Pilates is a physical fitness system that was developed in the early 20th century by Joseph Pilates. It emphasises the balanced development of the body through core strength, flexibility and awareness, in order to support efficient, graceful movement. Its founder believed that this method of exercise used the mind to control the muscles.
Pilates seeks to develop controlled movement from a strong core, using a range of equipment to guide and train the body. It was originally developed as mat-based exercises but, in common with many other physical systems from the first part of the 20th century, several apparatus were used to help people 'get the method in their bodies'.
Each piece of apparatus has its own sequence of exercises, the majority of which centre around resistance training, using springs to provide additional resistance. The springs help each exercise become more progressive, as the user is able to increase the resistance by stretching the spring. The most widely used piece of apparatus is the Reformer, but other apparatus used in traditional Pilates includes the Wunda chair or MVe chair. Others include the Cadillac (also called the Trapeze table), the High (or Electric) chair, the Baby chair, the Ladder Barrel, the Spine Corrector (Step Barrel) and Small Barrel.
The Wunda chair was invented as a result of Joseph Pilates’ observations of Chinese acrobatics performed on a 'box'. This piece of equipment provides pure function and requires total strength. He also had strong beliefs about how individuals should sleep and sit, and designed his furniture accordingly. He considered modern chairs as compromising to optimal internal functioning and posture.
The Wunda chair is used to challenge both balance and strength.The original doubled as a small living room chair that, when flipped upon its back, became a gymnasium with two bedsprings.
This chair is an evolutionary take on the original Wunda chair. The MVe chair integrates a lightweight, open frame with the spring changing system allowing for a quick change in resistance levels. Group exercise classes using MVe chairs have formed in America over the last couple of years, which are now being brought to the UK.
One of the advantages of chair Pilates is that it works well for a wide range of people, from athletes and dancers, seniors, post-pregnancy and those at different stages of physical rehabilitation. So ask your instructor about the different equipment at your club, and give chair Pilates a try.
Jackie Stapleton is the founder of S.A.L.T Pilates studio in Chelsea, London and has trained under various methods from STOTT,
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Fitness Professionals Ltd or Virtual Magazine. Consult a qualified health or fitness professional before making changes to your diet or exercise.