What Is a Pilates Reformer?
Invented by Pilates founder Joseph Pilates, the reformer is a bed-like frame with a flat platform on it called the carriage which rolls back and forth on wheels within the frame. The carriage is attached to one end of the reformer by a set of springs. The springs provide choices of differing levels of resistance as the carriage is pushed or pulled along the frame. The carriage has shoulder blocks on it that keep you from sliding off the end of the reformer as you push or pull the carriage.
At the spring end of the reformer there is an adjustable bar called a footbar. The footbar can be used by the feet or hands as you move the carriage. The reformer also has long straps with handles on them that are attached to the top end of the frame, they can be pulled with legs or arms to move the carriage as well.
Body weight and resistance of the springs are what make the carriage more or less difficult to move. Reformer parts are adjustable for differing body sizes and for differing levels of skill.
How Is a Reformer Used?
One of the best things about the reformer is its versatility. Exercises can be done lying down, sitting, standing, pulling the straps, pushing the footbar, from the footbar, from the shoulder blocks, with additional equipment, upside down, sideways and all kinds of variations thereof. All kinds of exercises are done on the reformer to promote length, strength, flexibility, and balance.
Most Pilates reformer exercises have to do with pushing or pulling the carriage or holding the carriage steady during an exercise as it is pulled on by the springs. There are a great many reformer exercises, including those for beginners to exercises that challenge the most advanced person
What Are the Benefits of Pilates Reformer Exercises?
The Reformer allows an instructor to view the client within a symmetrical framework which identifies alignment imbalances.
Reformer exercise offers all the great benefits of Pilates including overall strength, flexibility, coordination, and balance. These things in turn lead to daily life improvements like a better posture, efficient movement and for many, relief from pain associated with physical imbalances such as back pain.
When we talk about strength building and Pilates the Pilates powerhouse muscles, the muscles of the core, are paramount. Flat abs, strong backs, toned buttock and thighs are all results of this emphasis. Other equipment and Pilates mat exercises do that too, but the reformer creates a unique and varied exercise environment. The reformer is large enough to accommodate full-range motion which is wonderful for increasing flexibility while building strength. It seems to invite the length we want to create in the body and it trains the body to sustain that length. Pushing and pulling with legs or arms against the resistance of the springs, carriage, and body weight is generally strength building. The exercises provide enough resistance and movement variety to help build strong bones and also with certain exercises providing opportunities for eccentric muscle contraction work, this is when a muscle lengthens as it resists a force.
The reformer is a set-up for eccentric contraction which is one of the keys to achieving long, strong muscles without bulk that Pilates is known for. When the springs are on a lighter setting some exercises are more challenging for the core because it has to work harder to control and stabilize the movement.
The stronger core, the better the balance, posture, and overall well-being. Exercising with the reformer is possible for anyone, at any level of fitness. It's no wonder the full name of the reformer is the Universal Reformer. The best way to learn Pilates reformer is through private instruction.