Today's episode explores pieces of Pilates equipment that are commonly used in classes, both in the studio and at home. I discuss the mat, reformer, chair, Cadillac, tower, springboard, ladder barrel, and magic circle. Stay tuned for the next episode on less common Pilates equipment!
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[00:00:00] Hello and welcome to Pilates Students' Manual, a podcast helping you get the most out of your Pilates classes. I'm Olivia and I'll be your host. Join the conversation and share your thoughts on Instagram at @pilatesstudentsmanual. You can support the podcast by visiting buymeacoffee.com/OliviaPodcasts. Let's learn something new.
Hello, hello everybody. Welcome back to the podcast. Big thank you for your patience. Lots of changes happening in my life, both personally and professionally, all good things, but just [00:01:00] things. So I apologize for this episode being a little bit delayed this week.
We are going to be talking about, I would say, say the more common Pilates equipment or the usual Pilates equipment, the more familiar Pilates equipment. Like all Pilates equipment, there are different types. There's different purposes for the things, there's certain benefits from them, there's certain detriments from the different pieces of equipment and Pilates apparatus. Apparatus seems very pinky up.
But I do just kind of want to talk about the Pilates equipment that you might see if you go to a studio and, you know, the kinds of things that you might be playing with, and then coming out in the next episode, I'll be talking about less common pieces of Pilates equipment that you may or may not have had a chance to play on before, but are other [00:02:00] things that we can do our Pilates exercises with and on and beside, and all of that.
First piece of Pilates apparatus that you are definitely familiar with after 2020 and that is the mat. All Pilates exercises are derived from those mat exercises that Joseph Pilates wrote about in Return to Life through Contrology. Pilates mats are different from yoga mats. I would say they are definitely a bit more cushioned. They're a little bit thicker. Yoga mats tend to be like between three to five millimeters thick, and it is not lost on me that the United States does not use the metric system except in the width or the depth of yoga mats, so there's that.
Because in Pilates, you're doing those rolling exercises where you're rolling on your spine, on your sacrum, you're lying on your front, on your [00:03:00] side, on your back. It makes sense that you would want to have a little bit more cushion on your body when you're doing those exercises, so I get it.
I came to Pilates from yoga. So sometimes I find Pilates mats, like with the exception of the rolling exercises, they're like a little bit too thick for me. It can be difficult to balance in standing exercises, if it's really, really cushioned. And I don't personally like being on like a four point kneel or hands and knees where my wrists feel like they're kind of sinking into Pilates mats sometimes.
There are easy alternatives to that. Sometimes I'll put like a yoga mat under the Pilates mat and that's like, what I'll put my hands on and do the yoga mat instead. Or you can just stand like not on your mat. That's fine as well. But, you know, it's really to each their own in terms of mats.
The great thing about mat is that there are definitely classes, if not in person, [00:04:00] online, using the mat it's an easy piece of equipment. You probably already have it. Honestly, if you're on carpeting, you could do it on a towel or just like a blanket anyway. And those classes, if you're going to take them are usually at a lower price point. So it's easy to get into mat Pilates. A lot of gyms offer those classes, studios offer those classes, and they're just a bit more affordable. If that is something you're thinking about for yourself. So I would say mat is probably one of the most common things.
And then the reformer, which is a Pilates apparatus, it's about the size of a like twin XL bed from college. And if you take that twin size bed and you imagine that you cut the mattress in half, like a hamburger, so the short way, that half mattress would then be the carriage and that carriage is on wheels. And it kind of moves on the frame of the reformer, and it can go away from the foot of the reformer and then towards the foot of [00:05:00] the reformer, because there are springs there.
At the foot of the reformer is a foot bar. And then where the headboard of your bed would be there are risers that pulleys attach to because there are straps that are also attached to the carriage that can move the carriage as well. When you're lying on that carriage, that half mattress, but it's of course, a bit firmer than a mattress and on certain reformer styles that is like very firm. There's a headrest that you put your head on. Your shoulders are kind of blocked by these shoulder blocks so that as you're pressing into the foot bar with your feet and straightening your legs. You're not sliding off of the mattress. That would be it difficult form of exercise. So you've got shoulder blocks kind of like locking you in place a bit there.
Now naturally, like all apparatus, you can lie on it as I was describing, you can also sit on it, kneel on it, stand on it, stand beside it, stand inside it, you know, be upside down on it. Like all of those things. [00:06:00] Those springs that are controlling the carriage or bringing that carriage back to the foot bar have different resistances. Different types of reformers use different coloring systems like there's green springs and red springs and blue springs, and some springs have no color. They're just standard springs.
That's kind of a fun thing as a teacher that you have to negotiate and do some spring math, not just in terms of like what the resistance is, but also like converting it from resistance to resistance. Luckily, your teacher does that for you when you're in class. They will just tell you what springs to put on or take off.
