I received this message from Nina Weyman

“Hi Jenny I have just had my eyes opened to studio equipment being different in classical to contemporary. I need guidance please I am a mat teacher so the studio equipment is somewhat confusing any thoughts please “.

So I decided to write a short blog on what I do know about the original equipment made by Pilates.

It would be very interesting to see and work on other pieces of equipment that Pilates’ built himself.

I would love to hear from people who do have original equipment made by Pilates



My beloved teacher Jerome Andrews had a folding “Reformer” that Pilates had given him as a present. I was lucky enough to exercise on it. I was even luckier that Jerome allowed me to make two exact copies of the machine. One is in my studio, the other at my home studio. They were made with the same materials (the wood had to be oak) and they measurements were taken and plans drawn up under Jerome’s supervision.


Jerome told us that Pilates was insistent that the diameter bar should be just the right size to be very articulate with the hands and feet. His work stressed a very high degree of precision and accuracy in the way the hands and feet were used. The bar was not padded and was round.


There was no padding at all on the bed of the Reformer. A non-slippery material covered the surface. I couldn’t find an exact copy of this material. I found something similar. It is the only thing that is different about my “Jerome Reformers”.

Jerome told us that Pilates preferred a harder surface so that one can easily feel and sense the articulation of the spine during the exercises.


The picture is of me exercising on Jerome’s Folding Reformer, which was a gift from Joseph Pilates. You can clearly see there is no padding and the round bar.


Jerome had a mat that had also been given to him by Pilates. It was covered in canvas and was very firm. It was torso length.

I had all of my equipment reupholstered after getting this information from Jerome and I much prefer it.


Jerome had us use some weighted sandals when performing the “Spine Roll”. The sandals were made by the master himself. These sandals had heavy metal soles. The top of the sandals were made of canvas and tied around the ankle like Greek sandals. I loved the effect. It was different than putting ankle weights on. I have not copied the sandals so far. I have done the exercise with weights tied around the arch of the foot, which gives a similar effect.

Here I am performing a version of the “Spine Roll” wearing the sandals that were made by Joseph Pilates. The canvas mat is on the floor next to the machine. You can see how thin it was.


The diameter of the wooden poles used in exercises like the Roll Up was equally as important. Jerome told us the Pilates’ was strict about the details of how the pole was held. The palm was in full contact with the pole and the finger long, wrapped around and fully connected at all times. There was a change in emphasis of the pressure of the fingers depending on the type of spinal succession you were performing. Jerome said that they were always made of oak because Pilates wanted them to be quite heavy. Pine (which is what I had originally) is much lighter.

Perhaps this might be useful when considering what type of equipment to get in the future.

© Jenny Colebourne.