The “Wunda” or Pilates Chair is a versatile piece of equipment used in many Pilates studios, fitness centres and rehabilitation settings around the globe. Given that Joseph Pilates was born in Germany, it is no wonder that the original name of the chair derives from the German translation of the word “Wonder” which is “Wunder” and eventually was stylized to become “Wunda”.
The original Pilates chair was of a much more simplistic design than the models currently being used today, Joseph Pilates himself designed the Wunda Chair as a way to prescribe exercises for his clients to do in their homes, and given that his studio was located on Eighth Avenue at 56th Street in Manhattan, the Wunda Chair was designed to fit the limited space that New York City apartments provided. The Wunda Chairs that Joseph designed with his clients in mind were made to function as a regular chair and transform into a piece of exercise equipment whenever the desire struck, a feature which caused the Wunda Chairs to soar in popularity in the metropolitan area. Simple though it may have been – the engineering aspects which are based upon the resistance provided by springs was key to building strength and endurance. Before too long this invention born out of necessity would become one of the staples of his thriving Pilates studio as Joseph began frequently using the more refined models in his studio to rehabilitate clients with knee injuries. He specifically designed repertoire for use when the treatment required the intense hamstring activation which the Wunda Chair readily provides.
Unfortunately following the death of Joseph Pilates, the Wunda chair fell into obscurity as many of his disciples continued teaching on the equipment with which they were most comfortable such as the universal Reformer and the Cadillac.
Kathleen Stanford Grant who trained directly with Joseph in his original studio was considered to have the most knowledge on the Wunda Chair and she continued to share her knowledge with her proteges until her death in 2010. Most classical chair exercises that we know today have been passed down by her directly or through the archival photos and videos of Joseph teaching using the Wunda Chair.
The modern Pilates Chair (or Wunda Chair as it has come to be known) has a simplistic design- consisting of a box with a padded top and a pedal on one side that moves against the resistance of springs anchored to the opposite side of the chair. Some of the most important uses of the Wunda Chair are in the safe and controlled building of strength during pregnancy, as pregnant clients are able to work in a position that is safe and effective for them, especially towards the later trimesters. The Wunda Chair is also very beneficial for the activation and awareness of the intrinsic muscles of the feet to assist balance in clients of all ages. The Wunda Chair can be used extensively for a range of standing repertoire and balance work. Some Wunda Chair models even boast a split pedal which is a great for strengthening and mobilising the spine as it anchors the upper body and allows the client to isolate their spinal rotators in an unparalleled fashion.
The present day Wunda Chair repertoire has evolved to include a large collection of full-bodied, acrobatic exercises perfect for challenging and evolving your Pilates practice. The modern day Wunda Chair, accompanied by appropriate and dynamic training is a sure lagniappe both to studios and bodies alike.