What Is a Pilates Reformer?

By Christeen Savinovich , last updated January 4, 2012

The Pilates Reformer is a piece of equipment commonly used in Pilates to increase resistance during the workout and produce enhanced results and muscle strengthening. Pilates is a low impact form of exercise and a popular choice for people of all ages, including those who are injured and cannot put strain on certain joints and muscles. This form of exercise focuses on working all of the muscles with particular attention paid to the core muscles, and it creates unbelievably flat stomachs and toned abs.

How Does the Reformer Fit into Pilates?

Pilates is customizable to every person and a variety of environments including large gyms, Pilates studios, the outdoors and even the homes and living rooms of those who cannot make it to the gym. The adaptability of this activity is partly due to the wide variety of equipment that can be used with the most basic equipment being a yoga or floor mat and the most intricate equipment being the Pilates Cadillac. The Pilates Reformer falls somewhere in between and is a moderately complex piece of equipment that is most commonly found in Pilates studios, but can also be purchased for use in a personal home.

Despite the fact that Pilates rarely involves cardio and is low impact, it does a wonderful job at strengthening, toning and lengthening muscles while also helping to lose and manage weight. Those who are avid participants in Pilates swear by the unique movements and activities the sport requires, and the Reformer adds extra resistance and options for the workout.

Components of the Reformer

The reformer itself is typically made of a sturdy wood, aluminum, steel or other type of metal frame. The main component of the machine is called the carriage and is the sliding, cushioned mat that the user lies or sits on during use of the equipment. It is attached to springs, resistance bands, ropes and pulleys that the user will pull, contract and move in order to strengthen the abdomen, arms and legs. The springs are the main form of resistance and can be activated in the laying, seated, standing or kneeling positions.

The head and foot frames are found at the top and bottom of the carriage and are adjustable so that the user fits perfectly and comfortably between the two. Adjustable straps allow for comfortable placement of legs and arms. The different components of the machine introduce resistance in the same way that weights do, but allow the user to engage in movements in a variety of positions in order to use muscles that are hard to contract in other forms of exercise. They offer the most amount of resistance at the strongest point of muscle contraction and less at the starting and finishing points. The purpose of this is to reduce stress on the tendons and ligaments and maximize stress on the muscles.

Although the Reformer is not necessary for the enjoyment of Pilates, the use of it will work your muscles harder and give you a more strenuous workout. The Reformer is a good option to consider if mat Pilates is not intense enough for you or if you’d like a more challenging workout with all the benefits of Pilates.

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