Whether you're absolutely enamored with the idea of getting into Pilates or are looking to make the switch from expensive classes - a proper Pilates chair and reformer are two of the key pieces of equipment you'll need to get your at-home Pilates studio started.
But while the pros of taking up Pilates are pretty evident - picking out the perfect chair or reformer for you and your needs can be a totally different experience. The market is flooded with a whole myriad of different options, from different configurations to different materials and brand promises, there's just so much to consider and sort through.
Thankfully, I've got your back dear reader!
To help you save your precious time and hard-earned money, I've sorted through a heap of the top-recommended Pilates chairs and reformers on the market to find the absolute best options you've got in today's day and age.
Follow along to get an executive overview of the 6 best Pilates chairs and reformers that are actually worth your time and money. I'll cover their ins and outs while discussing what makes them stand out from the rest of the market and giving you my definitive recommendations on who each model is best suited for.
Let's get started!
The 6 Best Pilates Chairs Out There
While in most cases we'd spend a little more time talking about Pilates, why it's good for you, and why a Pilates chair or reformer is the piece of equipment you should opt for - let's skip past all of that and get right into the meat and bones of this article - my top picks.
Keep reading to learn the essentials about my 6 favorite options when it comes to the absolute best chairs and reformers for practicing Pilates at home or on the go. Here, I'll give you the down-low on each option, tell you about its upsides and downsides, and share each and every bit of important information that I dug up during my research.
Balanced Body EXO Chair - Best Bang For Buck Pilates Chair
Whether you're looking for a slightly more compact Pilates chair or the one that would offer the absolute bang for your buck - the EXO chair is a fantastic option to keep on your radar.
This chair features a single-pedal design with a very space-economy-centric layout that doesn't leave you feeling cramped or lacking any exercise options.
It's fair to call this the junior Wunda chair as it offers many familiar features and adjustable resistance options, which is quite rare in the compact Pilates chair space. And if that's not enough - you can also pick up a whole treasure trove of resistance upgrades and attachable bands for arm work from Balanced Body.
The only potential drawback is that despite the fact that the EXO chair falls into the compact category - it's not all too small. The chair itself stands at 24 by 29 by 23 inches, which isn't massive by any means, but definitely stands a fair bit above the average compact chair. But despite this, it only clocks in at a weight of 40-lbs, making it quite manageable if you need to move it around or stow it away.
What I Like About It
- A toned-down & refined version of a familiar and proven framework (Wunda chair).
- 8 levels of resistance that you can play with from the get-go.
- Split-step system enabling you to perform a wide variety of workouts from weight loss to cardio, sculpting, and more.
- Plenty of resistance upgrades such as heavier springs & resistance bands available.
- Limited 5-year warranty on the chair & parts.
The EXO chair comes with a 5-year limited warranty from Balanced Body. According to their website, this policy covers the chair and all subsequent parts.
At the time of writing, the EXO chair is one of the best-rated options among the general batch of Pilates chairs, sitting at a rating of 5 stars across a plethora of reviews.
Balanced Body Wunda Chair - Best Bang For Buck Wunda Chair
If you're set on a Wunda Chair among all of the variations of Pilates chairs out there, then it's hard to beat what Balanced Body's take on Joe Pilates' original design has to offer.
Aside from offering a sturdy high-quality build, and all the standard bells and whistles you'd want in a Wunda chair, there's one thing that really puts Balanced Body's model ahead of the rest.
This one advantage lies in the fact that this Wunda chair is actually entirely modular. This means you'll be able to upgrade it into a combo chair or even an "electric chair" down the line. As your Pilates abilities progress, this Wunda chair will grow with you.
What I Like About It
- Tried & true classical design with beautiful and sturdy maple hardwood and functional upholstered padding.
- Completely modular setup that grows along with you as your abilities progress, with the option to customize your chair for a truly tailored Pilates workout.
- A sleek aesthetic that helps this Pilates chair fit well in just about any home.
- 10 years of limited warranty backed by a trusted & reputable brand.
The Balanced Body Wunda chair comes with 10 years of limited warranty covering the chair itself as well as its assortment of parts.
