There are all different types of Pilates reformers. The common characteristic is a flat platform with springs attached that moves up and down along the frame of the “bed.” This is called the carriage.
What is a Pilates Reformer?
Pilates reformers are exercise machines built for the practice of Pilates. They generally look like a low bed-like frame with a foot bar, pulleys, straps, and other add-on equipment attached.
Joseph Pilates designed the Pilates reformer machine and invented and developed the Pilates practice in the early 1920s in the United States. He did this after his experiences helping to rehabilitate individuals who could not walk at a hospital in England1.
Pilates reformers are primarily used for core exercises, improving range of motion, overall athletic improvement, weight loss, and — to a certain extent — rehabilitation and prevention of injury. They can improve overall body health and well-being.
How do Reformers Work?
The reformer machine works by lengthening, increasing flexibility, building strength, and balancing your body. Pilates exercises involve an array of movements, from pushing and pulling to holding and balancing. Core exercises make up most of the movements on a reformer.
An individual can sit, stand, perch, lie, and hang on a reformer — depending on what type of Pilates equipment they have. A reformer box, springs, straps, foot bar, shoulder blocks, and other exercise accessories can be added or taken away from the main platform carriage. Other accessories such as a vertical frame, Pilates ball, Pilates ring, or roll-up pole can be used to enhance or help support the body while practicing Pilates on a reformer or a mat (except for the vertical frame).
A certified Pilates instructor can help an individual determine which exercises are appropriate for them. It is important to have an instructor the individual can trust and who has Pilates Method Alliance certification2 along with plenty of experience.
Can Anyone use a Reformer?
Yes! Anyone can use and benefit from a Pilates reformer. This type of Pilates machine can be used by everyone from beginners to advanced students. Of course, having some familiarity with mat Pilates is always a plus when first trying a Pilates reformer. A reformer is often used as a more advanced step in learning Pilates, but it does not have to be this way.
Pilates reformer classes for beginners are always an option for those who have never tried a Pilates reformer machine before. Going to a beginner's class taught by a certified Pilates instructor at a Pilates studio is a safe way to try reformer exercises for the first time. It also provides the opportunity to find out more information about the Pilates reformer machine.
Benefits of Using a Reformer
There are numerous benefits of Pilates. Let us go over just a few of the Pilates benefits that can be expected below:
An increase in flexibility: This is done by lengthening the muscles and soft tissues surrounding the joints to increase the overall range of motion.
Improved strength and stability: Improvements are made by holding postures and doing repetitive body movements with both body weight as well as utilizing Pilates equipment such as a reformer.
An increase in lean muscle mass and better overall muscle tone: Quality muscle is increased by focusing on using postural holds and higher repetitions instead of increasing resistance.
Improvements for back pain and neck pain as well as less joint discomfort: These can be obtained through being active and getting the body, especially the joints, moving.
Improved posture and alignment: This occurs through increasing overall strength, especially of the core muscles.
A stronger core: The core muscles will become stronger as they support the body to add stability during the movement of the arms and legs.
Improved focus and concentration: Physical activity affects the brain positively in many ways including increasing blood flow as well as neurotransmitters.
Helps with mental health and stress relief: Mental health and physical health go hand in hand. Physical activity causes the release of neurotransmitters as well as provides an opportunity for distraction while supporting self-esteem. Breathwork also aids in improving mental health.
Better balance: Increasing overall body strength helps allow the body to be able to stabilize better and have better balance.
Better performance in other athletics and physical activities: Cross-training by participating in different types of physical activity helps in a well-rounded way and assists in injury prevention.
Injury prevention: By increasing strength and endurance, the body is better supported by its muscles when participating in activities and day-to-day function.
The benefits of Pilates span all types of people, from young to old. Pilates can be great for beginners and advanced students, pregnant women and new moms, athletes and non-athletes, seniors, and everyone in between.
Having a reformer at home means there will always be a Pilates studio only a few steps away. It also means there is no excuse for not being able to get to the gym, scheduling classes at inconvenient times, or missing class because of other engagements or responsibilities.
