Pilates vs Dynamic reformer classes


Traditional Pilates or dynamic reformer classes?

Both Pilates styles are great. It all depends on what you’re trying to achieve. For instance, take classical ballet vs fitness Ballet Barre, or Iyengar yoga vs Power yoga. Which one is better?

Let’s take the first example. While ballet is a long-established discipline with set choreography that takes time and skill to master, a fitness Ballet Barre instead, incorporates ballet inspired moves with fitness, strength and cardio . Although both are similar in movement, they are different with completely different aims and approaches. Furthermore, they both require concentration and control.

Dynamic reformer and traditional Pilates exercises are not the same

Dynamic Reformer

Dynamic reformer is a high intensity, low impact, core, muscular strength, and endurance, fitness-based approach workout to Pilates… (and breathe). This full body-blast workout uses continuous and constant tension, targeted at burning energy for a long period of time.

Be ready to get sweaty, burn calories, lose weight and tone up. With the use of a stop-watch and small weights, we promise to take you to muscular fatigue and overload. In plain English, this is a fun, effective and crazy challenging workout, yet still on the amazing reformer.

The key to dynamic reformer is the timing of the exercises.


Perform a series of reformer exercises for, say 2-3 full minutes, until muscular fatigue is reached. Then break out to sweat onto a calorie burning zone with minimal rest between transitions. After this, move onto a second & third set until overload. Lastly, complete your workout with a stretch to lengthen the shortened, worked muscles in order to achieve that long, lean look. The exercises are similar to those performed in a fitness setting, (lunges, planks, dips, bridges) but rather on the moving reformer platform. The technique must be performed correctly, focused and control is primordial, making it too, a mind-body form of exercise.

Usually dynamic workouts on the reformer are performed kneeling or standing and rarely on your back, with the chiefly purpose of making you burn more calories. The method allows teacher the flexibility to teach any exercises in any order, as long as the timing is right and effective to provide a full body workout.

The result is a powerful workout that delivers exceptional results in a remarkable amount of time.

Traditional Reformer

Traditional Pilates in contrast, is not about burning calories or losing weight. The workout involves more complex movement patterns, focusing on alignment and at an advanced level. It requires extreme flexibility and control in all body planes. Although you won’t jump around, you will definitely get a workout.

Classical Pilates involves set choreography, tons of spinal articulations and a comprehensive and systematic order of exercises. The original Pilates method is based on a set of 7 mind-body principles. These are Breathing, Concentration, Control, Centring, Precision, Fluidity

As a general rule, traditional, purist, classical Pilates practitioners preserve and follow the teachings of Mr Pilates pretty much the way he created them up until the day he passed, 50 years ago.

However, newer approaches, such as STOTT PILATES®, taught at Core Kensington, have since then emerged.
STOTT PILATES® applies proven and accepted practices in biomechanics, rehabilitation and athletic performance enhancement, based on Five Basic Principles. At the same time, it preserves the original Pilates exercises pioneered by the late Pilates.

What to go for then


  • Looking for a technique-based discipline that will greatly improve your movement, coordination and strength? Traditional/contemporary Pilates classes are for you.
    Traditional Pilates emphasises spinal and joint mobility, making it appropriate for everyone, including older populations, injury prevention and rehabilitation settings. This workout requires a great deal of body awareness, coordination, precision, grace, fluidity, concentration, control.
  • Alternatively, for the hard-core, fitness-oriented, who want to sweat, feel the burn, fatigue and overload, dynamic reformer is a winner. But don’t be fooled, although simpler choreography, you’ll still require loads of body awareness, focus, precision, concentration and control.
    A true dynamic reformer classes will take you to your maximum challenge-zone and will test your endurance, strength and mind.

Find out how to chose the perfect Pilates reformer class

Who teaches Dynamic and Traditional Pilates?

Anyone can use and teach Pilates using the reformer as a piece of fitness equipment. You don’t necessarily have to become a fully certified Pilates instructor to teach a reformer class, but you have to know what you’re doing.

In fact, generally speaking, most dynamic reformer instructors are  fitness gym trainers taught dynamic exercises and rules of the workout. They are usually trained in-house by dynamic Pilates studios. Their  background in strength and conditioning is ideal for “dynamic” style fitness as they understand the rules of the fitness game when it comes to strength, endurance, power, speed, agility and performance, intensity and overload.

In contrast, classic Pilates instructors more often come from movement-based backgrounds, such as dance or gymnastics. Training for a full classical Pilates certification can take years and training requires training in all pieces of Pilates equipment, such as the reformer, mat, chair, Cadillac and all barrels.

Dancers tend to flourish within the classical Pilates method, as the method was strikingly influenced by ballet.

Because both workouts are different, we recommend that you try both and make up your mind.

Misconceptions Busted

Being advanced in Dynamic Pilates does not translate to advanced in classic Pilates, and vice versa.
For example, if you are a great hip-hop dancer doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be a prima ballerina in ballet.
Therefore, if you are advanced at dynamic reformer, you might not be able to keep up in a true advanced traditional Pilates reformer class.
Both regimes require dedication time and perseverance to master.

Why are both called Pilates?

The word Pilates is commonly associated with the original exercises and methodology pioneered by the late Joseph Pilates. However, the word Pilates is not a trademark anyone can dub any exercises “Pilates”.

Also, as a rule, dynamic reformer classes generally do not follow the original set of exercises and methodology pioneered by the late Joseph Pilates. However, the exercises are inspired by Pilates and the workout emphasis is different, and equally valid and effective.

How can I tell the difference when choosing

If you are looking for traditional Pilates classes, simply ask your instructor what he/she teaches.
This might give you an indication of what to expect when you book your next Pilates class.

If you are thinking about joining a Pilates class for the first time, try both styles, and make your own opinion.

Core Kensington is owned by the same people who also own Bootcamp Pilates Windsor.
We love and advocate both dynamic and contemporary Pilates.

Find Pilates reformer near me if you live in Kensington or Hammersmith. We are located in W14, London.

Blog written by Carlo Yanez for Core Kensington LTD.