Clinical Pilates vs reformer Pilates

Pilates: demonstrating mermaid on the reformer

At Live Well Health Centre, we frequently get asked the difference between Clinical and Reformer Pilates. While both use the reformer machine, clinical Pilates incorporates the use of different pieces of equipment. In this blog we will point out the differences between them so that you can determine which one suits you best.

What is Pilates? 

Pilates is an exercise form that was created in the 1920’s by Joseph Pilates. It practices low impact, intelligent movement, correct breathing, muscle development and proper spinal alignment. It can be defined as a mind-body exercise that promotes whole body health and mental awareness to optimise performance (1).

Pilates can help with :  

  • General fitness
  • Postural improvement
  • Core strengthening 
  • Injury rehabilitation and/or prevention
  • Body awareness
  • Pregnancy and post-natal recovery
  • Mental well being
  • Improving bone density


What is clinical Pilates?

Clinical Pilates is an individualised approach to exercise. It is tailored to suit the individual to be able to facilitate their treatment or goals. The classes are usually 3-4 participants and this allows the instructor to focus on form and technique of each person. Instructors are trained in studio or rehabilitation Pilates and are quite often allied health professionals such as an Osteopath.

Clinical Pilates uses a variety of equipment including the reformer machines, trapeze table, wunda chair, ladder barrel, spine corrector and mat. They are adjusted to suit all abilities, providing resistance to help with movement or to make it more difficult to perform for the more experienced person. 

May assist with:

  • Mid to low back pain
  • Improving balance and coordination
  • Sporting injuries 
  • Cardiovascular fitness
  • Scoliosis
  • Osteoporosis and body density
  • Body alignment and awareness 

What is reformer Pilates?  

These classes are all about the reformer machine. This means they are typically for larger groups with all clients performing the same exercise at the same time. These classes are generally more focused on strength, stretching and cardiovascular fitness.  The instructor can use props such as the chi ball, poles or weights for an added challenge.

What class should I do?

The type of class you do is a personal preference and entirely up to each individual. But if you are feeling any pain or suffering an injury then we would advise an assessment first. This occurs at your first clinical Pilates session along with an introduction to using all the equipment. The instructor will identify what you need to focus on and then tailor a program to assist you. As a result, if you are feeling good and just want to improve your overall fitness then the reformer classes may be more suited for you.

If you would like further information on Pilates then feel free to get into contact with us here at Live Well Health Centre.