The origins of the Pilates apparatus can be traced back to England during WWI when Joseph Pilates was rehabilitating wounded soldiers. He began experimenting with springs attached to hospital beds and the first piece of Pilates apparatus – today known as the Cadillac – was born. Patients were able to perform resistance exercises while still bed-ridden and Pilates discovered that this speeded their recovery.
Later on Joe worked as a circus artist where he got his initial idea for the Wunda Chair, which he later went on to develop into a true home Reformer. He was apparently very resourceful in finding his building material; it is said that he constructed his first Barrel from half a beer keg, with the steel hoops of the keg becoming the original Magic Circle.
After moving to the U.S., Joe established a little workshop underneath his original New York studio on 8th Avenue at 56th Street. Here he enthusiastically worked on creating additional Pilates apparatus. Throughout his lifetime, he and his brother Fred continued to develop and create new pieces of exercise apparatus, as well as fine-tune their inventions.
The power of utilizing the Pilates apparatus lies in its ability to provide mechanical advantage. Imagine, if you will, putting a screw into a wall using just your fingers. Now imagine putting that same screw into a wall using a screwdriver. This is mechanical advantage. The assistance or resistance that the Pilates apparatus provides allows us to work the body in a range of motion that we otherwise could not effectively or safely maintain. A Pilates workout utilizing all the apparatus is the path that leads to the greatest results.
The primary pieces of Pilates apparatus are:
- Cadillac (i.e. Trap Table)
- Wall Unit (i.e. Tower)
- High Chair
- Wunda Chair
- Small Barrel
- Spine Corrector
- Ladder Barrel
- Magic Circle