If you’re a qualified Pilates professional looking to set up your own business, or you’re a Pilates enthusiast wanting to add to your home equipment, this guide to Pilates equipment has been created with you in mind.
Within this comprehensive guide, we discuss all types of Pilates equipment, covering what they are used for, the benefits of each item, and the ins and outs of each piece of equipment in terms of prices, reviews, and function.
By the end of this article you will be fully equipped for your Pilates equipment haul. But first, why not turn your passion for health and fitness into a lucrative career by becoming a Level 3 Personal Trainer or completing a Level 4 advanced Nutrition course.
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What is Pilates?
Pilates was established by Joseph Pilates, a German born fitness practitioner with a background in Gymnastics, circus performing, boxing, self-defence, and more.
Pilates, originally known as ‘Contrology’, is a fitness system that focuses on ‘comprehensive body-conditioning method that is directed toward the development of both the body and the mind of the individual’. (Muscolino & Cipriani, 2004).
Muscolino & Cipriani explain that Pilates incorporates six key principles: ‘centering, concentration, control, precision, breath, and flow’.
The NHS states that the main benefits of Pilates are proven to be improved posture, muscle toning, balance, and joint mobility. According to practitioners, Pilates can also have a positive effect on your overall physical and mental wellbeing.
Once we’re done, read this OriGym guide to learn more about the history of Pilates.
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What Are The Different Types of Pilates?
Growing in popularity, Pilates has evolved hugely from the initial teachings devised by Joseph Pilates. Throughout the years, various new forms of Pilates have stemmed and there are now a number of types of Pilates, each with different aims and equipment.
Simply put, classical Pilates is the original Pilates method developed by Joseph Pilates in the 1920s. This method is typically taught in a studio space incorporating a combination of mat based work and apparatus (reformer).
Classical Pilates consists of sequence-based work which is designed to move the body through a full range of movement. There are a huge range of websites where you can buy Pilates equipment online, making the practice increasingly accessible.
Mat Pilates is a versatile and accessible form of the practice, suitable for both beginners and advanced students. Pilates mats are transportable, which allows you to perform the practice wherever you like. If you’re new to this practice and looking for cheap Pilates equipment, buying a mat is a great place to start.
Mat-based Pilates was explored by Joseph Pilates before any other apparatus was introduced, this low maintenance option focuses on using mere bodyweight to work on core strength and toning your arms and legs.
Contemporary Pilates is any form of Pilates that has been developed after the original classical form. Ultimately, Contemporary Pilates, is described by Pilates professionals as incorporating modern knowledge of the body and biomechanics into the Pilates repertoire.
Thus, the original Pilates exercises still exist, but new exercises and modifications to original Pilates exercises have been added to make the system safer or more functional.
This form of Pilates, therefore, incorporates a wide range of Pilates apparatus and equipment, and has resulted in the development of commercial Pilates equipment.
As the name suggests, reformer Pilates adopts the use of Pilates reformer equipment, namely, the reformer machine. A reformer machine is a bed-like platform that has a sliding carriage, ropes, and pulling mechanisms.
This machine is designed to add resistance to the exercises and is therefore seen as a more challenging or physically demanding form of Pilates. However, the springs that create the resistance can be altered to create different tension levels, so reformer Pilates can also be a great piece of Pilates health equipment for injury rehabilitation.
Within one of his writings on Contrology, ‘Return to Life Through Contrology’, Joseph Pilates states that ‘Contrology is not a fatiguing system of dull, boring, abhorred exercises repeated daily… neither does it demand your joining a gymnasium nor the purchasing of expensive apparatus’. He ends by stating that ‘You may derive all the benefits of Contrology in your own home’.
This statement links perfectly with the aims of our essential Pilates guide. Showing you all of the Pilates exercise equipment needed for your Pilates journey whether that be Pilates equipment for home workouts, reformer equipment, commercial kit, or something we all love… cheap Pilates equipment.
