The Pilates reformer is one of the key pieces of pilates equipment designed by Joseph Pilates and although from a distance it probably looks like a medieval torture table, it is actually far better for your health!
The Pilates reformer provides finely tuned resistance to help improve core strength and body alignment, which in turn improves flexibility. If you regularly attend Pilates classes, you will probably come across different styles of reformers—some are made of wood, whereas some are constructed from metal. Some manufacturers include leather or rope straps, and some reformers are built on legs, much like a table. But no matter what the reformer looks like, the basic functions remain the same.
Many Pilates classes concentrate on the provision of exercises based entirely around the reformer, so it can be helpful to understand what each part of the Pilates reformer actually does as well as how the machine works.
- Foot bar: the foot bar is located at one end of the reformer and the height of it can be adjusted using the built in gear system.
- Springs: these provide some resistance from the machine and the rest comes from your own body weight. Springs are normally colour coded, from the lightest resistance of a green spring, to the heaviest resistance of a red spring. The Pilates instructor will let you know which spring you need to use as many variations of resistance can be achieved by using different combinations of springs.
- Carriage: this is the part of the reformer you lie, sit, kneel, or stand on. The carriage moves when you push against the foot bar or pull on the straps at the other end. It is designed to glide along the inside of the frame in response to the amount of effort and resistance exerted.
- Head rest: this can be used up or down, and it mostly depends on which position is the most comfortable for you.
- Shoulder blocks: these keep your shoulders stable when you push or pull the carriage. They can also be used to prop up the feet, hands, or knees for various exercises.
- Straps or ropes: these are connected to a pulley system and have handles to help you push or pull the carriage using your hands or feet.
Once you have an understanding of how the Pilates reformer works, you will discover that there are more than one hundred different reformer exercises you can use it for. A Pilates reformer class is the best place to start using a reformer, but once you are more familiar with the machine works, you might like to consider buying one for your home gym.
Reformers can be purchased from online Pilates equipment retailers. They are fairly expensive, but if you prefer practicing Pilates at home and you have the room to accommodate large pieces of Pilates equipment, you might consider this to be the best choice for you. If in doubt about which reformers are going to be the best buy, take advice from a Pilates instructor.