Reformer Cadillac Stability Chair Spine Corrector

Pilates' Apparatus, Small Equipment & Props

Apparatus

Over the course of his career Joseph Pilates created numerous exercise movements for the various pieces of apparatus that he invented.  He designed apparatus to condition the entire body, using positions and movements that simulate functional activities to correct body alignment and balance using all intensity levels  from fundamental to advanced.  The apparatus uses springs, pulleys and gravity to challenge the body's muscles in diverse ways with particular focus on the deep stabilising muscles.  The Wunda Chair was designed to be used in the home and is arguably the first piece of home gym equipment to be used. 

Reformer

This is undoubtedly the most popular piece of equipment.  Its versatility is beyond all imagination and it gives immediate feedback to the client as to how the muscles are working.  The movements performed on the reformer range from fundamental to extremely advanced, can be performed in every conceivable position and for every possible purpose.  It is made up of a horizontal carriage that glides forward and back on rollers with resistance provided, as with much of the apparatus, by a spring system.  It is the most user-friendly apparatus on which to perform foot work, foot work being a fundamental section in a Pilates' workout that can be done on the Cadillac and Wunda chair as well.  Foot work should form part of an exercise programme aimed at improving posture because it provides insight into the way a person walks or runs and facilitates a means of addressing any issues that may be present.  The stretches for the hip flexor, hamstring and adductor muscles cannot be duplicated as effectively on any other apparatus and the reformer readily accommodates movement in a full range of motion, rather than the limited range offered by other pieces of apparatus. 

Wunda Chair

The Wunda chair (sometimes referred to as the stability chair) is arguably the first piece of home gym equipment as the orginal chair doubled as a piece of furniture. The chair is not easy to use and highlights imbalances and weaknesses like no other piece of apparatus.  At the same time it offers possibilities for dealing with these problems that are unique and specific to the chair only.  It is well suited for those who wish to develop general fitness and enhance athletic performance.  It is extremely useful during pregnancy as the movements are performed seated or standing rather than lying (not recommended during pregnancy), which also makes it more functional than the other pieces of equipment.  The movements tend to be shorter in range of motion.

Barrels

The barrels have endless potential to work the body in every range of motion and utilise gravity rather than springs for resistance. They are exceptional for strengthening the back muscles and stretching the trunk flexors (abdominals).  There are 2 kinds:

  • the ladder barrel that stands several feet off the ground attached to a ladder of the same height;
  • the step barrel that sits on the floor;

There are variations of the step barrel such as the half barrel and baby arc.   The step barrel supports the lower back in a neutral position during forward flexion which is important when flexion of the lumbar spine is contraindicated and also provides an excellent set of exercises that stretch the hip flexors and adductors.   It is a helpful piece of apparatus when learning to recruit the correct muscles for performing lateral flexion (sideways bending) as it supports the body and almost guides it in the desired direction. 

Cadillac

Like all pieces of Pilates' apparatus, the cadillac is unique and versatile with limitless applications.  Its structure permits hanging exercises opening up tremendous possibilities for the upper and lower body.  These exercises develop balance, co-ordination and strength through acrobatic-type movements.  Its stable base is an advantage for people who lack balance and stability, such as the elderly or injured.  Just as the reformer offers stretches for the legs and hips that cannot be duplicated on other apparatus, the cadillac offers unique stretches for the upper body.  Towers attached to a wall or to the end of a reformer have been developed in recent years for studios that do not have sufficient floor space to accommodate a Cadillac.

Ped-a-pul & arm chair

These pieces of apparatus are not as commonly used but again have unique capabilities that cannot be duplicated easily on other pieces of apparatus.  The ped-a-pul works the body in a standing position and is excellent for developing upright alignment and balance whilst focusing on the arms and shoulder girdle.  The movements range from a fundamental to advanced level.  Whilst the arm chair is not often used in studios, it also offers an excellent set of exercises for the arms and shoulder girdle. 

 

Small Equipment & Props

Using small equipment, such as a stability ball and magic circle, will add challenge, aid awareness and improve movement quality.  Props are external aids used to reduce compensatory movements so that participants can achieve the desired aim of a movement (resistance bands, air-discs, weighted balls, cushions, blocks, wooden poles, stools).  Using small equipment and props is fun and challenging, motivates and helps to avoid boredom setting in. 

Stability Ball

Balancing on a suitably inflated stability ball is extremely challenging and is advisable only for those who already possess a high level of core strength and balance.  Those who do not possess sufficient core strength or balance would be advised to use a chair or stool initially as this will facilitate an upright spine alignment and a more stable surface, both essential when strengthening the core muscles. 

Choose a stability ball that is the correct size for your height and ensures that your hips are slightly higher than your knees when it is inflated to its maximum (for most women 50cm is about right). A soft stability ball offers little challenge and may result in poor spine and/or hip/knee alignment.

Magic circle

The magic circle (often referred to as the isotoner) is a ring or circle of metal that has several uses.  Joseph Pilates created it using the metal that held a wooden barrel together.  It can be used to keep the body or a part of the body in alignment or in a desired position, to encourage continuous activation of a certain muscle group such as holding it between the legs to maintain adductor engagement and it can be used to add resistance or heighten co-ordination.  Some magic circles offer more resistance than others and in terms of resistance it is better to choose one that is lighter rather than heavier to develop exceptional movement quality.