So, let’s get started on our essential Pilates equipment UK guide…
Whether you are looking for a trendy new yoga and pilates mat for home workouts or you are looking to cater for a class of clients, a good exercise mat is most definitely an essential piece of Pilates training equipment.
As explored earlier, a mat can be used for practically all kinds of Pilates. A mat-based workout can offer up to 34 different exercises alone, making it one of the most cost-effective types of pilates equipment.
So, having a good quality mat that is durable, provides comfort and support, and has a good level of grip, is essential. Not only that, but an exercise mat is possibly the most transportable piece of Pilates equipment, you can tuck it under your arm to carry to your next class or take it along to your next get away - just imagine... a session of Pilates in the sunshine.
Here are our recommendations:
Resistance bands are a great piece of Pilates equipment, they allow you to add resistance to your workout without the need for expensive or bulky kit, such as Pilates reformer home equipment.
Coming in a range of materials, difficulties, and sizes, resistance bands aren’t just a piece of cheap Pilates equipment, they’re a universal item and a worthy addition to your kit.
Most of all, resistance bands are again portable, and they can be used to train multiple areas of the body. They are particularly great to use if you are a freelance teacher running classes in a studio one minute and in a park the next as they can be used anywhere, by anyone, in many ways.
If you aren’t already convinced that resistance bands are a staple piece of Pilates studio equipment, you will be after reading this article covering all of the benefits of resistance bands.
Check out these recommended products to see the benefits for yourself:
Another great piece of Pilates small equipment, is a pilates ring. Also known as a ‘magic circle’, this is one of the most iconic pieces of Pilates and yoga equipment.
Created and used by Pilates founder, Joseph Pilates, the ring consists of a circular rubber shape with two double sided handles. The Pilates ring is another great piece of Pilates equipment which allows you to add resistance during a workout but can also aid joint mobility, flexibility, and help to develop muscle strength.
Furthermore, as with a lot of pilates apparatus and equipment, the Pilates ring is lightweight, portable, and affordable. A suitable piece of kit to have for home workouts or to use in a studio, the ‘magic ring’ is a must have piece of Pilates training equipment.
Here are two of our favourites:
Swiss ball, exercise ball, stability ball, call it what you like, we couldn’t write a list of essential Pilates gym equipment without including this universal piece of kit.
An accessible and affordable piece of equipment, a swiss ball can be found in any gym or studio, and can be purchased online at a very reasonable price.
As well as providing an alternative to a bench or platform like surface to lean, lay and balance on, a swiss ball is used for a variety of Pilates movements that target the entire body.
Requiring added balance and focus, the swissball targets smaller muscle groups, activating core strength. Incorporating a swiss ball into your Pilates routine is an easy way to increase the difficulty of specific moves.
If you’re looking to buy Pilates equipment online, check out the following recommendations:
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A Pilates teachers favourite, a foam roller is a great device for both physical therapy and exercise assistance. Like a lot of small Pilates equipment, a foam roller is compact, affordable, and can be used throughout the entirety of a session from the warmup through to the cooldown.
Learn about the benefits of myofascial release and foam rolling here.
It is important to note that foam rollers do come in an array of densities, materials, and sizes, so you may find yourself overwhelmed with where to start. Here’s an overview of just a few types of foam rollers:
Low-density: Perfect to add to your Pilates studio equipment, the lightest and softest foam rollers are often used for classes or to ease sore muscles after an intense workout.
Firm rollers: As the name suggests, this type of foam roller has a tough exterior and is used for intense deep tissue massaging, a typical piece of Pilates health equipment. If you feel uneasy about the sensation of foam rolling then a lighter density may be better suited to you.
Short foam rollers: These rollers are ideal if you have an area of the body you are wanting to focus on. They come in low densities or high densities, and are perfect to pack in a bag when travelling.
Textured rollers: These may look intimidating but textured rollers whether bumpy or grid-like, allow you to target specific knots in your back or in other areas of the body. The different kinds of ridges result in varying levels of tension.
Foam rollers are arguably the best pilates equipment for home use, so why not have a look at these brilliant options:
There are a number of similarities between Pilates and yoga equipment, one example being foam blocks (also known as yoga blocks).