Whereas you might have a mat in your house, it is probably less likely that you have a reformer in your house. You might, in which case I am super jealous of you. It is a much larger cost investment and space, like having an entire room really for this piece of equipment, let alone, if you also have the tower attachment for it, which I will tell you a bit about as well, but [00:07:00] the reformer is very expensive and very big. And so it's much more likely that you will play with it at a studio. It's probably going to be more expensive to take reformer classes than mat classes. That may not necessarily be the case. I know some places have memberships and so the cost of classes will go down. But that's the reformer for you.
Another Pilates apparatus that you may have played with at a studio, or I would say is even more likely to have at your house, just given its size and price point, and that is the Pilates chair. There's the Wundachair, there's the baby chair, there's the high chair, there's an exochair. Sometimes they have split pedals. Sometimes they have a single pedal. It's called a chair. It doesn't look like a chair very much, I would say, but it does have a bit of a platform that you sit on. And then there is a pedal that goes up and down there.
All of the [00:08:00] equipment is difficult to describe because there really isn't anything like it. So if I'm trying to give these descriptions and you're like, I don't know what she's talking about. Google is your friend, please check it out. And you'll be like, Oh yeah, I guess that is kind of like a chair, right?
It is more affordable than a reformer for sure. It's also much smaller than a reformer. I do have some clients who do have chairs in their house. I also clients who have reformers in their house. So like, again, it's not mutually exclusive. You could have one and not the other or both or none. It is a fun little piece of equipment because it is smaller. It is a little bit less supportive just because it is a smaller piece of equipment. There's less to sit on, stand on, lean on, kneal on, but you can do all of those things on it.
Depending on the type of chair, some of the chairs have four Springs on the pedal, like the high chairs do, some of the chairs only have two Springs. So like the amount of resistance you're getting is also a little bit different.
[00:09:00] Perhaps the largest piece of Pilates equipment is the Cadillac or the trapeze table. And I'm going to use those phrases interchangeably. I learned the Cadillac. But it is a raised mat with a cage around it. And this is definitely the piece of equipment that for me, at least conjured up the most like dungeon vibes, like it really is a raised mat and it has like a metal frame that goes around it.
It's really cool. And that you can do exercises standing on that mat and then you have that like metal frame to hold onto. So it's like really nice in terms of balance, you can also do some fun stuff where you're upside down or, you know, there's the fuzzies, which are like these loops that attach to the frame that you can put your hands in, that you can put your feet in and you can kind of do fun stuff with it.
Some Cadillacs convert to a reformer, [00:10:00] so then you have a reformer kind of like under the mat that you can also play on. That's nice. The trapeze table gets its name because there is an attachment that looks kind of like a swing set that you can have a foot on, a hand on, your body on, all of your feet on, all of your hands on. Like, there's lots of things that we can do with the trapeze.
This is by far the most expensive piece of Pilates equipment, and it is massive. It is bigger than the reformer. It is taller than the reformer. There are these hoop, like little hook, attachment points are little, like, what do you call them? Like little loops that you attach the Springs into so that you really need space behind it in front of the Cadillacs so that you can do those standing or sitting whatever exercises with them.
This is definitely a piece of equipment that you will usually only see at a studio. And a lot of times there's only like one at the studio. It's like in the private studio or something like that. It's gigantic. I don't know if you [00:11:00] would have this in your house. I mean, I feel like Pilates teachers would have it in their house, but in terms of like an average person, you can just play with it at the studio. That's fine.
Coming up after the break, I'm going to share with you some more common Pilates equipment that you may find in studios around you, or that you might be using in your class. Namely talking about the tower, the springboard, the ladder barrel, and the prop, we all love to hate the magic circle. That's coming up next.
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We've got more Pilates equipment on the menu. I just feel like it's a good thing to know what you might be playing with. I feel like teachers often say like reformer and chair, but there are a lot of other pieces of equipment that you might be using. And so that's why I'm really diving deep into this because it's fun. It's good to know what the toys are called. Right?
So the tower, the [00:13:00] springboard. They are separate. They are very similar. So the tower can either be like a standing unit kind of looks like, you know, like in gardens, like those trellis arcs at the entrances of garden places, it's kind of like that. It's like this, um, metal arc that has lots of attachment points for springs. You know, we love springs. And it's also useful. You can hang on to it. So the tower itself is that, attached to a mat. Cool.
You can also get tower attachments for your reformer, where it fits onto your reformer, and then you can convert your reformer to the mat, or you can get something called a springboard that is attached to the wall, but just has those little eyelets where you'll be attaching springs to for things. All of those things, they're pretty much doing the job of like the frame of the Cadillac, the same places you would attach springs on the Cadillac. You can [00:14:00] attach them on the tower, on the springboard or on the tower attachment to your reformer.
If you have it as a tower attachment on your reformer, a lot of times you're going to need to be able to pull the reformer out so that you can do the tower exercises behind the reformer. If you're doing things that are like standing. If the reformer converts to a mat, you can do the tower exercises where you're lying down just on that mat of the reformer.