While the Wunda chair doesn't see as much light as it's smaller EXO chair variant - this fantastic chair has garnered quite a bit of love from the online Pilates community, sitting at a nice and comfy 4.5 stars across a myriad of online reviews.
Elina Pilates Elite Wood Reformer Bundle - Best Reformer
If you're looking to take your Pilates class home with you and kit out your very own home-based Pilates studio, then a reformer is one piece of Pilates equipment that you just can't do without. And when it comes to picking out the best reformer out there - the Elina elite wood reformer is probably the single best pick to keep on your radar.
It offers a very extensive range of standard features and innovations suited towards beginners and professionals alike, while also being the first (and only) stackable reformer available on the market in today's day and age.
What I Like About It
- Sturdy and reliable maple wood frame for maximum longevity and stability.
- Precision bearing system and noiseless wheel-driven slide to help you work out in sheer tranquility.
- Plenty of resistance options with 3 pairs of color-coded varied-resistance springs and a quick-change system to help you transition through positions and exercises effortlessly.
- Lots of adjustability features like customizable shoulder straps to help accommodate just about any reformer exercise you can think of.
- Double-stage springs with a 4-position control bar to increase strength and offer a wholesome helping of stability.
- Stackable platform with nifty transport wheels built-in for ease of movement.
- Manageable floor-space footprint of 100 inches long and 30 inches wide.
- Lifetime limited warranty on key components.
The Elina Pilates Elite Wood Reformer comes with a limited lifetime warranty backing the railings, frame, welding, and footbar mechanisms.
However, users have to watch out for the fact that this warranty will be voided if you don't change the springs on the reformer every 2 years. They'd also have to be manufacturer-suggested ones, so you're best off buying them directly from Elina Pilates when the time comes.
At the time of writing, this reformer sits at a 4.6 average across dozens of ratings from a global community of owners. Most owners complement the reformer on being incredibly sturdy and chock full of essential features for both first-timers and expert Pilates practitioners.
BASI Wunda Chair - A Great Quality Alternative
If the Balanced Body Wunda chair didn't strike your fancy, or you need something that extends the mobility of the exercises you'll be doing - the slightly more expensive BASI Wunda chair is a fantastic pick to consider.
This chair branches out more into the combo chair territory by dropping the traditional board pedals in favor of ergonomic rounded split pedals for a broader range of motion. In addition to this, you've got switch-less transitions between resistance settings and orthopedic cushioning covering a stylish and durable hardwood frame.
What I Like About It
- Innovative ergonomic pedals that offer a broader range of motion, enhancing the exercises you can do on this chair.
- No need to remove springs to change resistance levels.
- Removable handles that offer an array of additional exercises and Pilates workouts you can use this chair for.
- Compatible with the BASI Systems F2 upgrade if you ever need to up your game down the line.
- High-quality antibacterial orthopedic cushioning.
- Sturdy and reliable hardwood frame that will keep this chair going for years on end.
- Great warranty terms compared to most other chairs.
BASI Systems offers 10 years of warranty coverage on the frame, as well as two years on the springs and mechanics, plus 90 days of coverage on upholstery.
While online reviews are pretty sparse and hard to find - this chair currently enjoys a whopping 5 stars between a handful of reviews that I was able to track own from current owners.
BASI Arm Chair & Barrel Set - The Ultimate Package For Enthusiasts
If you want to go all out and get your studio geared from the get-go, minus a reformer - this is the ultimate package and the only one you should even consider.
This set takes the traditional Pilates barrel and expands upon an already stellar foundation by incorporating extra functionality via the BASI F2 system to create a truly innovative piece of equipment that revolutionizes the way you approach your barrel repertoire.
What I Like About It
- Plenty of new movements and dynamics via the integration of the awesome BASI F2 System.
- Impeccable build quality and great aesthetic thanks to the beechwood used for the frame and platform.
- Customizable curved and flat-top saddle options with a removable accessory allowing you to expand your barrel repertoire with additional exercise variations.
- Super comfortable orthopedic antibacterial cushioning.
This set comes with a 10-year warranty on the barrel's frame as well as the ladder and spine corrector. In addition to this, buyers get two years on pulleys, springs, and other mechanical components as well as 3 months on the orthopedic upholstery.
