The Pilates Reformers are lined up in Pilates studios all over the world and are probably the most famous piece of Pilates equipment. Reformer classes are usually one of the main choices at Pilates studios and portable reformers continue to grow as a home exercise equipment trend.
Pilates founder Joseph Pilates invented the reformer which is a bed-like frame with a flat platform on it called the carriage; this rolls back and forth on wheels within the frame. The carriage is attached to one end of the reformer by a set of springs which provide differing levels of resistance choices as the carriage is pushed or pulled along the frame. The shoulder blocks located on the carriage keep a practitioner from sliding off the end of the reformer as they push or pull the carriage. In addition to this, there is an adjustable bar called a footbar at the spring end of the reformer which can be used by the feet or hands as the practitioner moves the carriage. The reformer also has long straps with handles on them that are attached to the top end of the frame, these can be pulled with legs or arms to move the carriage as well.
The parts of the reformer are adjustable for various body sizes and levels of skill. It is the resistance of the springs and body weight that make the carriage more or less difficult to move.
The reformer provides versatility as exercises can be done lying down, standing, sitting, pulling the straps, pushing the footbar, perched on the footbar, perched on the shoulder blocks, with additional equipment, upside down, sideways and numerous other variations. Due to this, the reformer can train many dynamics and parts of the body in many different ways with just one piece of equipment, it allows for first-time beginners to exercises that challenge the most advanced.
The exercises which are completed on the reformer promote length, strength, flexibility, and balance. The majority of Pilates reformer exercises are based on pushing or pulling the carriage or holding the carriage steady during an exercise as it is pulled on by the springs.
Exercising with the reformer is possible for anyone, at any level of fitness which is why the full name of the reformer is the Universal Reformer. It offers all the famous benefits of Pilates including overall strength, flexibility, coordination, and balance which, in turn, lead to daily life improvements such as better posture, efficient and graceful movement, and for many, relief from pain associated with physical imbalances for example back pain.
The Pilates powerhouse muscles which is the core muscles are of upmost importance for building strength; flat abs, strong backs, toned thighs and glutes are all results of this emphasis. Although Pilates mat exercises and other equipment achieve this, the reformer creates a unique exercise environment. This is because the reformer is large enough to accommodate full-range motion which is great for increasing flexibility whilst also developing strength.
Pushing and pulling with arms or legs against the carriage, resistance of the springs, and body weight is generally strength building; the exercises supply enough resistance and movement variety to help build strong bones. Furthermore, eccentric muscle contractions occur when a muscle lengthens as it resists a force, the reformer is designed for this eccentric contraction which is one of the main ways to gaining long and strong muscles without bulk that Pilates is commonly associated with.
Finally, the instability of a rolling carriage with the springs set at different levels of resistance provides stability challenges that build core strength and therefore promote better balance. For example, having less of the body on the carriage is one of the ways that enable Pilates exercises to progress to harder levels. As a result, more body weight has to be supported by the practitioner, with the body and machine having to be controlled even more from the core. In contrast, when the springs are on a lighter setting, some exercises can be more challenging for the core because it has to work harder to stabilize the movement. Ultimately, the stronger core is, the better the balance, posture, and overall well-being of the practitioner.