It's another toy. I don't know if you would have a tower or a springboard. You might have a tower attachment if you had a reformer, because it gives you the option of doing a bit more exercises, but all of this Pilates equipment, and no way am I like, Oh my gosh, you should definitely go out and buy this like right now it will make your life better because really. You can do every Pilates exercise on every piece of the equipment, pretty much. And it's really what you have space or what you have time for and if you're going to use it. Like anything that you buy, like it's worth it if you use it.
So I don't know, the tower's not really high up on my list of things to play [00:15:00] with. I would definitely get a reformer first, but if I was getting a reformer, like I would also get a tower attachment, you know what I mean?
This is something that might be at your studio that you might play with, again, maybe in like the private studio, I don't really see studios having like five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10 of these, but this is the latter barrel. And just like how it's named half of it's a barrel, half of it's a ladder. The ladder bit is like a wooden ladder and the barrel bit, it reminds me a lot of the pommel horse from gymnastics without the handles on it. It's obviously bigger, wider, and less gymnastics than that, but that's kind of what it reminds me of, or is it the vault? I don't think it's the vault. It doesn't have springs or anything. It's literally just like a rounded, like semi-circle pretty much, and you can sit on it and you can, I don't know if I'd recommend standing on it, but you can stand, like in between it and the ladder.
Pretty much it's like a rounded edge box. So any of the exercises that you can do [00:16:00] on the box, whether it's Swan, whether it's short box series, all of those things you can kind of do on the ladder barrel. And I will say this, if I did have a ladder barrel, it is the only place that I would do the exercise horseback. Cause that's where you're squeezing the box with your inner thighs and like shifting your body weight forward and it just feels like super uncomfortable on the box and it feels much less uncomfortable in the barrel because the edges are rounded. So I will say that for our friend, the ladder barrel.
Ladder barrel is also my favorite place to practice handstands because when you have your hands on the ground and you're kicking your legs up and the back is just kind of like inline with the barrel bit. It gives you that negative space for your legs, where you can kind of find where vertical is, but it also gives you like a little bit of support. I don't like kicking up into walls. I'm always afraid I'm going to put my foot through the wall. So there's nothing to put your foot through when you do it on the ladder barrel. So there's a bonus.
And then that prop that we all [00:17:00] love so much, with so much love, often disguised as hatred, is the magic circle, which is such a fun little torture tool. Right? This might be something that you have in your house because it is a nice small piece of equipment. They're usually want to say like 15 inches. Is that the, the wide one? It's slightly larger than a dinner plate. Let's say that. So it's this metal ring it's got these little handles on it. Originally, Joseph Pilates had like, if you think of the metal rings from like a wine cask and then he put wooden blocks on it and that was the handle. So obviously that's a bit aggressive.
They're much softer now. They have nice little foam handles and the metal ring is protected by foam as well. Again, you can do lots of stuff with it. You can have it in your hands, you can have it between your ankles. You can use it in pretty much any mat [00:18:00] exercise and in a lot of reformer exercises, you can kind of add it in as like a fun little piece of adventuring.
I love it because it's small, it's portable, and it's one of those things that's lightweight until you're doing a bunch of arm stuff with it. And then you realize like how heavy something is when you're holding it far away from you all the time.
The magic circle, the tower, springboard, ladder barrel, the Cadillac, the chair, the reformer, the mat, all of these pieces of equipment are designed by Joseph Pilates. Well, the springboard wasn't technically designed by Joseph Pilates, but all of these pieces of equipment were designed with the intention to give you feedback as you're doing the exercises. So when the teacher's telling you to do something, you can feel it in your body, a lot of different ways.
It's going to either, you know, help you maintain alignment or, you know, give you some support. Like a lot of times the springs in [00:19:00] exercises can support you. They can challenge you, but they can also give you a little bit of help as you're getting stronger as you're getting started, as you're learning a new thing.
This wasn't going to be an episode that's like, Oh, this is the best piece of equipment. This is the one you need because they all have their own uses. And you only have so much space in your life and in your house or living situation. So really to do Pilates, as we know, all you need is the mat. Everything else is just a fun playground that you can add on to.
As I mentioned coming up next week, I'm going to be talking about less common pieces of equipment. And that's when we'll dive into things like the spine corrector and the toe corrector. And I just saw on Instagram, the neck stretcher, like all of these really fun, quirky things, which you may or may not have heard of or played with, but I'll be diving down that rabbit hole next week.
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Thanks for tuning into this week's episode of Pilates Students' Manual, a podcast helping you get the most out of your Pilates classes. Be sure to check out the podcast Instagram at @pilatesstudentsmanual and subscribe wherever you're listening. Interested in teaching Pilates too? Check out Pilates Teachers' Manual, available everywhere you listen to podcasts.
I hope to see you next episode. Until next time. [00:21:00]