Unfortunately, there aren't many customer reviews for this set. But if it's even on-par with the gear BASI Systems usually puts out - it's certainly worth the price tag it commands.
Merrithew Split-Pedal Chair - A High-Quality Budget Option
Let's be honest - sometimes, the budget we've got to work with isn't exactly all that giving. Thankfully, the fitness industry is never short of high-quality options to suit just about any budget - and the world of Pilates isn't any different.
In our case, the Merrithew split-pedal stability chair is one of those very picks. It comes packing all the essentials you'd want to see in a good Pilates chair, with some nifty bells and whistles alongside a very budget-friendly price tag.
What I Like About It
- Well-geared combo chair set up with an effective split-pedal system and sturdy sculpting handles.
- Compact floor-space footprint (31 by 55.5 inches) that doesn't sacrifice the chair's stability or durability in any way.
- Comes with 2 sets of springs (heavy and light) as well as 3 hook-on attachments to give you total control over the resistance levels.
- Ships with a DVD course that offers a whopping 216 minutes of instructor-level demos for the basic and intermediate range of exercises you can do on this stability chair.
The Merrithew stability chair is backed by a 2-year comprehensive manufacturer warranty - nice and simple!
Being one of the most affordable options on the market, it's no surprise that Merrithew's stability chair has garnered quite the following and a decent number of reviews. At the time of writing, the chair sits at a solid 4.5 stars across nearly 40 reviews from happy customers.
The 3 Best Cheap Pilates Chairs
Maybe the 6 chairs we just covered didn't strike your fancy, or maybe they're just too darn expensive - whatever the case may be, I didn't just stop at picking out the best.
Below, I'll introduce you to the only 3 budget category chairs that are actually worth your consideration in a similar manner to the chairs I showcased earlier.
Life's A Beach Pilates PRO Max Chair - Best Sub-$400 Pilates Chair
When it comes to Pilates on a budget - it's hard to beat the awesome chairs and other equipment that Life's A Beach puts out.
Their Pilates PRO Max chair offers a sturdy steel frame, comfortable padding, plenty of aesthetic flair and a set of really cool sculpting handles for you to add some spice to your basic exercise routine and give your glutes and thighs a solid workout.
In addition to the chair itself, you also get a set of 6 discs containing instructor-led exercise breakdowns and a range of fun workouts to follow along with through the basic and intermediate range of Pilates exercises.
It's also worthwhile to note the fact that the company sells a set of resistance springs compatible with both the PRO Max and regular PRO versions of this chair (the latter doesn't feature the sculpting handles that the Max boasts) as an add-on. These springs are pretty handy when you want to cross over into the higher ends of the intermediate or even the advanced regions of the Pilates world.
What I Like About It
- Sturdy yet slim and sleek steel design.
- Hyper-portable compared to the average compact chair.
- Split-step system offers a new dynamic to your workouts.
- Resistance springs and sculpting handles are included with the chair.
- A library of workouts and instructional videos to get you started with Pilates and take you through the basic, intermediate and advanced exercises.
- Limited 6-month warranty on the chair & parts.
Life's A Beach Pilates PRO Chair - Good Sub-$250 Option
Maybe the PRO Max's sculpting handles aren't something you'll need, or maybe you just need an even cheaper option to check out - whatever the case, the Pilates PRO Chair by Life's A Beach is something you should definitely consider.
This chair does away with the sculpting handles, as well as some of the more advanced structural features of its Max-series counterpart in favor of ultimate savings.
However, there is one slight drawback to this chair. The brackets between the legs of the chair are relatively flimsy compared to the rest of the frame, and they have bent or snapped apart altogether for some unfortunate folks.
What I Like About It
- Portable yet sturdy build with a total weight of just over 40 pounds you can use this chair just about anywhere from your apartment to the office.
- Split-step pedal system for more versatility in workout options & control over the range of motion.
- Comes with 4 instructional DVD programs to teach you the basic and intermediate range of exercises that you can do on this chair.
- Nearly $200 in savings for simply dropping the sculpting handles without sacrificing the rest of the features the Max-series chair offers.
