Vital Pilates Bristol

What is the difference between Matwork and Equipment Pilates?

The Question?

This is a question I am often asked by clients, particularly new clients who have just started Pilates.  Most of them have heard of matwork Pilates but the equipment side is new to them.

The Answer

Matwork classes

At Vital Pilates a mat class is an hour long and has a maximum of 12 people per class. The class levels are beginners, Improvers and Intermediate.  Someone completely new to Pilates would start in a beginners class, but as they improved and wanted more of a challenge they would progress to Improvers and then Intermediate levels, this would be done at their own pace and on their teachers recommendation.

The classes run on set days and at set times, you normally choose a suitable level, time and day and book a block of 7 sessions, attending one class a week for 7 weeks.

The class incorporates exercises for the whole body, generally starting and finishing in standing with the rest of the time spent lying on your back, front, side, sitting, kneeling or on all fours.  The whole class does the same exercises throughout the class with some variations offered when needed. The exercises are executed using your own body weight, gravity and small apparatus, balls, bands etc.

Equipment sessions

At Vital Pilates equipment sessions are an hour long and have one, two or three people in each session.

The sessions are booked individually and are more flexible then matwork sessions as they don’t have to be used at the same time, day or even every week.  Most people buy  a blocks of 5 or 10 and they can be used  anytime within 6 months of purchase.

The exercises are performed on special pieces of Pilates equipment, a Reformer, this piece of equipment has a carriage which glides on rails, moving in response to the use of attached springs, pulleys and ropes, a Cadillac which is a raised horizontal table topped by a four- poster canopy frame on which bars, straps and springs are attached and a Chair which is a box with 4 springs and a split pedal. We also use smaller equipment such as Rollers, Arcs, Balls, Bands etc.  Being able to work with pulleys, ropes and springs means you can work with and against resistance, so the equipment can support your movement, putting you more in control with less stress on your joints or make your exercises more challenging and give you a more intense workout.

Each session is planned individually for each client, so if a client has something specific they want to work on or an injury, their hour can be tailored to suit them and their needs.


I feel that both matwork and equipment Pilates are great and either of them would be suitable for most people.  Cost wise a matclass works out at £10 per session and equipment sessions are 1:1 £40, 2:1 £22 and 3:1 £16 per person per session, this means the equipment sessions are a little more expensive than the matwork classes, but the equipment groups are smaller and the sessions are individually planned. Some people seem to prefer the matclasses and some prefer the equipment, it seems to come down to individual taste, time they have available and finance.  Some of my clients come to one mat and one equipment session a week and that seems to work well for them.  Some clients have told me that they feel they get a harder workout and quicker results from their equipment sessions.

If you want to start Pilates but are unsure about which type would suit you, I would suggest trying both and seeing which one you enjoy the most and get the most benefit from.  If you do please let me know, I’d love to hear.

One Response

  1. Sarah Hazell says:

    I started off by doing matwork pilates, I then decided to do both mat and equipment. I personally enjoy equipment more as I do like working with resistance.

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