It doesn’t mean you cannot do a good Pilates workout using just the Mat only, but the Pilates apparatus helps you to understand the interconnections within the repertoire and gain the benefits Pilates is famous for.

At my studio, a one to one session will usually involve exercises on the mat, reformer, tower and Wunda Chair. Read on to learn more about each of the pieces in my studio.

The Pilates Reformer

The Pilates Reformer is the most effective piece of kit in the entire Pilates repertoire. Originally termed the “apparatus” by its creator Joseph H. Pilates. The Reformer is a spring based piece of equipment that provides both resistance and support to further increase the development of flexibility, body control and core strength.  The Reformer’s resistance (which can be changed depending on the exercise and depending on the individual using the machine) allows me to set it up to suit your body perfectly, meaning that all the work you do on it will be extremely effective, providing enough resistance to build strength while increasing flexibility. Perfect for personal training!

We build total body strength by pushing and pulling with legs or arms against the resistance of the springs, carriage, and body weight. The reformer allows full-range of motion which is essential for increasing flexibility while also training the muscles using eccentric contractions. This is when a muscle lengthens as it resists a force. That is one of the keys to achieving flexibility and strength throughout your full range of motion of motion.

The Pilates Tower

Joseph Pilates created diverse pieces of equipment to support his techniques and mat exercises. One of the largest of his inventions was the Trapeze table which combines a cushy big mat with a metal frame.

Later on in the 1980's a more compact version of the Trapeze was developed to be used in studios for individual and small group classes. Thus the Tower Unit was born.

Reformers use springs which are attached to a single anchoring point. The vertical Tower frame allows the springs to be used at various heights and you will pull directly against the springs themselves. Great for rectifying an imbalance of left to right side strength. The stable platform makes it much easier to master the seated and standing exercises before taking those skills to the reformer and Wunda Chair.

At first glance it looks like a medieval torture device, but once you begin to use it, your perception will change. The stretch on a Tower is unparalleled! The Tower exercises assign a great deal of focus to stretching the hips, shoulders and mobilising the spine.

The Wunda Chair

The “wunda” chair is another of the original pieces of equipment first engineered by Joseph Pilates. The first chair was designed by Joseph to convert quickly and easily into an armchair. Hence its name. It was also designed to fit comfortably into small New York apartments. Which is why it is the most compact piece of Pilates apparatus.

The Wunda Chair has a padded seat and a moving pedal of adjustable resistance. Wunda Chair exercises are performed sitting upright on the padded surface as well as standing atop, behind, or in front of the chair with hands or feet in contact with the pedal.

The chair is known to be the most challenging piece of equipment among Pilates devotees. It is very effective for building upper body strength and mobility and improve sports performance. The limited spring settings mean you can get an efficient, full-body workout in a short time without a lot of stopping for spring changes.

Why Choose the Pilates Apparatus?

The Pilates Apparatus are extremely adaptable pieces of equipment. The various springs allow the resistance to be adjusted for your height, weight, strength and abilities. It is an incredibly versatile, dynamic, fun and powerful total body workout. With regular practice you will see significant improvement in your alignment, strength, muscle definition and flexibility. This is one of the reasons I am so in love with Pilates and its life changing benefits.

If you think Pilates would be helpful for your body, you can learn Pilates using all of these pieces of apparatus with me in my Pilates studio. I take clients who have never tried Pilates before and can work with many injuries. Please use the button below to see my current availability. 

Meet Emma

Hi, I am Emma McAtasney, a NCEHS Personal Trainer since 2009. I earned my Pilates credentials through BASI Pilates, a highly respected college-level Pilates teacher training programme which aim is to create and maintain professional standards for the teaching of the Pilates Method to the highest calibre.


In addition, I am a prenatal and postnatal exercise specialist, nutritionist and founder of a boutique Pilates studio in Dundalk, Ireland.


I help my clients eat healthier, ditch fad diets and lose weight for good by guiding them to make small manageable changes that long term have a huge impact on their quality of life!

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