Malibu Pilates Pro Chair - Best Bang For Buck "Cheap Chair"
Now you might think that this chair looks a bit familiar at first glance. And you'd be totally correct!
The Malibu Pilates Pro Chair is actually a spin on the Life's A Beach PRO chair that we covered above. In fact, the Life's A Beach version of this chair was made by one of the co-founders of Malibu Pilates.
The original packs a handful of extra benefits that really drive up the bang for your buck, while offering the same stellar range of features and great quality that each of the chairs is known for.
What I Like About It
- Offers the same range of features as the Life's A Beach PRO Max chair, at a significantly lower price point (including the sculpting handles).
- Comes with a set of heavy-duty resistance springs that add to the chair's longevity and increase the range of resistance you can work with.
- Ships with a set of 9 instructional DVDs from Malibu Pilates' fantastic library of instructor-led lessons and workouts.
Top Pilates Chair Brands This Year
Now that we've covered my top picks - let's take a second to get up close and personal with some of the best Pilates chair brands out on the market in today's day and age.
Below, I'll introduce you to each brand, cover the essentials to keep in mind, and give you a bird's eye view of why they stand at the top of the market.
When it comes to famous brands across the world of Pilates - it's hard to top Balanced Body. After all, they're the folks that own Pilates.com!
With dozens of patents and several decades of experience in crafting highly specialized exercise equipment - Balanced Body takes the good in Pilates' original designs and combines them with modern-day science in order to truly maximize the benefits this amazing fitness discipline offers.
Combine their stellar product line with a wholesome helping of advocacy and even better customer service - and you've got the recipe for an absolutely amazing brand to buy into.
BASI stands for BodyArts& Science International, which is a well-recognized name in the industry with a 30-year track record in putting exceptional Pilates equipment to market.
The company has always followed a few very simple principles in producing equipment that perfects both form and function - which is the ideology that spawned their well-known F2 lineup.
And with constant innovation, a fantastic community of contributing trainers, and stellar business practices backing a great range of Pilates gear and equipment - this is undoubtedly a great brand to opt for.
Your Guide To Choosing A Pilates Chair - What To Look For
Having taken a look at my top picks for the best Pilates chairs, as well as having gotten familiar with the leading Pilates chair brands out there - let's take a step back to the basics.
After all, just as with any purchasing decision, picking out the right Pilates chair for yourself isn't a walk in the park. But thankfully, there are a number of specific factors that form the makings of a good chair that will last for years on end and suit your fitness needs to the tee.
Below, I'll cover a few of the key things you'll want to be on the lookout for when choosing between different chairs.
Materials & Build Quality
Just as with most other types of fitness equipment, Pilates chairs aren't exactly on the cheap side. And since you're investing your hard-earned money into a chair, it's absolutely essential to make sure that it's made with top-notch materials.
This doesn't just factor into the look and feel of your Pilates chair - but it also plays a huge role in its longevity. After all, the longer you get to use your new and shiny equipment, the more cost-effective your purchase is.
Size & Shape
While with most other machines or exercise equipment, the size and shape runs relatively universal with some adjustability features factored in for a broader fit - the world of Pilates gear isn't quite as simple
Since the discipline itself is focused on the concept of improving your body dynamics and mobility, a lot of the equipment comes in various arrangements. And aside from the loadout of exercise-specific features that certain variants may feature - there's also some assortment when it comes to the size and shape department to help provide a better fit for a diverse range of practitioners.
Price & Bang For Your Buck
Let's face it - very few of us have a near-unlimited budget to blow on the fitness gear we'd like to own. As such, many of us have to operate around a pretty strict budget which can often dictate the range of options we're ready to consider.
When it comes to looking at the price-tag, I strongly recommend that you consider the "bang for your buck". How does the chair at hand stack up against other cheaper alternatives? What are the features that it adds over top?
You'll find that in most cases there are particular features that can spike the price upwards and you'd do well to really think about whether or not you'd actually benefit from those features from the get-go, or if it's a better idea to maybe re-sell the chair down the line and pick up something more advanced.
