The Difference Between Pilates and Clinical Pilates

Physiotherapist with young patient.

Pilates and Clinical Pilates may sound identical, but they have several key differences in application and practice.

Here, we’ll cover what Clinical Pilates is, the benefits of Clinical Pilates, and the difference between regular Pilates and Clinical Pilates so you can decide which type would be most beneficial to you.

What Is Clinical Pilates?

Clinical Pilates is based on the traditional Pilates method, originally developed by Joseph Pilates. As with regular Pilates, Clinical Pilates focuses on strength, flexibility, balance, core stability, breathing, functional movement, and correct posture.

Clinical Pilates is a personalised, therapeutic approach to Pilates, led by a licensed Physiotherapist or Exercise Physiologist.

What Are the Differences Between Pilates and Clinical Pilates?

As Physiotherapists, a common question we hear is, “What is the difference between clinical Pilates vs reformer pilates?”.

While a regular Pilates program will share many similarities with Clinical Pilates, there are some key differences between the two:


  • Run by gym instructors or Pilates instructors
  • Exercises are general and aimed toward a group, not personalised for the individual
  • Difficult for the instructor to ensure the proper technique
  • Difficult for individuals with special requirements or injuries
  • It may make injuries worse if proper form is not enforced or modifications are not made

Clinical Pilates

  • Prescribed, led, and supervised by a Physiotherapist or Exercise Physiologist with pilates training from a professional pilates institute
  • Patient-specific
  • A physiotherapist will possess expert knowledge of bodily function, movement patterns, healing, and injury prevention, and will know how each movement affects the body
  • Ideal for individuals with a history of injury (whiplash, athletic injury, etc.) or chronic conditions (low back pain, neck pain, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, etc.)
  • An individual’s specific needs are evaluated and exercises are tailored to the individual based on their condition and goals
  • Includes continual monitoring during the class of your technique, along with your use of specific pilates equipment, to ensure safe use and proper form
  • Exercises tailored to recruit the body’s core muscles, improve strength, realign the spine, and decrease nerve entrapment
  • Patients can go at their own pace

Pregnant woman, pilates session.

Who Can Do Clinical Pilates?

Clinical Pilates is appropriate for almost anyone, including children, elderly individuals, pregnant women, and individuals with a history of injury or chronic conditions.

As each Pilates exercise is adapted to the individual, a physiotherapist can tailor your program to your current fitness levels and needs, ensuring an optimal outcome.

Even if you don’t have an injury or chronic condition, you can still experience the benefits of Clinical Pilates. Many individuals enjoy the unique, personalised approach that Clinical Pilates offers, as well as knowing they are performing each Pilates exercise with the proper technique.

Benefits of Clinical Pilates with a Physiotherapist

A Clinical Pilates instructor or Exercise Physiologist has expert knowledge of anatomy and injury rehabilitation that allows them to safely tailor a program to a patient and reduce the risk of re-injury or strain.

Benefits of Clinical Pilates with a Physiotherapist include:

  • Superset Version of Traditional Pilates – A focus on combinations of moves that encourage proprioception (body position awareness) and balance
  • Takes Pre-Existing Injuries into Account – Clinical Pilates focuses heavily on injury management and prevention by ensuring trained professional monitors your technique and tailors each exercise to your unique physiology, condition, and needs
  • Build Muscle and Strength Faster – Strength and conditioning with Clinical Pilates exercise tailored to your goals is a safe way to achieve progressive loading of weak muscles and to build strength safely and efficiently
  • Posture and Shape – Proper form and technique are maintained throughout each exercise through professional guidance from your Physiotherapist
  • Rehabilitation and Health – Clinical Pilates can have significant benefits on overall health, including decreased muscle tension in the neck and back, increased mobility, stronger movement patterns, and decreased risk of injury

How Clinical Pilates Can Help You Alleviate Chronic Conditions

Clinical Pilates can help manage a variety of chronic conditions or help you work toward your wellness goals, such as:

  • Pre and post-natal preparation and recovery
  • Pelvic pain
  • Hip pain
  • Neck or shoulder pain
  • Back pain
  • Athletes to improve their performance or technique (i.e runners, dancers, gymnasts, golfers, swimmers)
  • Post orthopaedic surgery
  • Pelvic floor strengthening and retraining
  • Flexibility and postural issues
  • General strength and conditioning

Elderly man, reformer Pilates.

Pilates Tailored for You

If you have chronic pain, a recent injury or surgery, or would like to improve your sports performance, our Physiotherapists and Exercise Physiologists are here to help. We’ll perform a clinical assessment to develop a customised treatment plan specific to your physiology, needs, and goals.

At Lilyfield Physio, we consider Pilates Informed Exercise a valuable addition to our many exercise and rehabilitation programs.

We’ll focus on exercises that take your past injuries and conditions into account to create a program that complements your current fitness level while helping you build strength, improve function, and promote an improvement in the quality of your life.

Our senior Physiotherapists and Exercise Physiologists are health professionals that are passionate about exercise science and rehab, we work closely with you to give you personalised, unique, and safe Clinical Pilates program to ensure you achieve the best outcome through clinical reasoning. All of our instructors are qualified Pilates instructors with the latest evidence based exercise programs learnt from clinical pilates courses and other courses training movement control. Clinical pilates course training really helps our physio give you the best instruction to move well.

Find out more about our Clinical Pilates classes or contact us with any questions.

Ready to start moving again?