At Complete Pilates, we use the full studio equipment in our classes and 1-2-1’s. This means that a Pilates session with us will usually include exercises on the barrel, reformer, trapeze table and the Pilates chair.

Why do we favour equipment Pilates over mat Pilates?

Well, we believe that Pilates on the machines is the most effective and efficient way to experience the Pilates method.

Having said that, we also recognise that the Pilates machines can look a bit strange – perhaps even downright scary – to people new to this method of exercising, and this can be a little off-putting.

So, to help you get to grips with the Pilates machines, we’ve decided to publish a series of posts focusing on the different pieces of equipment. Below is the second article in our series on the Pilates equipment. This week we focus on the brilliant (but often underrated) Pilates chair.

The Pilates chair

Like the reformer, the Pilates chair or “wunda” chair is another of the original pieces of equipment first engineered by Joseph Pilates.

The first chair was designed by Joseph to convert quickly and easily into an armchair. Hence its name. It was also designed to fit comfortably into small New York apartments. Which is why it is the most compact piece of Pilates equipment.

Up until recently, the chair was considered a niche piece of exercise equipment. It was only known to Pilates devotees. Now, however, there are whole classes devoted to it. Slowly but surely it is making its way into mainstream fitness.

Main features of the Pilates chair

The chair is essentially a box (usually made of wood) with a padded seat on top and a pedal attached to one side of the box by springs. These springs allow for the tension of the pedal to be adjusted and are used to make exercises easier or more difficult.

Depending on the model of chair, the pedal is either in one piece or split down the middle. A split pedal makes the equipment more versatile and supports rotation-type movements.

Two detachable handles slot in either side of the box. These can be used to make the chair either a more supportive or a more challenging piece of equipment for the user.

How does it work?

The chair is great for standing or seated work.

It can also work for exercises that are performed on both your front and back, like the spine extension movement called “swan.”

Because of the small surface area, chair exercises can be pretty difficult. The chair is also compact and can easily be pushed up against the trapeze table to make exercises such as “swan” more achievable.

The Pilates chair allows for more creativity than some of the other machines. It can be used from positions both in front of the pedal or from seated positions with the pedal behind you.

A female performing the swan move on a Pilates chair

Performing the swan exercise on a Pilates chair

What are the benefits of the Pilates chair?

The chair is great for injury rehab

The Pilates chair is a particularly useful piece of apparatus. It provides the perfect environment for people to practise movements in standing. This makes the chair a very functional piece of equipment.

Because of this, Pilates instructors can use the chair to progress a client from basic exercises to more integrated standing movements. This means that once someone has mastered an exercise like reformer footwork (which is basically a squat performed lying down) they can then attempt a more advanced standing version of footwork using the chair’s pedals.

And yet, even though exercises on the chair are generally more challenging than the ones performed lying on a reformer, certain design features mean that this doesn’t always have to be the case. The chair’s handle design, for example, allows the chair to be made more supportive for beginners or people with injuries.

The chair can enhance sports performance

Although the chair is beneficial for people with injuries, rehab is not its only function.

In fact, in Pilates circles the chair is known to be the most challenging piece of equipment. It is very effective for building arm and leg strength. For this reason, the chair can be used to improve sports performance in footballers, skiers and runners. It is also great for supporting sports that require upper body strength and mobility, such as tennis and golf.

Experienced Pilates practitioners can also use the chair for more acrobatic movements. Push ups using the handles is an example of an advanced exercise that can be performed on this piece of equipment.

Try the Pilates chair

Interested in trying the Pilates chair? Then why not sign up for a 1-2-1 session or studio class with Complete Pilates.

Want to learn more about the equipment? Then check back next week for our post on the Pilates trapeze table.

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Education is key:

These blogs are designed to give information to everyone, however, it is important to remember that everyone is different! If you have not seen one of our therapists and have any questions about injuries, what you have read or whether this may be useful to you, please just ask.

At Complete Pilates we would advise you to always speak to your doctor, physiotherapist, or clinical Pilates instructor here at Complete Pilates if you are worried about starting a new exercise regime.
We are more than happy to help anyone and point you in the right direction. Our biggest belief is that education is key. The more you understand about your injury, illness and movement, the more you are likely to improve.