I'd also keep an eye on "brand appeal" since it's really no secret that the fitness world is ripe with exorbitant price tags slapped onto very basic equipment just because it bears the mark of a particular brand or another. And since the brand's logo isn't going to help you get more fit - maybe it's not something worthwhile splurging on.
However, on the topic of brands, don't forget to have a good look at the warranty policy that comes with the gear you've got your eye on. Some brands are just way better in this department and high quality alongside good warranty coverage should easily outweigh sheer affordability for most people.
Which Pilates Chair Do I Recommend For Home Use?
It's no secret that not every single Pilates chair is a good fit for home use. That's why I've gone ahead and found the two absolute best Pilates chairs for you to consider if you're planning on exercising in the comfort of your own dwelling.
For Beginners Just Getting Into Pilates
If you're just thinking about venturing out into the world of Pilates and you're not sure what the future may hold for you in that regard - it's better to stick to something cheap that offers everything you'll need to get started.
Ideally, this chair should allow you to progress through the intermediate range of exercises, without making too big of a financial investment right off the bat. And once you're ready to kick things up a notch and explore advanced techniques, you can easily upgrade to a better chair.
In this category, the only chair I'd recommend is the Life's A Beach Pilates PRO Max chair.
For Those That Plan To Stick With Pilates
On the other hand, if you know that you're in for the long run - it's probably a better idea to buy something that's going to stay with you from day one and accommodate for just about any sort of exercise you'd ever want to do on it.
When it comes to value and bang for your buck, the Balanced Body EXO chair is absolutely unmatched.
The Benefits Of Owning A Pilates Chair
Now, it's certainly no secret that there are some seriously awesome benefits to getting into Pilates. And just in case you need a quick refresher on what they are - I've put together a quick list of the upsides this fitness discipline and its awesome purpose-made chairs offer.
Amazing Dynamic Workout
Unlike many other types of fitness, Pilates isn't targeted at one single muscle group at a time. Instead, this discipline focuses on strengthening your core and improving bodily motion and balance as a whole, with each and every exercise. Also exercising increases your metabolism, which is an added benefit to dynamic workouts that Pilates chairs give.
The whole premise is to get every system in your body working together in synergy, from your core to your peripherals and even your breath and mind. And while the Pilates chair doesn't quite offer a full-body workout(it's similar in this regard to a stationary bike or an elliptical), the range of exercises you'll be doing and the benefits you'll get out of it are pretty darn amazing.
One of the key focal points in Pilates is improving your body's overall mobility.
Now, this doesn't mean you'll go off attempting to do the splits on your second lesson - but rather Pilates offers a way to naturally and safely chip away at the "rust". This is done by gradually working on the length of your muscle stretch and improving your range of motion bit by bit.
However, despite popular misconceptions - Pilates isn't all too geared towards setting you up to become a contortionist or a master yogi. Instead, it focuses on helping your body stretch, bend, move, and adapt to the flow of your daily life with ease.
Better Muscle Strength & Definition
No matter what branch or discipline of fitness you come from, the foundation behind Pilates is likely already pretty familiar to you. You don't need to measure you fitness level before you use Pilates chairs.
Pilates employs a lot of the core movements that naturally occur in other activities. It extends upon these movements by building on the concept of core dynamics in unison with correct bodily alignment in order to build muscular endurance, strength, and ultimately tone.
A Stronger Core
Your core muscles are essentially the pillar that your body leans on for support. From your balance and posture to the strength and the overall grace and elegance of how your body moves - your core muscles play a huge role.
And with Pilates being so deeply rooted in the idea of improving your body's natural mobility, developing a stronger core is a huge part of the practice.
Whether you're going to be doing matwork, exercising on a Wunda chair, or working out on a Reformer - nearly every exercise in the Pilates discipline gives your core a total blast.
Let's face it - to do anything in life, you need energy and the amount seems to just constantly rack up and up (especially as you age). And while working out at the gym may no longer give you that crazy rush of energy that it used to back in the day - Pilates is sure to help charge you up.
The main reason behind this is the fact that Pilates focuses on a body and mind approach with proper breathing and circulation techniques playing a key role in every exercise you do. This approach helps you come out of each session feeling like you're ready to take on the day and conquer the world.
