Pilates 101

Pilates Equipment
A woman in Beijing tries to figure out a Pilates exercise machine at a fitness expo.
A woman in Beijing tries to figure out a Pilates exercise machine at a fitness expo.
Frederick J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

Not all Pilates exercises are done on the mat. During World War I, Joseph Pilates found that he often had to hold patients or use his body to help them perform exercises. He began to experiment with machines that could essentially replace his body. His first machines were made out of the only materials he had on hand: bedsprings and bed frames.

Joseph Pilates eventually gave his inventions names like the Universal Reformer, the Wunda Chair, the Cadillac, the Ladder Barrel, and the Spine Corrector. Most Pilates work can be performed on the mat and with the Universal Reformer, now simply called the Reformer. Other machines can be incorporated into the mix for a more balanced workout. Most Pilates equipment is based on Joseph Pilates' original designs although there are some new machines.

Each Pilates apparatus is multifunctional. The Reformer alone allows for more than 100 different movements. The Cadillac has wooden bars and hanging trapezes to work the arms, legs and trunk against different spring tensions. The Wunda Chair was designed to help develop balance and strength.

Pilates kits are also a popular and less expensive way to enhance a basic Pilates workout. The kits include sets of springs and bungee bands used for resistance training. They also can help keep the body properly aligned during exercise.

To learn more about Pilates and other forms of exercise, look over the links on the next page.

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