Although many Pilates exercises can be done at home on a mat, there are hundreds of additional exercises that can only be performed using Pilates gym equipment. A well equipped Pilates studio will usually have the four primary pieces of Pilates gym equipment, the Pilates reformer, the Pilates Cadillac, the Pilates arc barrel, the Pilates chair, as well as Pilates accessories, such as mats, resistance bands and circle bands. Pilates gym equipment can tend to be expensive; the mats and resistance bands, however, may be a less expensive option for people who do not want to go to a Pilates studio.
The Pilates reformer may be a favorite piece of Pilates gym equipment for many people. It is a gliding board where a person can lie, kneel, sit, or stand on her side, back, or stomach. There is a system of pulleys, springs, and straps that the person then uses to pull and push her body as it glides along the rails on either side of the board. The springs and pulleys are adjustable so the person can have more or less resistance. It works to strengthen, lengthen, and tone the muscles of the legs, arms, and abdominals.
The Pilates Cadillac, or Trapeze Table, is another piece of Pilates equipment found in many studios. It is basically a raised table that looks similar to a four-poster bed. The frame has several bars, springs, and straps that hang from bars across the top of the four posts. Dozens of different exercises can be performed with the Cadillac, such as sit-ups with the aid of a spring to splits and back-bends where the user literally hangs upside down. It primarily works the muscles of the abdomen and helps the spine become more flexible. It also strengthens the muscles of the back and can provide a full body stretch.
The Pilates arc barrel is a more specialized piece of Pilates gym equipment. Typically, the barrel is a padded arch that works to support and open up the back, shoulders, neck, and hips. Many people use them to help stretch and heal injured muscles and ligaments.
The Pilates chair, also called the Wunda chair, is a chair-like piece of equipment with a pedal-like step at the feet, several springs, and adjustable levels of resistance. Able Pilates students can perform more than 70 different exercises on the chair. For example, the pedal-step may be pressed with arms or legs, while stabilizing the abdominal muscles. The chair works the lower back, shoulders, and abdominals and requires more coordination than many pieces of Pilates equipment.
Other basic pieces of Pilates gym equipment include Pilates mats, resistance bands, and circle rings. Unlike the other equipment, where a trained instructor should teach and review each exercise to prevent injury, most people can use the accessories at home with basic instruction. The mats are similar to yoga mats and are used to complete exercises on the floor. The resistance bands and circle rings are great ways to improve basic muscle strength without using bulky equipment.