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Classical Pilates & the Apparatus

Joseph Pilates was a pioneer in exercise theory long before terms like sports science and movement analysis were coined. Born in 1883, he suffered from asthma, rickets and rheumatic fever as a child. He  overcame these ailments by devoting his life to studying exercise regimes, testing them himself and through working with patients during his internment in the UK during World War I.

The exercise method that Pilates developed was originally called ‘Contrology’. The mat-based exercises “develops the body uniformly, corrects wrong postures, restores physical vitality, invigorates the mind & elevates the spirit.” At the core of Contrology is a focus on the core postural muscles, spinal alignment and awareness of the breath. The exercises develop stability and poise through controlled motions, utilising oppositional forces to lengthen and strengthen the body. His book ‘Return to Life through Contrology’ made these exercises available to the general public in 1945. They now form the core of the mat exercises taught in Classical Pilates classes around the world.

Classical Pilates Apparatus

Joseph Pilates’ ingenious use of springs, pulleys and straps led to the development of Contrology apparatus. These added gentle resistance enabling greater precision and control in the execution of the movements. The Classical Pilates apparatus that emerged from his years of research include the Universal Reformer, the Cadillac and the Wunda Chair.

The Universal Reformer

The Universal Reformer was one of the first full pieces of apparatus designed by Joseph Pilates, inspired by the bedsprings of the internment camp where he spent World War I. The reformer consists of a moving carriage on which you can lie, sit or kneel to perform exercises. The carriage provides a supportive platform for your body but the level of difficultly can be varied through adjusting the spring tension.

The Cadillac

The Pilates Cadillac is reported to have been named by Joseph after the American car. This large and supportive piece of apparatus is ideal for rehabilitation work, but the Cadillac repertoire also stretches and strengthens bodies of all ages and ability. This hugely versatile piece of equipment can be used for simple spring-assisted sit ups through to more complex motions, like advanced acrobatics.