Pilates’ first invention was called the bednasium. During and shortly after World War I, Joseph Pilates was interned with other German citizens in a British prison camp. He worked as a rehabilitation nurse and took the bedsprings from mattresses and attached them to the headboard and footboards of the bed frames of bedridden soldiers and taught those injured soldiers to do rehabilitation exercises using the springs as resistance. Legend has it, that no soldiers died on his ward while he worked with them.
The bednasium evolved to become the Trapeze Table consisting of four vertical posts at the corners of a firm, raised mat/mattress as well as two horizontal, overhead poles. The Trapeze Table developed the nickname, the “Cadillac,” as Pilates felt that the Trapeze Table, like the car it’s named after, had all the bells and whistles you could possibly want in an apparatus. There are so many elements to the machine: leg springs, arm springs, fuzzy loops to hang from, a push-through bar to stretch you out, and even a trapeze. This versatile piece of equipment can be used for everything from precision rehabilitation to high level athletic training where the overhead poles are used to simulate to suspend parts of the body and even to do inversions. The Trapeze table lends itself well to doing asymmetric exercises as one’s limbs are attached independently to springs rather than the predominantly symmetric exercises performed on the Reformer.
Many studios offer what are called “Tower classes,” where a Cadillac is simulated by doing exercises with springs attached to a vertical frame on a reformer or a frame attached directly to a wall. These classes are wonderful, but do not approach the variety and versatility of using a full Cadillac as Towers lack the overhead horizontal poles and the namesake Trapeze bar. See the pictures to see the difference between the tower and the full Trapeze table.
SOMA Movement Studio offers two levels of Cadillac Classes. The Beginner/Intermediate class introduces students to the Cadillac, principles of muscle isolation, spine articulation, and how to utilize being partially suspended from the horizontal, overhead poles to maximize activation of stabilizer muscles in the entire body. The Intermediate/Advanced classes increase challenge as the exercises become more airborne and with less support from springs. Upper body strength and core stability are emphasized. Instructor permission is necessary to attend the Intermediate/Advanced Cadillac class.