Like many gyms, our Pilates studio is wall-to-wall with equipment. That’s about where the similarities end. You’ll rarely see machines like these at even the most modern gym, and that’s because the founder of Pilates developed many of them specifically for his exercise method. Getting acquainted with them will transform the way you work out.
Reformer – The Reformer was developed and designed by Joseph Pilates himself, and was one of the first exercise machines that he successfully patented back in the 1930s. Many reformer exercises are performed supine (lying on the back), which eases any strain on the joints and allows students to practice aligning the body. The Reformer is truly the centerpiece of the classical Pilates studio, and Dynamic Fitness hosts several group classes per week dedicated to this integral apparatus.
Cadillac – When you visit our studio, the first thing to catch your eye may not be the long, low Reformer. It’ll probably be the Cadillac that you spot first — and wonder what on earth is that?? The Cadillac resembles the frame of a tall, four-poster bed, rigged with springs, slings, push-through bars, and even a trapeze! In the Cadillac we can clearly see where Pilates first developed his fitness method: in the British internment camps of WWI, where he modified his fellow Germans’ hospital beds so even the most sickly and injured could exercise and, to borrow from the inventor, “return to life.”
Electric Chair – The Electric Chair can look a little scary with its high back, shoulder-height handles, and moveable foot bar attached to heavy springs. However, the purpose of the Electric or “High” Chair is quite therapeutic. As the high back supports the spine during seated exercises, you become the source of “electricity” as you focus energy in your powerhouse and shoot it out through your legs.
Wunda Chair – The history of this apparatus is pretty fascinating. Throughout his career, Joe Pilates was obsessed with the idea of creating a line of “exercise furniture,” modular pieces that could save space in posh New York apartments by doubling as workout machines. Along with the Reformer, the Wunda Chair is one of the few apparatus from the line of “Pilates Automatic Balanced Health Furniture” that’s in popular use today. One minute it’s a chic little chair — the next, it’s a sturdy support for the Push-Down, Pull-Up, Swan, and a host of other exercises.
Magic Circle – Pilates’s dedication to health and wellness are legendary; his love of good beer is the stuff of legend as well. The late Pilates elder Romana Kryzanowska suggested that his sudsy fondness led to the development of the Magic Circle. The springy hoop that we use to enhance leg and arm exercises may have been inspired from the metal hoops encircling the kegs of Pilates’ favorite brew. And the Half-Barrel? Yeah, we think you get it, too!
Jump Board – The Jump Board is not one of Pilates’ original inventions; it was actually prototyped in the late ’80s by NASA scientists to simulate the effects of weightlessness on astronauts-in-training. However, from its beginnings the Pilates method has been profoundly popular among professional dancers and gymnasts. For these athletes, practicing and strengthening their jump is a critical exercise. The original manufacturer of Pilates equipment, Gratz Design, modified NASA’s prototype to fit the Reformer, and the Jump Board was born.
Jump Board exercises are performed supine on the reformer, and they’re a great way to add extra cardio to your routine and end a workout on an exhilarating high note!
Come see these fascinating machines in person at the Dynamic Fitness studio, and talk to your instructor if you are interested in adding any of the classical Pilates apparatus to your workout routine.
“The Father of Invention” by Regina Joseph. Pilates Style September/October 2006.
Photos of Pilates apparatus courtesy of Peak Pilates®: http://www.peakpilates.com/