Cadillac Pilates is having a moment with celebs including Kate Hudson and Hilary Duff - why you need to try it

Prepare to take your stretch session up in the air.

Hilary Duff on the way to Cadillac Pilates
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Over the past few years, Pilates has firmly entered its mainstream era with help from celeb fans like Hailey Bieber, Harry Styles and Lady Gaga. This once-niche discipline is booming on TikTok and IRL right now, with new Pilates studios and classes popping up everywhere (we're looking at you, wall Pilates classes).

If you're already familiar with mat and Reformer Pilates, you might be curious about the four-poster bed equipment you often see A-listers hanging from on Instagram. Called the Cadillac, it's a favourite among Pilates instructors who boast that it offers a ton of variety for an incredible full-body workout.

Sure, it's not exactly a new thing. Designed by Joseph Pilates himself (the OG inventor of the mat method back in the 1920s), the Cadillac has recently become the go-to sweat session for several of Hollywood’s most famous faces, including Kate Hudson and Hilary Duff.

So how exactly does the Cadillac work, and is it worth splashing your cash on a one-to-one session? We’ve got all the answers below. Don't miss our guides to the best Pilates workouts at home, best Pilates exercises for beginners, and Pilates bar exercises, for levelling up, while you're at it. If you want to invest in your at home workouts, we recommend shopping the best at home Reformer Pilates machines, too.

What is Cadillac Pilates?

If you usually take your Reformer classes in a specialist Pilates studio, you’ve probably seen a Cadillac sitting in the corner of the room.

Made up of a firm leather-clad couch surrounded by a four-poster metal frame, this large piece of equipment supports a ton of different exercises, from simple supine movements to upside-down acrobatic work.

Running along the frame’s poles is an overhead hanging trapeze (a bit like the ones you see used in a traditional circus), as well as various attachment points for springs and pulleys that allow you to experiment with different challenges and exercises.

Common moves you might do on a Cadillac include cat stretches and roll downs, as well as hanging exercises like the spread eagle, which involves slipping your feet in the trapeze and articulating your spine while holding onto the vertical poles for support.


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When was Cadillac Pilates invented?

The Cadillac might look super modern, but it was actually designed to be part of the original Pilates system, created over 100 years ago.

"In 1912, Joseph Pilates lived in England, working as a circus performer, boxer,and self-defence instructor," says Jayne Robinson, head of brand at Exhale Pilates. "During the First World War, he was interned with other German nationals, and it was during this time that he developed his fitness technique by teaching his fellow internees.

"In the later part of the war, he served as an orderly in a hospital on the Isle of Man, where he worked with patients who couldn't walk. He attached bed springs to the hospital beds to help support the patients' limbs, which led to the development of his famous piece of equipment known as the Cadillac."

What are the benefits of Cadillac Pilates?

First up, a quick history lesson: while mat and Reformer classes are probably the most familiar versions of the trend, Joseph Pilates actually created an entire suite of weird and wonderful apparatuses to support his method back in 1912.

Each piece of equipment is designed to help you master the six core principles of Pilates: breath, control, precision, centering, concentration and flow. The idea is that using machines like the Cadillac or Reformer can assist you in stretching further, holding stronger, and engaging your core better when it's just you and the mat.

"Working on the Pilates Cadillac, you can expect to improve your strength, flexibility, stability and muscle tone," says Robinson. It's particularly beneficial for spinal health, as many exercises involve articulating the spine in the opposite direction of the hunched postures we often adopt while working at a laptop or scrolling on TikTok.

Robinson adds that the Cadillac is super useful for rehabbing from injury: "The structure allows the teacher to easily modify exercises to meet the needs of the person in front of them, whether they have limited spinal mobility or tight hamstrings.

“And because the frame has lots of different hook attachments and sliding bars too, there’s an infinite number of possibilities to attach the spring resistance and bring a new challenge.”

Plus, let’s not forget that it’s also a super fun way to keep fit. Cycling through the same movements in a repetitive Pilates mat class can get a bit stale over time. So if you loved hanging from the monkey bars back in Primary School, then you’ll definitely get a hit of childlike nostalgia from exercising with the Cadillac.


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What is the difference between Cadillac and Pilates Reformer?

"The big point of difference between the two apparatus is that the Cadillac features extra vertical bars, cables, and a raised frame, offering a bigger array of muscular and flexibility challenges through its various attachments," explains Robinson.

It's also a touch more acrobatic compared to the Reformer, often requiring you to hang from the top frame while using the trapeze bar for foot support.

Is Cadillac Pilates hard?

In a nutshell: yes, but no more so than mat or Reformer Pilates.

Unlike Reformer machines that challenge core balance by sliding on spring-loaded rails, the Cadillac remains stock still. This makes it less intimidating for beginners aiming to build core strength without worrying about the moving Reformer carriage.

"Like all Pilates exercises, when performed with integrity and following Pilates principles, it can be challenging," says Robinson. "However, it's beneficial to work with a highly qualified teacher who will start at an accessible level, helping you build strong foundations before progressing to more advanced exercises."

“I tried Cadillac Pilates - and it fixed my back pain”

Ellie, 34, is an underwriter from London. She started Cadillac Pilates classes earlier this year after suffering from desk-related aches and pains.

“As someone who has spent countless hours hunched over a laptop, as well as running regular marathons, I started to suffer from niggling back pain. Despite trying a bunch of physio techniques and stretching routines, nothing seemed to bring lasting relief. That’s when I decided to give the Pilates Cadillac a try, and it turned out to be a game-changer."

"On first sight, the Cadillac looked intimidating, with all its various bars and springs, but my incredible instructor walked me through each part slowly, explaining it was amazing for runners rehabbing from injury. We started with some gentle stretches using the trapeze, which immediately felt amazing on my back, allowing my body to open up in new ways."

"I love how controlled and deliberate every movement is. Unlike my usual running workouts, which often felt rushed, the Cadillac forces me to focus on my breathing, my alignment and engaging the right muscles. This was challenging at first, but by the end of the first session, I felt taller, lighter and stronger."

"After a few weeks of regular sessions, I noticed a big change to my lower back pain. I was gaining both strength and flexibility without the high-impact nature of running outside. Plus, I really relished the hour each week I got to switch off my phone and just focus on completing the movements."

"One of my favourite exercises involved hanging from the frame and doing assisted pull-ups. The support and resistance provided by the Cadillac allows me to push myself safely, which was something I always worried about with traditional workouts - especially as my back is so prone to pain."

"Now, Cadillac Pilates is a staple in my fitness routine. My back pain has all but disappeared, and I feel stronger and more flexible than ever. If you're struggling with any kind of physical discomfort or just looking for a new way to challenge your body, I can't recommend Cadillac Pilates enough."

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Liz Connor
Freelance Health Writer

Liz started her journalism career reporting on fashion at ELLE, GQ and Fashion Beans before finding a love for all things fitness and travel.

Keen to report on her favourite topics, she moved over to the lifestyle desk at The Evening Standard before taking the reins as health and wellbeing editor at news and features agency PA Media. She has also been a senior commissioning editor for the publisher Penguin Random House, finding future bestsellers in the self-development field.

Liz’s features have taken her from fashion front rows to the furthest reaches of the planet, via several hundred sweaty basement gyms in London. Her favourite aspect of her job is getting to write about new trends, whether it’s an under-the-radar travel destination or a TikTok-inspired workout method.

Since going freelance, Liz has written for titles including The Independent, National Geographic Traveller, Stylist, Prospect, Yahoo, and MSN. When she's not writing on her laptop, you'll probably find her at a gig, eating at a new restaurant, or listening to Taylor Swift.