How Many Types of Pilates Are There?

There are so many different types of workouts and exercises that you can do, both at home and at a gym. One of these exercises that has become extremely popular over recent years is Pilates. One reason for this is that there are so many different types of pilates. So, what are the different types of Pilates, and which one will be best for you?

There are 9 main types of Pilates. Classical, clinical, contemporary, mat, reformer, STOTT, Winsor, and 3-2-8 Pilates. Each style is slightly different and can be combined with other workouts, resulting in what is traditionally called hybrid Pilates.

So, you now know how many types of Pilates there are, and the fact that you can combine Pilates with other workouts to do hybrid Pilates. Throughout the rest of the article, I will tell you what Pilates is and the 9 different types. By the end of the article, you will know everything there is about Pilates, and which type is going to be best for you.

What is Pilates?

Before I can go in and talk about the many different types of Pilates, it is important to know what Pilates even is. Pilates was originally created back in the 1920s by Joseph Pilates with the intention to create an exercise that focuses on strengthening the body, improving core strength, and increasing flexibility and mobility.

“You will feel better in ten sessions, look better in twenty sessions, and have a completely new body in thirty sessions.”

Joseph Pilates

Ever since he started showing this exercise to others, it has been a popular option for many throughout the world. And like with many things, over the past 100 years, there have been many variations taken on the workout. But, they do share something in common with each other, besides the name. They all have the same premise and focus on:

  • Breathing – connecting your movements to your breath
  • Precision – ensuring every movement has a purpose
  • Flow – allowing one movement to flow to the next
  • Centering – bringing awareness to your center
  • Relaxation – stimulating your mind-body connection which allows you to relax
  • Concentration – bringing your full awareness to every movement

Aside from focus, Pilates is great as it helps build up your body, strengthens your lungs, and according to Joseph Pilates, also helps your mind and spirit. Because it is a low-impact and low-stress exercise, it is simple and has a lower chance have an injury than many other workouts have.

Classical Pilates

Classical Pilates is the type of Pilates that Joseph Pilates created. Pilates suffered from asthma, rickets, and rheumatic fever as a child, and claimed that many of the aspects he incorporated into Pilates helped him overcome these difficulties.

Classical Pilates is very routine-oriented and is great for those who are wanting to do the same workout every single day. This aspect of Pilates is very focused on aligning the shoulders, neck, head, and hips tilt to your back or posterior pelvic tilt. Each movement that you take with classical Pilates has you focusing on the 6 principles mentioned above.

“We retire too early and we die too young. Our prime of life should be in the 70’s and old age should not come until we are almost 100.”

Joseph Pilates

Along with this, classical Pilates starts with simple movements and eventually transitions to more complex stretches and exercises. Your Pilates routine can include any number of the 500 different moves that Joseph Pilates created. Some common classic pilates exercises include:

  • The one hundred
  • Roll-ups
  • Double and single-leg stretches
  • The swan dive

Classical Pilates can be done on a yoga mat, exercise mat, or on a Pilates apparatus, such as the reformer, barrel, and the Cadillac.

Clinical Pilates

Clinical Pilates is not going to be taught in any sort of traditional gym as it is only taught by a qualified physiotherapist. They use this type of Pilates to help act as a therapeutic workout for those who are recovering from injury or illness. The only main difference between clinical Pilates and Traditional Pilates is that the movements for clinical Pilates are specifically selected to help the patient.

“Change happens through movement and movement heals.”

Joseph Pilates

Clinical Pilates is traditionally used to help patients:

  • Reduce Chronic Pain
  • Recover Faster
  • Stabilize back & neck muscles
  • Who just had a baby or are pregnant
  • Build core strength
  • Correct muscle imbalances
  • Prevent future injuries

The level of help and support that you would receive at a clinical Pilates class is going to be far greater than with any other type of Pilates. This is because clinical Pilates instructors have expert knowledge and training in exercise physiology and pathology. They will also be beside you the whole time in order to provide help and correct any mistakes, and since you are the only one in the “class” you receive the full attention of the trainer.

Contemporary Pilates

Contemporary Pilates which is also sometimes called hybrid Pilates is a mix of classical Pilates and other types of workout routines. You can combine Pilates with a number of different workouts, including:

  • Aerials
  • Aerobics
  • Physiotherapy
  • Yoga
  • And more

Even though contemporary Pilates is going to be based on classical Pilates, each class that you take is going to be different because of what it can be combined with and focused on. In these classes, many instructors will simply use the classical Pilates aspects to act as re-education periods, or they will just have you focus on the 6 core aspects of Pilates while doing the routine.

The theory behind contemporary Pilates is to take more modern findings about fitness to build on the foundation that classical Pilates established. It is shaped by the ideas gathered from current research, communication skills, motor learning, and biomechanics.

Often contemporary pilates will include props such as:

  • A classic reformer
  • Resistance bands
  • Foam rollers
  • A yoga mat
  • Gym balls
  • And more

Because of the combination of classical Pilates and more modern discoveries, contemporary Pilates is also used frequently by physical therapists and other medical professionals.

