It sounds like a medieval torture device, or maybe slick industrial machinery, but in any case, it’s the most recognizable piece of Pilates equipment. I’ll often get the question, “do you have reformer classes?”
Joseph Pilates was an inventor and he created all his own equipment. The reformer is just one of the many pieces of equipment he created, yet it is the most prominent and the most copied. It consists of a frame that is roughly the size of a narrow, twin sized mattress. It has a “carriage” that you lie on that is able to glide up and down the frame. Attached to the carriage are four springs, and they can be added or subtracted to give the carriage more or less weight. There is a bar to place the feet on and two leather straps that can be used to pull the carriage up or down.
There are a few magical things that make the reformer so appealing. First of all, each exercise has resistance: push and pull. You are always either pulling the straps, or pushing against the bar. There is always tension to give you a greater understanding of your body’s mechanics and to get deeper into your muscles. Secondly, there is a set sequence. Joseph Pilates created a set order of exercises that would result in the best total body workout. Although not every person will be able to accomplish every exercise, either because of strength, limitation, or simply because they are a beginner, they will follow the same trajectory through the exercises, skipping those that are more advanced with the idea of filling those in later. By having a sequence, practitioners can: learn a set order that they can practice on their own, go deeper into exercises and the theory behind them, see how much they’ve progressed over time.
The reformer exercises are a great way to realign the body. In the original days, when Joseph Pilates was still alive, every person started their session with either a full reformer workout or a full mat workout. These were essentially your “warm-up,” because they were sequences designed to warm and lubricate every muscle and joint and bring your body into proper alignment. After completing either mat or reformer, you would work on whatever issue was specific to you. Maybe you were working on arm strength, so you would practice standing arm springs, or maybe you had a stiff back, so you would choose to work with the roll down bar.
At our studio, we do not offer “reformer” classes, instead we offer classes that use all the pieces of equipment. That doesn’t mean that many of the classes won’t be dedicated to the reformer though. It’s still the perfect tool to get a great, total body workout.