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If you think Pilates equipment, most people will think Pilates reformers. The bed-like frame comes with ropes, handles, a moving carriage with 3, 4, or 5 springs attached (depending on the brand and model), shoulder blocks and either a foot bar or what's called a jump board. You can use a Pilates Reformer for a wide range of exercises that can help with flexibility, strength, rehabilitation and balance. There's also the Half Cadillac and Full Cadillac versions.
You may be familiar with the Pilates reformer from your Pilates studio and reformer classes. They have however become increasingly popular as a piece of kit for home use. Here we provide you with a guide on purchasing your own Pilates reformer.
Joseph Pilates invented the reformer. It is a flat platform which is called the carriage. This sits on wheels so it can roll back and forth within a frame. It is attached to one end by a set of springs which provide differing levels of resistance. Shoulder blocks prevent you slipping off the reformer. There is also an adjustable bar called a foot bar that can be used by the feet or hands. Long straps are also attached to the top end of the frame. Resistance is provided by your body weight and the set of springs.
The reformer is essentially a resistance tool which promotes the development of good alignment, core strength and flexibility. Exercises can be done laying down, standing, and sitting, in fact there are loads of different variations. Most of the reformer exercises however are about pushing or pulling the carriage or holding it steady during an exercise. Exercises vary according to whether you are a beginner or expert.
The reformer provides you with a huge variety of exercises all working on your strength, flexibility, coordination and balance. This will all help improve your overall fitness but many also find it very helpful in targeting key problems like back pain. The exercises also build strong bones and long, strong muscles as the reformer is set up for eccentric contraction. The core is also a main beneficiary as the instability of the rolling carriage really challenges our core.
There is nothing wrong with performing your Pilates on a Pilates mat. For many beginners this is a good place to start and helps with learning the basic techniques and positioning. There is also an argument that using a mat and relying solely on your body’s resistance, with no external support, builds high levels of muscle endurance very quickly. However, the benefits of a machine like the reformer is that resistance doesn’t just come from your body, it comes from the pulleys and springs as well.
In addition, the range of exercises you can do on the reformer is huge, meaning you are unlikely to get bored and give up.
There are many reformers on the market but they all adhere closely to the original designs from Joseph Pilates. Understanding the different components will help you know what to look for when you buy.
The foot bar is the launch pad to move the carriage. The height of this should be adjustable. The ideal height will depend on your height, weight and strength. The springs provide the resistance for your performer as well as your own body weight. Having a gear system will also allow you to adjust the spring tension. The carriage is the piece you are most likely to lay your body on, many do come with upholstery to provide greater comfort. Headrest and shoulder blocks help keep you stable as you perform exercises. Reformers can also come with either leather straps or ropes.
A Pilate’s reformer is an excellent piece of kit but they can cost money. So to ensure you spend your money wisely consider the following before making your purchase.
Remember you do get what you pay for. A good quality machine will last longer than a cheaper model. Regard the purchase as an investment and see it as something that should save you money in the long run on as you will no longer have to pay out for Pilates studios.
See if you can get a well-padded carriage. Check that it suits your height and weight and that it has adjustable headrests and straps as they are also useful.
Always look for good quality build as this will ensure that you make a good, long term investment. So look for solid metal, good quality wood and also a reformer that can support at least 300 pounds in weight.
As with above if you are going to invest in an expensive piece of kit do check that it can grow with you. So look for adjustable resistance levels so that as you get fitter you can adjust your fitness goals. It also helps to have adjustable straps and ropes. Look for at least three resistance levels. Also consider a reformer that can be adapted in the future with different add ons so you can continue to add variety to your Pilates workout.
You may be lucky and have a good sized home gym ready and waiting for a reformer but if you need it to fit in a small space then do sixe up the machine accordingly. Some can be easily stacked up and some can be folded away.
Some models also include a rebounder which is an attachment that lets you turn the reformer into a cardio device.