For Pilates, a foam block is used to assist positions and movement participating in improving technique by aligning the body. The foam block is particularly great at supporting the head, back and hips when exploring floor work.
Ultimately, a foam block encourages a supported environment during mat Pilates that a machine may offer in other types of Pilates, like Pilates reformer equipment. Foam blocks are handy for both commercial Pilates equipment and to have as part of your setup at home.
What’s more, foam blocks are a versatile and cheap piece of Pilates equipment. Check out the options below or head over to our ‘best yoga blocks’ article for a wider variety of recommendations.
Slightly different to the resistance bands mentioned above, these non-latex bands provide an adaptable tool for whole body resistance exercises and are a brilliant alternative to expensive Pilates stretching equipment.
Ideal for rehabilitation, therapy bands are often longer and thinner than other resistance bands and are ‘free’ at the ends rather than being in a loop. This allows a wider range of movements and a higher amount of repetitions, aiding muscle toning and fat burning.
Aiding stretching and warmups, therapy bands provide a lightweight resistance, ideal for rebuilding muscle after an injury and for maintaining minimal movements during recovery.
Cut them, swap them, layer them, or increase intensity, this is a truly versatile piece of kit. Whether you are a Pilates enthusiast or a rehabilitation coach - therapy bands have got to be an essential piece of Pilates exercise equipment.
Once we're done here, why not check out these recommended articles:
Overballs are another popular piece of Pilates equipment, with similar features to those of the Pilates circle and a foam roller.
Pilates overballs come in various sizes and can be placed between your legs, knees, ankles, hands or behind your back. You can use them for leaning or stability exercises, like foam blocks or rollers, or they can be squeezed, creating tension and resistance, like a Pilates circle.
An overball is a useful Pilates workout equipment for home as they provide support and create resistance. Overballs have lots to offer at an affordable price but be sure to check they are of a decent quality to ensure they are burst and slip proof as this will help you to avoid any unwanted injuries.
You can find our recommendations below:
Pole or Bar
A pole or bar is an often overlooked piece of Pilates equipment which is not only a great addition to your resistance and Pilates stretching equipment, but it is also a valuable tool for anybody looking for Pilates reformer home equipment.
You can use the bar alone to support your posture and technical frame, or it can be used to replicate reformer mechanics by adding resistance bands, creating a spring-like apparatus. Considering all they offer, this is a great value piece of equipment for Pilates.
Soft Weights (ball)
As with any form of exercise, adding weight is an easy way to increase difficulty and to tone muscles. As well as this, adding soft weights to your Pilates workout allows you to engage smaller muscles that normally become abandoned.
Adding weight forces you to realign your body through balance, so next time you have a wobble or shake, remember this is a good sign - you are working hard!
In addition, the design of soft weights help to reduce the risk of injury, making it one of the best Pilates equipment for home use, and a user-friendly option for clients and Pilates lovers of all backgrounds and abilities.
You may have noticed by now that a lot of Pilates exercise equipment features objects that can assist physical therapy or massage based exercises. Adding to this list are ‘Massage Balls’.
These tiny balls may look a little obscure at first but if you have worked with them before, you will be aware of the numerous benefits they can offer. As seen in Reformer Pilates, many people choose to explore Pilates as a method of rehabilitation or fitness progression. This creates an area of Pilates equipment that comes under the ‘Pilates health equipment’ umbrella.
Massage balls are normally small but can come in a number of forms, including regular massage balls and spiky massage balls. These massage balls assist exercises that aim to achieve a myofascial release, a type of physical therapy that is used to treat chronic pain within body tissues.
Massage balls can be used to ease pain and tension around ‘trigger points’ where pain is concentrated. They can be incorporated into your Pilates training equipment if you are looking for handy rehabilitation methods.
Unless professionally trained, it is advised to consult a medical professional before using this equipment. Or, check out the OriGym Guide to self myofascial release.