Some of the Reformers Available Today
There are a wide array of Pilates machine types available — no matter the budget, the amount of room available in the home, or what the individual's fitness and wellness goals are. What is important to remember is that each machine will have different configurations and possibilities. In essence, we can break down the machines into three types:
The reformer has a platform that slides up and down a carriage track. Springs, body weight, long straps, a foot bar, and resistance are used to perform each movement for a full-body workout. Accessories such as a vertical frame, a reformer box, or a jump board can also be added to complete different types of movement.
If you’re simply looking for a balanced body workout at home, these are the main types of machines available. Most people will choose home reformers if they are looking to learn and practice Pilates. Reformers can be commonly found at a studio as well.
Reformers can be used by everyone. For taller people, an extended carriage can be used to add length to the reformer. They are safe for all ages and abilities to use as long as a certified Pilates instructor oversees the use of the machine.
Towers are usually reserved for Pilates studios as they are quite tall and can be mounted to a wall. As such, they are substantially bigger than other machines.
Because of their size, towers are not great for small spaces. There are many components attached to these machines. The different components allow the opportunity for all the muscles in the body to be worked including the arms, legs, and core.
The Cadillac is the largest of the Pilates machines. These machines essentially provide the means for all possible exercises to be done on one machine.
The Cadillac is a combination of a reformer bed, mat, tower, and trapeze. You can move on multiple planes and arrange the body in a variety of positions for peak performance and mastery of skill.
Although Cadillacs are primarily seen at a studio, they can be utilized by individuals of all abilities and ages under the appropriate supervision and guidance.
Most reformer brands have several machines available. Depending on skill level, fitness goals, wellness goals, and budget, an individual can find a machine that is suitable for their needs.
The machines vary anything from the high-end “Rolls Royce” of reformers to a basic model for beginners. Even with the variety of machines available, the one thing they all have in common is that they come at a high cost. So be prepared to invest in a machine if purchasing one for home use.
Here are the Top Reformer Brands Available Today:
Stott (Merrithew): Is a trailblazer for Pilates using the latest research and paying close attention to detail to produce high-quality reformers.
Peak Pilates: They create simple, stylish reformers that focus on staying true to Joseph Pilates's original intentions and techniques.
Balanced Body: They redesigned and modernized the original Pilates reformer and set many industry standards in the process.
AeroPilates (Stamina): Was the original company to create reformers for home use. Known for creating reliable and quality Pilates equipment at a lower price point.
Gratz: Creates high-end Pilates reformers that focus on continuing Joseph Pilates's original vision.
Reformers: Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Pilates Reformer?
A Pilates reformer is a piece of fitness equipment that is used in the practice of Pilates. The machine looks like a low bed with two tracks for the carriage (main platform) on each long side of the frame. The main platform of the reformer has springs attached to it and rolls back and forth for varied exercises. The springs are adjusted to modify the resistance applied to the platform.
Reformers can be used for lower or upper body workouts, to increase range of motion, to improve posture, to help back pain, to lose weight, and for an overall great workout. Depending on the goal, other pieces can be added and taken away from the reformer as well.
Is a Reformer Expensive?
Reformers range anywhere from $100 to several thousand dollars. It all depends on the features an individual is looking for and how much they are willing to spend.
For many users, something in the middle range is a good place to start. But if they plan on going far with Pilates, it is better to invest in a machine that will last for many years.
Which Pilates Reformer is the Best?
For those looking for a high-end, professional-grade reformer, STOTT and AeroPilates are two of the top brands. The Balanced Body reformer is another high-quality option.
Having a Pilates reformer at home is an excellent idea if an individual does not have a studio nearby. Home reformers can be purchased and Pilates classes can be found online to attend.
Can a Pilates Reformer be Used to Lose Weight?
Yes! A Pilates machine can provide an intense workout if used correctly and this can lead to increased calorie use by the body.
Lean muscles and an overall sleek silhouette can be developed by practicing Pilates. It can help tone areas such as the core and legs as well as improve overall health.
Can Beginners do Reformer Pilates?
Yes, reformer Pilates can be safely incorporated into everyone's Pilates practice with the appropriate supervision and guidance. It may take some practice getting used to using the machine as practicing on a mat provides more stability and support. Although different, there are many similarities between the exercises practiced on a machine compared to a mat.