What are the Different Types of Pilates?


With many sportsmen, Hollywood celebrities, and even common people raving about all the benefits of Pilates, chances are you’ve likely heard about this phenomenal discipline by now.

However, before you join a class and find out for yourself what the fuss is all about, it is imperative that you first determine the type of Pilates to go for.

Choosing the right type will not only help you achieve your goals faster, it will also help you get the most out of the practice.

Below are some of the common types available at your disposal. Get to know the basics of each so you are better equipped to decide which one would be best for you.


                Clinical Pilates

For some, clinical Pilates is a subset of contemporary Pilates. In other places like Australia, clinical Pilates often refers to physio taught Pilates done for rehabilitation. This type can involve studio equipment work, mat work, or the use of small props like the theraband.

Clinical Pilates banks on the current research on low back pain and the stabilizer muscles. It also involves training in the use of real time ultrasound to accurately assess pelvic floor muscle and transverse abdominus activation.

Clinical Pilates also makes use of dynamic physiotherapy assessment to determine functional diagnoses and directional preferences. Rehabilitative in nature and is conducted by a competent and seasoned physiotherapist, clinical Pilates is often taught as a 1 to 1 session where clients follow and adhere to their own individual programs designed to suit their unique needs.

Contemporary Pilates

This type is often otherwise referred to as modern Pilates. While still based on the original work presented by Clara and Joseph Pilates, it acknowledges the many advancements made since Pilates was first introduced and integrates it into the teachings.

By nature, contemporary Pilates is constantly evolving so new variations are likely to be introduced every now and then. Contemporary Pilates also makes use of a wide variety of equipment including the traditional studio equipment, mat work, and small props like the chi ball or the foam roller. It can also include the use of recent designs like Rael Isacowitz’s Avalon system.

For many, it is beneficial to incorporate the latest medical, physiological, and anatomical findings to Pilates’ work. Apart from making Pilates a lot safer, integrating the most current findings will make the exercise even more effective and more applicable to a wider audience.

Classical Pilates

Classical Pilates is known by many other names including Romana Pilates, authentic Pilates, New York Pilates, true or real Pilates, and traditional Pilates to name a few. This type of Pilates aims to preserve the original teaching of Joseph and Clara Pilates. Exercises are carried out as described traditionally.

Equipment used in classical Pilates adheres to the same specifications introduced by Joseph Pilates himself. Teachers/schools aligned with this type include Cynthia Lochard and Romana’s Pilates to name a few.

Mat work

As the name suggests, mat work is done on the floor with the use of a Pilates mat. This is the type of Pilates originally designed by Joseph Pilates. The studio equipment were created to help those who were not able to execute mat work correctly.

Mat work entails using one’s own body weight and gravity as resistance. While often taught as a group class, it is also often integrated in studio sessions.

Studio work

Traditional Pilates equipment are the trapeze table (also known as Cadillac), ladder barrel, chair, reformer, and the spine corrector. Variations include ped-o-pull, trap/reformer combos, baby arcs, and wall units to name a few. Studio equipment like the ones mentioned are often used by those who join a studio session.

Usually, it is conducted as a private or semi-private session with a maximum of 1:6 instructor-client ratio. Other variations of studio work include circuit, group chair, and reformer classes.


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Elizabeth Turpen

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