Pilates is a specialized system of stretching and strengthening exercises developed by Joseph Pilates in the 1920s. Regular Pilates workouts help you tone muscles and improve posture; you also will become more flexible and balanced as you create a leaner body. Pilates exercises emphasize the muscles of the abs, back and legs, so they often are performed from a supine or prone position. Use a mat that is specially designed for Pilates to get the most out of these rigorous workouts.
A Pilates mat should be at least half an inch thick, and it usually is made of foam or rubber, with a closed-cell construction. This design provides a thicker, firmer surface to support the body in certain positions. As you progress in Pilates, exercises involve rolling on the spine and stabilization in the hips and knees. These exercises might become uncomfortable, even painful, if your mat is too thin.
Many studios and fitness centers require you to bring your own mat. Pilates mats are designed to roll up for portability or easy storage. Some even come with a fastening strap or carrying case to make transport easier.
Using the proper mat in Pilates enables you to focus on activating your muscles and on the precise performance of exercises. Mats designed for other purposes might promote slipping, but a Pilates mat usually is textured and offers a non-slip surface. These mats often feature anti-skid elements on the bottom to prevent the mat from moving during Pilates movements. This stability helps prevent injury during practice and ensures that you execute your moves with optimal skeletal alignment.
About this Author
Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef who has focused studies in nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University.