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What is a “Pilates Chair”?



The “Pilates Chair”

Wunda Chair
The Short Version: Click to watch the video below – you’ll see what’s possible on the Wunda Chair!

The “Wunda Chair” as Joseph Pilates called it has the reputation of being the least forgiving of all Pilates’ equipment.  It was originally designed to fit into the small city apartments that are characteristic of New York, where Joe had his first studio.  As such, it was intended to double up as a sitting chair was well as a piece of exercise equipment.


What is the Chair?

Never judge a book by it’s cover!  Short, squat and rather inelegant are words that come to mind when I think of the Pilates Chair.  It’s rather unassuming appearance hides an incredible variety of possibilities both in design and in terms of exercises.  I exaggerate not.


What can you do on a Pilates Chair?

Wunda Chair Athlete
For the short version, click to watch the video below – there are eleven exercises performed in less than a minute.

The Chair offers a massive variety of possibilities, limited only by the training and imagination of the instructor.  Other than the essential repertoire, the Chair offers perhaps the most athletic challenges of all the equipment. It is characteristically “heavy” in use. This makes it a favourite for men and women who want to feel an immediate burn more associated with Crossfit than with Pilates.

You will find yourself lying on the seat or lying sidewaysface down or on your back, lying in front or standing behind…  Perhaps you’ll be moving between a seated position and sideways position. All these require abdominal and spinal, scapular and pelvic strength and control.  There is one characteristic that set it apart form the Reformer is that strength, not flexibility is often the limiting factor in the successful performance of an exercise.  This makes it a favourite (rightly or wrongly) amongst the less flexible of us…


Variations on a Theme.

All the design variations share similar elements: a seat or mat on top with a pedal (or two parallel pedals) attached to springs which regulate the pedal tension.

  • The Wunda Chair has dimensions that are identical to those as specified by Joe Pilates and has one pedal.  This pedal is closer to the seat than in other variants.
  • The Combo has a split pedal and each of these halves can work as one and can work independently.
  • The Electric Chair (aka High Chair) has an attachment to raise the seat and a back rest to enable accurate assessment of pelvic stability, particularly when sitting on the mat.


Wunda Chair Variations
Wunda, Wunda with handles, Electric Chair


Wunda Chairs have only two springs whereas many new designs have four springs allowing for a greater range of tensions to be dialled in.

Upright handles are often added to the sides of Combo Chairs allowing for additional shoulder, arm and Hip Flexor (amongst other) exercises to be done.  Other developments include adding resistance tubing to the sides of the chair.  The EXO Chair, designed by Balanced Body, can be upgraded to be used with these resistance bands which greatly increase the range of exercises that can be done, including several exercises that are traditionally associated with the reformer.

In the Balanced Body range the height of some Chairs now equal that of the Cadillac allowing for the two pieces of equipment to be used together allowing some of the traditional Cadillac exercises to be made more accessible to a wider population of people.


Joe Pilates’ Original Advertisement…




This short video below demonstrates some of the possibilities available.  On this video you can see the following exercises:

  • Wunda Chair
    • leg pumps
    • single leg pumps
    • 100
    • jackknife
    • hamstring III – one handed with twist
    • side arm twist
    • horseback on pedal
    • side leg pumps
    • oblique pull up (oblique pike)
    • lunges / climbing
  • various mat stretches
  • Combo Chair
    • double alternating leg pumps





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