Mat Pilates

Mat Pilates is the simplest version of Pilates as it doesn’t require any equipment besides a simple yoga mat (but any mat will work). You can use a Pilates mat, which is thicker and provides more comfort while you are doing your routine, but it is not required.

Ever since the COVID-19 lockdown, the popularity of mat Pilates has skyrocketed. This is because it requires very little space, and you can just do it in your home, eliminating the need to go to a gym or studio. Also because of the lockdown, a number of Pilates instructors began virtual platforms that allow you to attend classes virtually, or receive 1-on-1 training from the comfort of your home.

If you aren’t wanting to pay to be a part of a virtual Pilates class or to receive feedback from an instructor, there are plenty of other options for videos that can give you a full mat Pilates workout for free.

Typically mat Pilates is a simplified version of classical Pilates that only uses movements that are done on a mat, but more advanced students can include other Pilates movements to make mat Pilates more advanced and difficult.

The main parts of the body that are focused on in mat Pilates are:

  • The lower back
  • Leg muscles
  • Shoulders
  • Pelvic floor
  • Hips

Mat Pilates also helps improve your balance and pain tolerance.

Reformer Pilates

Reformer Pilates is just like mat Pilates, but rather than using a mat, you are going to be using a reformer machine. A reformer machine is like an elevated bed frame with a platform, and springs, and is designed to add resistance to your Pilates routine.

Reformer classes are going to be far more intensive than mat Pilates and due to the fact that you need a reformer machine, you will need to make sure that you have an instructor with you when doing these routines. If you don’t have a licensed instructor, and do any of the routines incorrectly, you can easily end up damaging the machine or hurting yourself.

“Concentrate on the correct movement each time you exercise, lest you do them improperly and thus lose all vital benefits.”

Joseph Pilates

When looking for a reformer machine, you have plenty of different options to select from, including the Ladder Barrel, Cadillac, and Classic Reformer. It is also recommended that you have a Vinyasa Triangle, Jumpboard, rotational Diskboard, and a reformer box before you start doing reformer Pilates.

STOTT Pilates

STOTT Pilates was originally created by a ballerina, Moira Merrithew, who had a neck injury that led her to discover Pilates. After studying classical Pilates for a time, Merrithew made a few changes to focus on keeping your spine in its natural curve rather than having it be a rigid, straight line.

Because of this, when you are doing STOTT Pilates, you will always be keeping your lower spine off of the floor. This is the largest difference, as classical Pilates has you have your whole spine on the floor. Along with this, STOTT Pilates also uses a number of different props, while classical Pilates doesn’t require any.

According to Moira Merrithew, the two main principles of STOTT Pilates are:

  • Restoring the original curve of the spine.
  • Protecting, realigning (in case of injury), and improving the condition of the muscles surrounding the joints

It has been found, that along with helping build up the muscles around the spine, helping it keep its natural curve, STOTT Pilates also helps anyone with severe pain in their spine, back, neck, and shoulders.

Winsor Pilates

Winsor Pilates is named after its famed Pilates instructor, Mari Winsor, who created this type of Pilates to focus on weight loss. This type of Pilates has you focus on the band of energy that you have around the center of your body and helps burn away the fact there. Along with this, Winsor Pilates has an even greater focus on breath techniques than classical Pilates.

“Above all, learn how to breathe correctly.”

Joseph Pilates

Winsor Pilates is made up of a combination of 13 breathing and 13 physical exercises that are all performed over the course of 20 minutes. The breathing exercise has been shown to increase the amount of oxygen in your blood, which improves the muscles and enhances your metabolism, resulting in weight loss.

After Mari Winsor created this type of Pilates, she began to advertise its effectiveness through a number of infomercials and since then it has become a well-established type of Pilates throughout the world.

3-2-8 Pilates

3-2-8 Pilates is similar to contemporary Pilates in the fact that it is not completely Pilates. Rather it is a weekly workout routine that is a combination of weight lifting, Pilates, Barre, and some sort of cardio, typically walking or running.

This works by focusing on weight training for the first 3 days of the week. You can do any sort of weight training, though it is recommended you change the muscle focus each day to avoid any injury. Traditionally you do a full body workout on the first day, the focus on the upper body on the second, and the lower body on the last day.

For the next two days, you rest and recover by doing lower-impact workouts like Pilates and Barre. And the last part is that you walk or run 8,000 steps each day in order to burn 300 calories.

This is a newer routine but helps you lose weight, build muscle, reduce inflammation, and gain flexibility. It also is set up in a way that helps the body have time to recover and prevents injury.

This routine and type of pilates was originally created by Natalie Rose, and was only created in the last couple of years, so it does not have many classes across the USA or the world. But, there are plenty of videos that give full workouts that you can follow if you are interested in starting 3-2-8 Pilates.


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