How hard is Pilates?

October 16, 2020

Hi everyone! Emily here, co-owner of PPF.

I often get asked if Pilates is easy. Pilates can be incredibly hard, if done correctly. I've been practising Pilates for the last 22 years and I am still learning ways to improve my practice. But this should not deter you from this amazing form of exercise. So how hard is Pilates? It's the hardest type of exercise most people have ever done! I explain why below:)

The different types of Pilates: Matwork v Reformer

There are now many different types of Pilates. I'm going to group them into two types for you: Pilates on the Mat and Pilates on a Reformer (a machine).

If you are new to Pilates, here's a quick explanation of both:


Pilates exercises performed on the floor/mat using mainly bodyweight for resistance. Props can be used to add variety, create additional resistance and increase the complexity.


The Pilates reformer is an apparatus consisting of a narrow bed with a sliding carriage attached to springs and pulleys to provide additional resistance and support.

We need to talk about the different types of Pilates, as one is harder than the other. I bet you can't guess which one! 

Contrary to what the media may lead you to believe, Pilates on the Mat is more challenging than Pilates on the Reformer. Why? 

  • Quite often the reformer springs and straps help support your body, while in Matwork, you alone are responsible for holding your entire body weight. 
  • Matwork isolates your core in a huge way, whilst the reformer uses straps to engage muscles other than your core; including your shoulders and arms. 
  • It is harder to cheat on the Mat! On the reformer you can release the springs quickly to make an exercise easier, however you cannot do this on the mat. 
  • The reformer can distract you from focusing on your form, as you are often busy changing springs and wondering where your hands and feet go. In a Pilates Matwork class you are able to focus more on your technique without these distractions, and better technique = better results. 
  • The reformer machine was actually created by Mr Pilates himself to make Pilates on the Mat easier and more accessible for injured clients! 
  • Pilates on the Mat can be made even more challenging with Pilates props! Resistance bands can replicate many of the reformer upper body exercises without using the support of the machine. Loop bands can increase the lower body burn and the Pilates ring will work your inner thighs like you never have before!

Why is Pilates so hard?

Pilates focuses on control and technique, rather than pushing out as many reps as you can as quickly as you can. It is actually easier for your mind and body to exhaust your muscles through this repetitive work, rather than focus on moving smoothly, with control and good form.

In a Pilates class, the goal is to engage the correct muscles, not to isolate any and all muscles. This isolating of particular muscles takes brain power, control and strength. 

Every Pilates exercise has a specific breath pattern, which is needed to follow to get the most out of every exercise. Taking the time to focus on your breath, as well as your technique is no easy feat! 

Why do something so hard?

I can hear what you may be thinking: 'why would I try Pilates if it sounds si damn hard?' Well, it is also incredibly rewarding for your body and mind. Sonja Herbert, a Pilates instructor and founder of Black Girl Pilates, explains Pilates perfectly: 'Pilates is a full-body exercise method that will help you do everything better'.

Pilates as a regular form of exercise will:

â—‰ Strengthen your core and all your stabilising muscles, meaning it works your entire body.

â—‰ It will improve your posture, mobility, flexibility and movement patterns.

â—‰ It will tone your body and can assist with weight loss.

â—‰ Calm your mind, as you focus on breath, movement and correct technique. To me, Pilates is my meditation! You can't think of anything else when you are in a Pilates class but on performing the exercises correctly.

â—‰ It can assist with rehab and injury prevention.

And much, much more.

woman doing mat pilates

The benefits of Pilates outweigh how hard it is! And like anything you do, it will get easier the more you practice.

Want to Learn about our Classes? This guide breaks down every class type so you know what to expect when to come to class.

Want to know what a Varied Exercise Program looks like? This blog explains how to get all your types of exercise in, for maximum results.

Check out our Timetable to find a time that suits your schedule.

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