Pilates Equipment 101 - What You Might Need to Exercise at Home

If you are thinking about beginning Pilates, you might prefer to set things up at home rather than enroll in a class. If so, there is some basic equipment you might need to get started. Here are some items to consider.

Stability Ball

A stability ball looks something like those bouncing balls with a handle that kids like to bounce around on - it's about that size. A stability ball is ribbed, and is intended to strengthen core muscles. These muscles are involved in balance, and balancing on the ball in various positions works these muscles. A somewhat cheaper alternative is a foam roller, which has basically the same function but it is firmer and therefore more challenging.


Probably the least expensive of Pilates equipment, a mat is also the most essential. A mat helps provide grip and cushioning for the various exercises and positions, and can be rolled up and stored fairly easily. A mat that is sold under the name "Yoga mat" should work fine, even though Pilates and Yoga are different.

Resistance Bands

Resistance bands were not, apparently, part of the original Pilates equipment. But many people like to add them in to their Pilates workouts. These strong, stretchy bands add resistance and make the exercises more challenging.


A reformer looks something like a cross between a traditional gym rowing machine and a low bench. It is made of wood, and there are foldable versions available for homes with limited space. Reformers are intended to work the upper body, especially the abdominals. Legs and buttocks are also exercised on the reformer. Those who have trouble getting up and down from a low position can buy a reformer with attachable legs.


This piece of equipment can look a bit funny if you don't know what it is. It's also called a trapeze table, which tells you something about the look of it. It looks like a leather-cushioned bench with a metal canopy frame over it, from which hang various straps and springs. You can do exercises that require sitting or lying down on the Cadillac. All kinds of Pilates exercises can be done on this classic piece of Pilates equipment.

Wunda Chair

The Wunda chair is supposed to provide resistance to various exercises. The more old-fashioned type of Wunda chair looks like a wooden box with a leather cushion on several sides. You sit on top of the box (it has a cushioned back) and a "shelf" comes out from beneath. This shelf acts like a pedal - you push it down with your legs, and springs provide resistance. More modern versions are sleeker and made of metal.

Getting a DVD or viewing Pilates instructional videos online can be very helpful in learning how to do the exercises in your own home. You can choose to purchase some or all of the equipment, depending on your budget and what you want to achieve.

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