Pilates Promotes A Graceful & Lean Appearance
If you take it upon yourself to practice Pilates for a long enough time, the discipline will inevitably change your body.
The exercises you'll find in Pilates all focus on control, flexibility, range of motion, strength, and balance among other key elements. All of which, in turn, promote unrestrained and graceful bodily dynamics.
From a leaner appearance, thanks to all the stretching and tonal work to stunning posture and unhindered free-flowing movements - devoting a decent bit of time to delve into the world of Pilates definitely bears some fantastic results.
Beginner Questions & Important Things To Know About Pilates Chairs (And Other Equipment)
Whether you're considering getting into Pilates or looking to pick up some equipment to practice outside of the classes you're already taking - there are inevitably a few questions that just about every beginner will find themselves pondering over.
Below, I'll be providing you with the answers to some of the most burning questions that I get from readers interested in Pilates.
What Is AWunda Chair?
The Wunda chair was originally designed by Joseph Pilates, the creator of the Pilates discipline, to be a portable all-in-one exercise machine for his wealthier clients.
This machine took the shape of a toned-down version of your average-day armchair that would then unfold to reveal a whole variety of exercise options.
Whether you're looking to strengthen your muscles, improve your core, get more toned, or simply become more flexible - the Wunda chair is a fantastic option to achieve all that and more in the comfort of your home.
What Is A Reformer?
Just like the Wunda chair, the Reformer is another member of the roster of traditional Pilates equipment. Unlike its mat or chair-based counterparts, Reformer Pilates features some very dynamic and intense exercises and it factors in the aspect of resistance by employing strings and pulleys throughout the machine.
At first glance, the reformer looks like a bed with a mounted sliding carriage featuring a system of pulleys, levers, and springs. This machine is meant to delve much further than matwork by helping the user exercise every muscle group, rather than just the core, including peripherals like their arms and legs.
Today, the Reformer is one of the most popular pieces of fitness equipment that you'd find in a Pilates studio, and many long-term Pilates enthusiasts totally swear by it.
Wunda Chair Vs. Pilates Chair Vs. Reformer - What's The Difference?
So, now that we've got a bit of a better handle on what the Wunda chair and Pilates Reformer are - let's delve a little deeper into their differences.
First and foremost, it's important to understand that the Pilates chair and the Wunda chair are essentially one and the same. The Wunda chair is one of the several types of chairs you’d put in the Pilates chair category. There are Wunda chairs which feature a single pedal with two springs, combo chairs that offer up to 4 springs and split pedals for more control, and “electric chairs” that offer a tall barred backrest and sculpting handles for better pelvic stability.
Ok, but what about the difference between the Reformer and the Wunda chair?
Well, aside from the obvious difference in the fact that one's a chair and the other is more bed-shaped, there's also a pretty significant gap in functionality.
The Wunda Chair is meant to help you do compound exercises that target your lower back, core, and pelvic region. It's also a far more portable piece of equipment than the Reformer.
On the other hand, the Reformer is geared far more towards a full-body workout. From strength training to flexibility, injury rehab, and even basic stretches - the reformer offers a way more extensive range of exercises and benefits. However, unlike the Wunda chair, this bulky system isn't really all that portable.
But, this doesn't necessarily mean that the Reformer is superior!
In reality, both of these pieces of Pilates equipment are absolutely invaluable and serve a slightly different purpose. Typically, the Reformer is a better starting point for most people transitioning from matwork.
Once the practitioner gets a bit more comfortable on the Reformer, the Wunda chair offers a more targeted way to expand on some of the exercises they're already familiar with by adding balance and an inherently different range of positions (lying down vs. sitting or standing) into the mix.
Which One Should I Actually Get?
The answer to this question depends entirely on you and your personal needs. It's important to keep in mind that both pieces of equipment serve a complimentary, but fairly different purpose at the end of the day.
Some helpful questions to ask yourself are:
- What are you looking to get out of this - are you looking to build more muscle strength? Develop your core? Get an amazing full-body workout in?
- How much space do you have to work with - are you planning to exercise at home or do you have a dedicated space for this?
What are your budget constraints - Reformers and Wunda chairs cost totally different amounts, so sometimes your budget may just be the perfect guide.