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What to look for in a pilates chair

What to Look for in a Pilates Chair? | What is the Best Pilates Chair?

product reviews Apr 17, 2019

When it comes to Pilates Chairs, there are lots of options to choose from. Should you choose one with handles? What about a split-pedal? Does the height and weight of each Chair matter? 

Here are some features to consider when purchasing a Pilates chair:
  • Seat height: If you're very tall or very short, the seat height will matter. If you're average height, you'll probably be fine with most chairs.  There are ways to adjust the chair height for taller or shorter clients.
  • Seat size: Most chair seats are comparable in size, but some chairs have a very small seat. If you're on the full-bodied side, make sure to look for a chair that has a large seat (or avoid the ones with a smaller than normal seat, for example, the Balanced Body Combo Chair).


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  • Handles: Some chair models don't have the option to add handles, such as the Balanced Body Exo Chair. If you're unsure whether you need handles, here are three reasons why you should consider them: 1. You have trouble balancing in general, 2. You want to teach a variety of students, including older clients or those with injuries.  They will need the handles for support and to correct their alignment, 3. You want to really fine-tune your technique. If you don't have the handles, you will compromise your form when you get tired or when you attempt an exercise that's challenging for you. In order to keep your technique really clean and your alignment impeccable the poles will allow you to reposition yourself in your perfect alignment (which is usually a position that we're not as strong in as our habitual alignment). I know it seems to make sense to purchase the chair only to start and add handles later on. While this might make sense for your budget, I would argue that it makes more sense to purchase the handles immediately and use them less and less as you get stronger. On the other hand, you could practice those exercises that you can do without the handles, and wait to practice the ones that require handles, later on.
  • Split Pedal or Single Pedal: The first Pilates chair model - that Joseph Pilates himself invented and built - is called the Wunda Chair and it had a simple pedal. You can still purchase this model from several manufacturers. It works great and is a fabulous apparatus for the purists out there. Later on, someone had the idea to split the pedal in half to allow each arm and/or leg to move independently from the other. (If any of you know who invented that, please let me know.). I personally love the options the split pedal gives me. It opens a series of variations that move the body into rotation, which is a bit of a rare thing in the Pilates repertoire. I use the split pedal for that reason all the time. Another reason is to pinpoint asymmetries in the body.  You can see if one side is stronger when one pedal moves faster or higher/lower than the other. 

Related: 4 Ideas for Split Pedal Exercises on the Pilates Chair

  • Padding: if you are sensitive to pressure against your skin, then make sure to choose a chair with plenty of padding. The STOTT Stability Chair is one of the ones with exceptional padding.
  • Weight + Movability: If you have a dedicated spot for your chair in your home or studio, then you don't need to worry about this. But, if you want to move your chair out of the way when you're not using it, then the weight matters. Some chairs are especially light-weight (i.e. the Exo and MVe), some are stackable for moving them out of the way after a group class (i.e. the MVe), and others have wheels that help move it around (i.e. Combo).

The above features are focused on function. But of course, looks matter, too. Some people prefer the classic wood look, others like the sleek and modern look of metal. It's a preference really. Some manufacturers offer custom color upholstery for some of their models, others only come in a standard color (often black).

In this video, I'm comparing the Balanced Body Wunda Chair and Balanced Body Combo Chair. I discuss the pros and cons of each feature to help you decide what’s best for you and/or your studio. 



Read our unbiased review of the Peak Pilates MVe chair


Read our independent review of the STOTT Merrithew Split-Pedal Stability Chair
(Coming Soon)


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