Everything You Need to Know About Reformer Pilates

Pip Jarvis
everything you need to know about reformer pilates

While fitness trends come and go, Reformer Pilates is here to stay. A favourite with celebs like Kate Hudson and Miranda Kerr, Reformer Pilates is hailed for its core strengthening, muscle lengthening benefits. But It’s about far more than that!

A tool in the arsenal of many professional athletes and dancers, Reformer Pilates is also a wonderful way to rehabilitate the body and tackle niggling, recurring injuries. With the guidance of a skilled instructor (and medical clearance), it can even help you prepare for and recover from childbirth.

Wondering where to sign up? Here’s everything you need to know about Reformer Pilates before getting started.  

What is Reformer Pilates?

Reformer Pilates is a Pilates method that uses an apparatus known as the Reformer. While the name might sound a little daunting (and the equipment might look odd at first), don’t be put off! Beloved by Pilates devotees, the Reformer machine is an incredibly versatile piece of equipment, whether you’re rehabbing an injury or wanting a head-to-toe workout.

What is a Pilates Reformer?

Invented by Joseph Pilates in the 1920s, the Reformer was – true to its name – built to ‘reform’ the body. The Pilates Reformer is made up of a bed-like frame with a sliding platform or carriage and a system of springs, pulleys and ropes. The carriage moves on wheels back and forth within the frame, with the adjustable springs at the foot of the Reformer creating varying levels of resistance.

Who is Reformer Pilates good for?

Taught in the correct environment by a qualified Pilates teacher, Reformer Pilates can be beneficial for all bodies. Dependant on the exercise, the moving carriage and spring system can provide both assistance and resistance to movement. Because of this versatility, the Reformer can equally facilitate a novice or advanced Pilates practitioner.

Great for both prehab and rehab, Reformer Pilates helps individuals of all ages enjoy a fun, challenging and rewarding movement practice. And go about their daily lives more efficiently, free from pain.

What are the benefits of Reformer Pilates?

Where do we begin? Regular use of the Pilates Reformer can improve posture, flexibility, motor control, range of motion, muscular imbalances, concentric and eccentric muscle control, balance, endurance, spinal mobility and trunk stability, while helping prevent injury and assisting with pain management. Reformer Pilates also helps to create long, lean muscles, without adding bulk.

­­Why do Reformer instead of Mat Pilates?

While the choice between practising Pilates on the Reformer or mat is personal, Reformer Pilates offers added versatility for targeting muscle groups. From legs-in-straps to jackrabbits and mermaids, the Reformer machine facilitates a wider range of exercise combinations and body positions.

In a typical Reformer Pilates class, you can expect to complete moves seated, on your back, on each side, kneeling, on your stomach (e.g. on a Pilates box atop the Reformer), on your toes and flat-footed. However, the Reformer can also be used within a rehabilitation setting, with exercises tailored to your injury or movement inefficiencies.

On the mat, you use your own body weight for resistance, whereas on the Reformer bed, the pulleys and weighted spring system create resistance. By changing the springs, the level of resistance can easily be altered for different exercises, and modifications made for different bodies.

What parts of the body does the Pilates Reformer work?

As with all movements in Pilates, the Reformer educates the whole body to work integratively. It is great at both strengthening the larger muscle groups (e.g. triceps) and challenging smaller, often under-utilised stabilising muscles (e.g. deep core muscles).

What level of resistance is best?

By adjusting the springs, you can adjust the resistance, making it more or less difficult to move the carriage. So, lower resistance is easier, right? Well, yes and no. Lowering the resistance will make the carriage move more freely, but your stabilising muscles will get a stronger workout.

Can you do Reformer Pilates with an injury or during pregnancy?

Provided you are training with a qualified Pilates teacher, Reformer Pilates can be a beneficial part of your recovery program. The key is to always inform your teacher, follow their instructions and make modifications as needed. It’s also important to stop if you are in pain or something does not feel right – you’re the best judge of your own body’s limits. Pilates can also be practised during certain phases of pregnancy and as part of your post-natal care. However, it is crucial you seek clearance from your doctor and inform your Pilates teacher so adjustments can be made. Follow the link to book a Melbourne CBD Pilates class.