What is a pilates reformer?
The Pilates reformer is a traditional piece of Pilates equipment which looks like a bed with springs, a sliding carriage, ropes and pulleys. The origins of the Pilates reformer date back to the original Pilates studio in New York in the 1920's and was designed by Joseph Pilates himself.
Regular reformer pilates exercises will lead to greater strength, flexibility and balance, which in turn improve posture, movement and mental health. Using the pilates reformer to perform carefully choreographed movements will give you a balanced, full body workout.
More Reformer Pilates Benefits:
- Improves your overall strength particularly around the core, back, glutes and thighs
- Improves flexibility of your body.
- Improves your body balance.
- Improves the ability to focus.
- Improves coordination.
- Improves your back and posture.
- Improves body alignment.
- Lowers blood pressure.
- Improves cardiovascular health.
- Can ease lower back pain, as it focuses on stabilizing the spinal muscles.
- Can aid weight loss, when teamed with balanced nutrition.
How to Use a Pilates Reformer?
Reformer Pilates is accessible to any age and fitness level, but it’s worth going to classes or getting a private teacher to ensure you understand the foundations of Pilates and how to isolate and activate your core muscles correctly.
Common Pilates Reformer Mistakes Most Beginners Make
Moving Too Quickly
If you're used to sprints and bursts of intense Tabata work, the slow and controlled movement in a Pilates reformer class might seem foreign at first. But you'll quickly realize why slow doesn't mean easy. Keep in mind that having control during the eccentric part of an exercise (when the muscle lengthens, such as the lowering movement of a biceps curl or the standing movement of a squat), is critical to everything you do in class. So if the springs are on a heavy setting for a forward lunge, you should be mindful not to let the carriage slam closed from the tension, explains Heidari. "Can you control the carriage to come back in, or control your arms to return back to neutral?" she says.
Forgetting to Breathe
"I witness a lot of not wanting to breathe," says Heidari. "I think that breath is something that's really hard for people to grasp in the beginning," she adds. But many classes will include breath coaching throughout each twist and turn — as much as you'd expect from a yoga class, she says. Plus, Pilates was first designed as a form of rehab, so it makes sense to think of a reformer class as a way to fine-tune your body's natural movements and perfect your breathing. Heidari says she and other instructors can watch how you set up for and get out of an exercise, and offer guidance on how to control the movements and your breath.
Making Movements Big
"My biggest tip when I talk to newbies is that a lot of the stuff that we're asking you to do in our space is a lot smaller than you think," says Heidari. "Pilates is the little muscles," she notes. Using a limited range of motion really targets those small, deep muscles that Pilates is known to recruit, but this can be confusing for rookies who think bigger movement equals bigger results. The aim is to get those tiny muscles to fire first, before using larger muscles or muscle groups, says Heidari.
Keep in mind that not all Pilates reformers are exactly the same, but this guide should help you get a sense of what to expect. (BTW, Pilates apparatuses and other equipment don't start and end with the reformer. There are many other pieces that resemble a jungle gym, and these are typically utilized in personal training situations, but...baby steps.) Regardless, one round on the reformer, and you can all but guarantee your core is going to activate and shake like never before. With the lean, strong muscles and bonus flexibility you'll gain, don't be surprised if you get hooked on the Pilates reformer.
If you're interested in incorporating pilates into your fitness routine, a reformer machine can be a valuable investment. However, with so many different options on the market, it can be overwhelming to choose the right one for you.