The Pilates Reformer is the most famous of the large Pilates studio equipment and is becoming hugely popular. Joseph Pilates method began with this machine rather than the mat work exercises. It has a frame called the ‘carriage’ which moves forward and back on wheels. This is attached to several springs that provide resistance. There is a foot bar, and long straps that can be used for the arms and legs.
The Reformer can be great fun but challenging, with some people describing it as looking like a torture machine! There is no need to be afraid though as the springs and resistance are adjusted to suit the individual which means we can all work at our own level. The cables, bars and straps allow exercises to be done in a variety of positions including standing! It really is one of the most versatile pieces of exercise equipment ever made and great fun to use.
What are it’s benefits?
Increased Core Strength and Endurance – This must be the Reformers number one benefit! It works the deep transverse abdominus muscle and the lighter the springs the bigger the challenge on the core.
Improves Posture – Working on a Reformer will improve your spinal alignment and when this is better the muscles strengthened to support the spine will give you much better stability. Improved posture means a lengthened spine, better mobility and less strain on the back and joints.
Relieves Joint and Back Pain – The Reformer helps the spine move in all directions and builds strength in the core, back, shoulders and hips. Stiffness in muscles and joints can affect posture, causing pain, but reformer training can help to relieve tight muscles that are often the cause.
Rehabilitation after Injury – It’s fantastic for anyone recovering from injury and is widely used as a rehabilitation tool. The fact that you can move while lying on your back and in a non-weightbearing position makes it especially safe and supportive. The load can be added gradually depending on the injury, weakness, or pain. It strengthens weak areas of the body and helps to bring balance and functionality back to it. It can be both a short and long-term solution.
Increased Flexibility and Balance – The moving carriage offers both feedback and instability which adds to the benefit of developing balance and special awareness as your centre of gravity is continually changing. The carriage as it moves also helps to increase your range of movement and flexibility. It will stretch the body in every plane and takes it to the next level. The highly effective hip flexor stretch for example cannot be replicated on the mat or any other piece of equipment!
Faster Results – The Reformer provides a thorough full body workout isolating weak muscles and then making sure that the muscles activate during exercises to help strengthen them more quickly. Research has found that it can deliver faster results than Mat Work Pilates.
Mat or Reformer? Which is best?
I would say both! Mat work provides the foundation and building blocks to performing effective movement where you use your body for resistance, while your core muscles work hard to keep you in good posture and alignment as you perform the exercises. As a beginner this is the best place to start to learn the basic moves, how to control muscles and to use an effective breathing method. The mat work and Reformer do have similar benefits, but it is best to build that foundation first with the mat work and progress onto the reformer. I would recommend doing this usually after about 3 months of weekly mat classes. This is because it’s important to learn how to control your muscles during the exercises.
On the Reformer you are working against resistance from springs to build strength and improve flexibility. The resistance can be adjusted to intensify the work-out depending on your intention. You can perform basic to advanced movements on it and in virtually any set up or position.
Reformer training is usually at a steady pace and to fatigue, so you can expect to feel your muscles shake a little! This form of training will build stronger but leaner muscles by increasing the length of time they are under tension.
A jump board can be added to the Reformer to develop Cardiovascular fitness too. This is great fun and like being on a trampoline lying down!
A fabulous fun and challenging work out providing a low impact full body work out. I can’t recommend it highly enough, but I guess I am rather biased! I just love it!
If you already practice Pilates and fancy increasing the intensity of your work out, would like to perfect your alignment, build a strong core and be more flexible without pressure on your joints then it’s definitely worth a go!Favourite?