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A simple overview of Reformer Pilates

Reformer Pilates is gaining huge popularity and for very good reason. It is an evolution from traditional mat based Pilates and provides almost endless and varied exercise options for all ages and abilities. The Reformer bed has been described as one of the most versatile and effective pieces of exercise equipment ever made and it’s also great fun. It increases the accessibility of Pilates for some people and also ramps up the intensity and variety for others.

Both reformer and mat Pilates are great forms of overall body exercise and conditioning and many studios offer both.

What is a “Reformer”

The “reformer” was designed by the creator of Pilates, Joseph Pilates. It’s a bed like frame with a padded platform called a carriage that slides up and down inside the frame. The carriage is attached to the frame by springs and these can be changed to increase or reduce resistance and intensity. There is a foot bar at one end used with both feet and hands to push and pull the carriage. On the other end are ropes and pullies, again used with hands and feet for a vast range of exercises. On first inspection the reformer it can look a little bit intimidating, the reality is it’s easy to use and get to grips with quickly.

Exercises can be done in many positions, laying down on back or side, on knees, stomach, stood up around the reformer using parts of the machine. It’s a very dynamic piece of equipment and can work your body in many different ways, providing both variety and importantly keeping your body guessing & challenged. A padded box is often placed on top of the carriage for a whole series of further movements.

What does a typical reformer class involve?

Classes usually last about 45 minutes to an hour and involve a series of exercise movements using the reformer bed. Classes are generally small (from 2 to 10 people) and an experienced instructor will guide the class in a hands-on and attentive way, correcting form and ensuring everyone is getting the most from the session. Guys, ladies, old and young can train together and all be challenged.

Classes can be slow and more deliberate, focusing on deep stretching, right through to higher intensity, more up-tempo athletic classes using jump boards. Classes are often designed for particular groups and experience levels, examples being beginners, intermediate, advanced, over 50’s, pre/post-natal etc. If you choose the right Studio you will be in the hands of very knowledgeable Instructors, many have rehab, physio or personal training backgrounds.

The reformer beds allow you to increase intensity and resistance as you progress and get stronger, and of course you can start to attempt more challenging intermediate and advanced moves.

Who should do reformer?

Pretty much everyone. The beauty of the Reformer beds is that most minor injuries or physical limitations can be accommodated easily. The beds can make any exercise harder or easier by using different resistance and most movements have variations. Reformer is great whether you are 70 years old looking to increase mobility and general physical well-being, a new mum looking to tone and shape or an elite athlete wanting to enhance performance and avoid injury.

You can start with some beginner classes and progress through to other types and styles of class once comfortable.

Many guys have the wrong impression of reformer, assuming it’s only relevant to females. Don’t be fooled Gents, its challenging and highly beneficial for you and becoming very popular with all ages of males.

What are the benefits

Benefits can be enormous and very different dependant on your personal circumstances, age and physical ability.

In general, everyone will increase, mobility, flexibility, balance, body alignment and strength. The flow on effect for most people is toning and shaping, better posture body awareness and often weight loss. Your sports, activities and general day to day functional movements will feel a whole lot easier.

Reformer though can have very specific benefits. For instance, many physios will recommend reformer as part of a rehab program for injuries such as knee, hip and shoulder operations, minor back pain, and to balance weak body areas such as core and glutes. Many Clients experience reduced or complete disappearance of pain they have put up with for years.

Pre & post-natal classes help mothers both prepare for birth and also quickly re-engage core, pelvic floor and re-tone once baby arrives.

For more mature Clients, reformer can bring a whole new lease of life, rebuilding and re-awakening the body to vastly improve mobility, posture and vitality.

Elite sports men and women (e.g. rugby, soccer, surfing) are now using reformer to enhance their performance, head off injury and control wear and tear.

In conclusion

There are very few forms of total body exercise that are low impact and both accessible and beneficial to almost everyone – Reformer is one.

Most people that try it wish they’d discovered it years ago and experience huge transformational results in a short amount of time. Regular and consistent classes will help Build the Best version of You and ensure physical well-being throughout all stages of life.


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