Reformer Pilates: What Is Reformer Pilates & Why You Should Do it

Heard about the long heralded benefits of reformer pilates (hello, toning) but don’t know where to start? We spoke to Bodylove Pilates founder and instructor Ali Handley to answer all of the FAQs about reformer pilates and find out why we should be practicing it on the regular. 

What is reformer Pilates? 

Reformer Pilates is a form of exercise that shares the principles of centring, concentration, control, precision, breath, and flow with traditional mat classes, but is done on a reformer machine. The reformer machine was designed by Joseph Pilates, the founder of Pilates, in the 1920s and involves a system of springs, ropes, pulleys and a carriage.

During the class you will be instructed to use the pilates reformer for a range of exercises lying, sitting, standing, pulling the straps, and pushing the foot bar. You’ll also incorporate accessories like a shoulder block, pilates rings, small weights and resistance bands.

What are the main benefits of reformer Pilates? 

Regular reformer pilates exercises will lead to greater strength, flexibility and balance, which in turn improve posture, movement and mental health. 

1. It is a full body workout

Using the pilates reformer to perform carefully choreographed movements will give you a balanced, full body workout. 

“Reformer Pilates globally strengthens the body using the subtlety of the springs to not just target the big muscle movers but also activate the small stabilisers of the body,” Ali says. “This creates change, harmony and balance throughout the body.”

“You are also able to work unilaterally (one side at a time) which is crucial where there is uneven weakness,” she adds.

2. It builds strength and tones muscles

“Reformer Pilates is a dynamic form of exercise that uses the machine’s springs and levers to create resistance and allow for equal focus on both the contraction of the muscles and the eccentric release to create long, lean muscles,” Ali says. 

The pilates reformer is incredibly versatile, offering different levels of resistance so you can push yourself. 

3. It is high intensity but low impact

Reformer pilates classes are an ideal option if you’re suffering from injury, but always speak to a medical professional about your situation before you try anything new.

“It is a wonderful piece of equipment for anyone with injuries as you are able to work in the horizontal plane using springs and ropes rather than bodyweight,” Ali says.

4. It creates a stronger core and better posture

“Many of the exercises target the core whilst working the peripheral muscles at the same time,” Ali explains. Engaging your core strength is not only good for building a six pack but for improving your posture too.

Will reformer Pilates help you lose weight?

“Our goal for every pilates session is to tone, strengthen and lengthen through a combination of mobility and stability exercises,” Ali says. “You will burn calories and change the shape of your muscles.”

So long answer, yes it can help with weight loss. Some studios like Bodylove incorporate cardio and high intensity interval training into their pilates classes. 

What should you know before you try reformer Pilates?

Newbies to reformer pilates can often be intimidated by the equipment, but Ali says that with correction instruction it’s very easy to use and there’s options for all fitness levels. 

“My advice when starting Reformer pilates is to go to some beginner classes first,” she says. “They are not easy by any stretch but they will ensure you become familiar with the machine, avoid injury and build a solid foundation before jumping straight into an open level or advanced class.”

Who will benefit from reformer Pilates?

Anyone and everyone will experience the benefits of pilates. 

“The wonderful thing about Pilates is that it can be so easily modified by the use of props and the changing of the springs,” Ali explains. “Reformer Pilates is great for athletes, pregnancy, rehab, strength, cardio, flexibility – I could go on!”

Can you just do reformer Pilates or should you incorporate other workouts?

“You can absolutely just do reformer pilates and be in wonderful shape but it can be used to compliment lots of other types of exercise also such as Yoga, boxing and dance,” Ali says.

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