Ankle and Wrist Weights
In Pilates, progression is all about adding weight and resistance so you can challenge yourself and improve your fitness levels over time. For that reason, ankle strap weights and hand weights are a great addition to your Pilates at home equipment or Pilates studio equipment.
Ankle and wrist weights are an easy way to intensify your workout in a hassle free way. With straps to fit around your ankles or wrists, these practical weights are perfect for adding weight and increasing resistance.
Hand weights may look basic but they are also an effective and classic piece of equipment for all forms of Pilates. No one wants to be battling with clumsy, bulky weights whilst getting into the Pilates zone, therefore, small hand weights are a major must-have for anybody looking for Pilates home gym equipment.
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They may look like something you would use for figure skating, but these nifty gliders will get you feeling the burn. Floor gliders (also known as 'gliding discs' or 'sliders') are small circular pads that can be used to glide along the floor during a workout.
This may sound silly, but these discs can contribute to your workout in a number of ways, such as:
- Adding aerobic elements to simple movements such as mountain climbers.
- Making simple bodyweight movements, such as side cross lunges, more challenging by adding resistance.
- Increasing challenge to your core (which is great for toning and improving stability).
These versatile and lightweight gliders are a perfect addition to your ‘on the go’ Pilates bag. Be sure, however, to pick the most suitable gliders for your flooring as some options are only suitable for either wooden floor or carpet.
Check out the recommendations below or head over to our recent blog post listing the 13 best exercise sliders to buy online.
Similar to floor gliders, stability or balance boards are another great addition to your Pilates kit.
Balance boards add an extra challenge to your workout, but rather than sliding, these nifty boards require balance and strength to help support and progress pilates movements.
Coming in different shapes and forms, there is a balance board for everyone - from trendy BOSU balance trainers, perfect for home workouts, to small balance discs, ideal for larger classes or freelance trainers.
Also suitable for rehabilitation based Pilates, balance and stability boards can be used by people of all ages and are a perfect piece of equipment to improve core strength, posture and coordination - all of which are vital elements of Pilates training.
Check out our list of the 2021’s best wooden balance boards or have a look at the recommend products below:
Now it’s time to get those abs of steel!
Joseph Pilates named the core the “powerhouse” of the body. As Pilates focuses on key foundations like control, centering, and concentration, core stability and strengthening make up a significant aspect of Pilates training.
The best piece of Pilates equipment to engage your core is an ab roller or wheel. Using an ab roller is an excellent way to mimic the sliding motions of Pilates reformer equipment during core based exercises, by simply rolling the wheel along the floor, you can create a sliding carriage effect to assist your mat workout.
Ab rollers are also a great tool for mat based Pilates as they don’t only target your core, in fact, you can base a whole session around them as many come with foot straps to get your glutes involved too.
You can find a range of ab rollers over on this recent blog post.
The reformer machine is the defining piece of Pilates studio equipment for the growingly popular reformer pilates. Although this piece of kit may look intimidating, it is becoming increasingly trendy with celebrities like Margot Robbie and Meghan Markle giving it the thumbs up.
Although considerably expensive, this machine provides all you need for an extensive reformer pilates session. Essentially, the reformer machine provides a platform for a pilates session which is specialised, high-powered, and fully purposed.
However, reformer machines are typically large and bulky, so they may not be the best Pilates equipment for your home. That said, as the popularity of this type of Pilates rises, there are more and more compact and foldable reformers being designed with storage in mind.
Reformer machines are particularly great for teachers wanting to lead specialised pilates classes, ultimately, they provide endless exercise variations and their abilities are ever evolving.
Here are some great options:
A combo chair is another great piece of Pilates exercise equipment. If you want to perform Pilates at home or in a smaller studio, a combo chair offers a brilliant alternative to the reformer machine.
The pilates chair allows you to add extra resistance to your workout by including features similar to a reformer, including springs, pedals, and handles for balancing.
The pilates chair comes in many forms from the traditional ‘Wunda chair’ designed by Joseph Pilates himself, to modern gym style chairs and arm-chairs, such as the ‘baby chair’.
