What is a Pilates Reformer?

February 2, 2021
women sitting on a row of Pilates reformers in a bright studio

One of the most influential pieces of equipment in a Pilates studio would unmistakably be the Pilates reformer. But what is a Pilates reformer and why is it such an important part of Boom Pilates? This incredible Pilates equipment reserves a significant spot in Pilates history, offers a wide range of exercise routines, develops skills to vitalize the body and mind. And nothing pairs better with the reformer than our boomin’ BPL tunes! The reformer machine is a true hallmark of the Pilates method and is a wonderful choice for both beginners and more experienced Pilates enthusiasts.

What is a Pilates Reformer, really?

woman in pink long-sleeve top using Pilates reformer

This special piece of equipment is a feature in most any studio that specializes in the Pilates’ way of life, including Boom Pilates! The reformer features a bedded carriage with a system of customizable springs, ropes and pulleys. While the reformer might seem intimidating if you are new to Pilates or more familiar with mat work, the reformer is a long-time favorite for many instructors due to its wide-functionality, low-impact routines and effective results that can be customized to your specific goals and will leave you feeling energized and ready to take on the world!

History of The Pilates Reformer

The Pilates reformer was idealized and designed by none other than Joseph Pilates in the 1920s. As can be inferred by his name, Joe Pilates invented not only the classic Pilates routines but also the ideals behind its unique mindset focused on personal growth and introspective health. The reformer, while just one type of equipment, became one of the more popular forms of Pilates. Over the decades, the Pilates reformer has not only proven to be versatile in design but accommodating for all levels of experience despite its slightly medieval impression. The reformer machine plays a significant role in developing strength, balance and coordination in that classical Pilates studio.

How Does a Pilates Reformer Work?

woman using pilates reformer springs

While the Pilates reformer looks intimidating (what are all these straps and springs for anyway?), it’s actually one of the most fun, comfortable and versatile pieces of equipment in traditional studios. Classic reformers are typically made of durable wood while more modern concepts are made of metal. The basic construction of the reformer consists of the sliding carriage, color-coded springs, cords and shoulder blocks. Home Pilates reformers vary slightly from studio reformers. While home reformers use cords for tension intensity, studio reformers utilize customizable springs. The mega reformer, though it may bear some resemblance to a pilates reformer, is a part of the lagree method and is not used in the classical approach.

While the shoulder blocks keep you in place, the sliding carriage, resembling a bed, is quite similar to matwork. However, the reformer has a more wide range of routines for a more well-rounded exercise with low-impact. The color-code springs on studio reformers are hooked onto special gears. Green and red springs provide heavier to regular tension, while blue and yellow indicate offer a more lightweight workout. These springs can be switched out to provide different forms of tension to work different muscles, create new challenges or adapt to changing experience levels.

Reformer Pilates

Reformer Pilates, while similar to mat work, offers a unique form of exercise involving eccentric and concentric movements to focus on muscle tone and core strength. Reformer Pilates exercises involve pushing or pulling with the arms or legs to move the carriage forward or backward. Most often, people look to reformer Pilates for side splits routines to strengthen the back, outer thighs and inner thighs.

These exercises remain easy on the joints while developing a calm sense of strength without putting unnecessary strain on the body. By focusing on low-impact routines, reformer Pilates is a wonderful choice for anyone with previous injuries, joint pain or is simply new to Boom Pilates! Unlike high-impact methods, Pilates prioritizes pacing, focus and balance, leaving you sharp and energized after every session. This mindful movement not only has physical benefits such as flexibility and coordination, but it also challenges the mind as well.

What’s even more amazing is that the reformer is highly functional to accommodate any skill level. You’ll never get bored while using a Pilates reformer! Springs of different tensions can be added to either end of the carriage to create a pushing or pulling resistance. And as you and your instructor find the right routines and with more seasoned experience, other gadgets can be added to the mix. Attachments such as a foot bar, hand bar, platform and more can be added for new challenges! But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

Is Reformer Pilates Right for You?

woman and men in pilates reformer class

You may be wondering, is reformer pilates right for you? We’re betting yes! Pilates classes that utilize the reformer offer many moves to accommodate different levels of experience and comfort. This form of exercise is especially great for those looking to strengthen not only their body but revitalize the mind as well. Pilates as a whole is a method of wellness that prompts focus, attention, and mindful movements. The coordinated exercises turn into movements similar to dancing, training not only the body to move but the mind to focus as well. While the Pilates reformer may look intimidating at first glance, it is truly a one-fits-all package that develops mindfulness, healing and bodily strength.

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