What is Reformer Pilates and How to Use the Equipment

Looking for a challenging workout that never gets boring, sculpts long lean muscles from head to toe, builds a strong core and spine, and is gentle on the joints? Then Reformer Pilates may be right for you.

This fun, intense, unique workout uses the power of spring-based resistance and your body weight to gently and effectively target the entire body to build strength and flexibility.

Read on to learn what a Pilates reformer is, the benefits of Reformer Pilates, and how Reformer Pilates can dramatically transform the way your body looks and functions.


What Is a Pilates Reformer?

The Pilates reformer is a bed-like machine with a flat, cushioned platform – called the carriage – that rolls back and forth on wheels. A set of springs attaches the carriage at one end to add resistance to the workout and challenge the entire body.

The spring end of the machine also includes an adjustable footbar that can be used by hands or feet. There are also handles and straps attached to the top end of the machine’s frame.

Bodyweight and resistance make the carriage challenging to move around. The reformer can be adjusted to be suitable for different skill levels and body sizes.




How a Pilates Reformer Is Used

One of the biggest advantages of the reformer is the versatility it offers. A wide range of exercises can be performed using a variety of options and positions, including:

  • Lying down
  • Sitting
  • Standing
  • Perched on the footbar
  • Pushing the footbar
  • Perched on the shoulder blocks
  • Upside down
  • Sideways
  • With additional equipment
  • Pulling the straps

The versatility and dynamic movements keep the body and the mind guessing, making Reformer Pilates a workout that never gets boring and always keeps muscles challenged.


What Are the Benefits of Reformer Pilates

Beyond the physical and mental health benefits that workout out offers, here are some additional benefits of Reformer Pilates:

  • Full Body Workout – Reformer Pilates challenges every muscle from head to toe in an hour or less.
  • High Intensity Yet Gentle – Reformer Pilates offers an intense workout that is low impact and gentle and joints.
  • Excellent for Building Core Strength – Along with targeting the entire body, Reformer Pilates is especially amazing for toning the core.
  • Improves Posture and Balance – Reformer workouts are an effective way to improve posture, enhance flexibility, and challenge your balance thanks to the instability of the rolling carriage and resistance of the springs.
  • Functional Movement – The dynamic, full-range motions involved in Reformer Pilates are excellent for functional training.
  • Helps Build Strong BonesThe resistance and variety of movements in Reformer Pilates can help build strong bones.
  • Unique Movements – Reformer Pilates uses eccentric contractions (where a muscle lengthens as it resists a force) to achieve long, lean, sleek muscles.
  • Suitable for All Fitness Levels – Aside from completing our Intro to Pilates class, all levels are welcome for Reformer Pilates. Whether you are completely new to Pilates and working out or are an advanced practitioner, there are always ways to challenge yourself with the reformer.


What is the Difference Between Mat Pilates and Reformer Pilates?

The main difference between mat Pilates and reformer Pilates is the use of the reformer. Whereas mat Pilates focuses entirely on body weight for resistance, Reformer Pilates introduces the use of the reformer for an added element of resistance, versatility, and intensity.



What Should I Expect for my First Reformer Pilates Class?

After completing our Intro to Pilates course, you are ready for your first Reformer Pilates class with us. Our experienced instructors will:

  • Make you feel welcome
  • Keep you safe throughout the workout
  • Teach you how to use the reformer
  • Guide you through the different exercise moves
  • Offer modifications based on your fitness level and comfort level

Here are some tips to keep in mind for your first Reformer Pilates class:

  • The moves may feel foreign at first and you may feel a bit uncoordinated – this is normal and will get better with time as you get increasingly comfortable with the machine and gain strength
  • Always wait for instruction on using the machine if it is your first time (the reformer bed moves and has a variety of parts, so safety is important)
  • More springs used equals more resistance – your instructor will show you how many springs you should be using for each exercise
  • Start slow
  • When in doubt, always feel free to ask questions or request extra guidance


3 Tips For Your First Reformer Pilates Class

1. Take Your Time

If you are used to fast-paced workouts such as HIIT or Tabata, you may assume the controlled, slow movement in Reformer Pilates will be too easy for you or not hard enough to work your muscles. Brace yourself – you’re in for a surprise.

By the end of your first Reformer Pilates class, expect your muscles to be shaking and exhausted. As with regular Pilates, slow does not equal easy.

2. Keep Your Movements Subtle

While many workouts involve big, exaggerated motions, Pilates is all about targeted movements that challenge the little muscles. This limited range of motions helps challenge the small, deep muscles that Pilates is notorious for toning.

The goal with Reformer Pilates is to recruit the smaller muscles first before calling on the larger muscle groups. Your instructor will be there to help guide you through the proper form for each movement.

3. Remember to Breathe

Breathwork is key for classes like Pilates and yoga. Remind yourself to continue breathing throughout moves and make it part of your practice.

Eventually, it will become automatic to maintain deep, controlled breaths. In the meantime, your instructor can help you with breath coaching to ensure you are getting the most out of your reformer workout.



Is Reformer Pilates Right for Me?

Whether you’re looking to switch up your workout routine, build strength, improve your balance, or recover from an injury, Reformer Pilates is an amazing way to challenge your entire body.

Our Intro to Pilates Class is a prerequisite for our Reformer Pilates class, but all levels are welcome. Never been to a Pilates Class? We’ve put together this guide for your first Pilates class to get you prepared.

If you have more questions about Reformer Pilates or any of our other classes, we’d love to talk with you. Please feel free to reach out to us at any time or use our convenient online scheduler to book a class with us.