You can even pay more for a Pilates chair that can look part of your home furniture - now that’s fancy. The Pilates chair is ideal for rehabilitation, but Pilates chair workouts can also be some of the most challenging and they’re particularly effective at building arm and leg muscles.
Sitting boxes are a multi-use piece of Pilates equipment that can be added onto a Pilates reformer equipment machine. Pilates boxes allow for a more comfortable workout by allowing you to sit, lean and balance on a padded and structured surface.
They are typically designed to be used with a reformer machine, however, they can also be used for floor based workouts by adding levels and a platform, creating opportunities to explore a wider range of exercises. If you are a reformer Pilates enthusiast, you will know that the sitting box is a brilliant addition to your workout.
The Pilates arc or spine corrector is a useful Pilates tool that hones in on a number of Pilates fundamentals. Used by Joseph Pilates himself, a spine corrector can be used for exercises that aim to assist posture and stretching exercises of the back, torso, legs and shoulders.
You can read about the benefits of good posture here!
A spine corrector or arc can be a great addition to your Pilates equipment if you enjoy mat Pilates. Whether you are at home or in a studio, a spine corrector will ‘challenge balance, strength, proprioception and control’.
The design of the spine corrector and its curve provides support for complex movements and the flat part provokes instability and adds an extra challenge. The arc or spine corrector is a diverse and durable piece of Pilates equipment, you can even flip it over and use it as a balance board like apparatus.
Here are some great places to buy pilates equipment online:
There’s nothing better than a good stretch right? The Pilates ladder barrel is a purpose built apparatus that allows you to focus on exercises that support spine flexion and extension.
This idea of nurturing the spine and maintaining a healthy posture is a key element of Pilates, reflected through the principle ‘centering’. Funnily enough, this unusual looking piece of equipment was actually developed in a rather haphazard way.
The founder of the practice, Joseph Pilates, was a beer drinker and one day he began experimenting with how barrels can be used to assist spine supporting movement - and there we have it, the ladder barrel was born.
This classic piece of equipment may not receive as much attention compared to the mighty reformer and trapeze, however, it’s still an iconic piece of Pilates equipment!
The ladder barrel, unlike the combo chair and reformer, does not have springs and can therefore offer a different variety of Pilates movements. Although some people argue that the ladder barrel has limitations compared to the reformer or trapeze, it still has a plethora of specific exercises that target spine support, as well as side bending exercises that develop core strength and really work the obliques.
Probably the king of all Pilates equipment, the Trapeze table or Cadillac, was the first piece of Pilates equipment developed by Joseph Pilates. During World War One, Joseph Pilates was placed in a forced internment camp where he created the first trapeze table out of hospital beds.
This fascinating backstory is reflected through the love for today’s trapeze practice, growing in popularity amongst A-listers like Victoria Beckham and the Kardashians.
Suitable for Pilates beginners, those recovering from an injury, but also for people wanting to try more difficult movements, the trapeze is one of the most versatile pieces of Pilates equipment - but this does come at a costly price!
The trapeze is designed like a four-poster bed with features such as springs, swings, and a metal frame, all of which work together to provide resistance, hanging, and mobility support.
Basically, a trapeze or Cadillac can do pretty much everything, so if you have the studio space then this piece of Pilates equipment can be a great investment for both your business and your body.
Here are some suggested Pilates Cadillacs/Trapeze tables, including some simplified options:
Before You Go!
So there you have it, we have officially completed our 21 essential Pilates equipment guide. Who’d have thought there would be so many Pilates apparatus and equipment to choose from!
Whether you came here in search of equipment for your home, for a studio, or Pilates health equipment to help you recover from an injury, we hope that you have found what you were looking for.
Whilst you’re here, if you think you have what it takes to pursue a career in the fitness industry, why not enquire about a Level 3 Personal Training course or a Level 3 Exercise Referral qualification.
For more information on the range of health and fitness qualifications that you can study with here at OriGym, go ahead and download a free course prospectus here.
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