Beginner’s Guide to Reformer Pilates

For beginners looking to venture into fitness, Pilates has become a globally recognized choice due to its numerous benefits. The low-impact exercise practice gives a holistic approach, enhancing both your physical and mental well-being. If you have been curious about trying Pilates but feel intimidated by the equipment, you’re not alone. Reformer Pilates, in particular, can look a bit daunting at first. However, it’s one of the most effective ways to build strength, flexibility, and overall body awareness. Let’s break down what Reformer Pilates is, why it’s beneficial, and how you can get started as a beginner. 

What is a Pilates Reformer? 

One of the most well known pieces of Pilates equipment, the reformer, is an exercise apparatus invented by Joseph Pilates in the early 1900s. A Reformer is made up of a frame and platform bed that is generally 7 feet in length and about 2.5 feet wide. 

  • Sliding Carriage: The part you sit, stand, and kneel on, which moves along the whole machine using wheels. The sliding carriage allows for a full range of body movements and exercises. 
  • Springs: Color-coded springs attach to the carriage to provide a weight resistance to each exercise. You can choose which springs to use to create the best resistance for different exercises. 
  • Foot-Bar: The foot bar is located at the end of the reformer, by the adjustable springs. Usually,  the foot bar can adjust offering you a secure place to put your feet or hands while performing certain exercises. 
  • Straps: Most reformer machines have two straps, long and short, which help add tension to exercises to improve muscle strength. 
  • Front Platform: This is a solid platform near the springs and foot-bar that allows you to stand and stabilize one or both legs during different exercises.

Benefits of Reformer Pilates: 

While Mat Pilates exercises are effective, Reformer Pilates offers more by adding adjustable resistance, leaving room to create an even more customized and tailored workout. The Reformer’s springs, straps, and foot-bar are all used to add additional challenges to your workouts. As you become stronger, lighter springs can be used to make the exercises more challenging. Both beginner and experienced practitioners can benefit from the assistance the Reformer gives in maintaining alignment while performing Pilates exercises. 

  1. Improved Strength: The reformer allows for exercises that work every part of the body. It’s particularly effective for core strengthening but also targets arms, legs, and back muscles. 
  2. Enhanced Flexibility: The movements and stretches performed on the reformer enhance flexibility and joint mobility. 
  3. Increased Muscle Tone: The resistance provided by the springs helps build lean muscle mass. 
  4. Better Posture: By focusing on alignment and control, Reformer Pilates helps improve posture and body awareness. 
  5. Low Impact: It’s gentle on the joints, making it suitable exercise for people of all fitness levels, including those recovering from injuries. 

5 Pilates Reformer Tips for Beginners: 

  1. Control Your Breathing: Pilates breathing techniques, which involve deep, controlled breaths, enhance the effectiveness of each movement. The key to staying in control is your breath. Deep breathing allows you to target core muscles and reduces the influence of your spine for a complete abdominal workout.
  2. Take it Slow: Practicing proper breathing and focus is essential because you reap the most benefits from Pilates through slow, purposeful movements. Yes, Reformer Pilates does help you build muscle and strength, but not in the way cardio or HIIT workouts do. Pilates reformer machines help stretch and stabilize muscles through slow movement. 
  3. Don’t Forget to Stretch: It is so easy to start a workout forgetting to stretch beforehand. Dynamic stretching before working out helps blood flow, loosens muscles, and enables you to reach peak performance at maximum resistance during exercises. Overall, stretching prepares your body for movement, helping to prevent injury. 
  4. Alternate Muscles: To get the full benefits out of a Pilates workout and improve muscle recovery, it’s important to alternate muscle groups. In Pilates, to get a full body workout and prevent muscle strain, be sure to work out each muscle, right to left, for an equal amount of time and with equal pressure. 
  5. Maintain Posture: Posture is vital to maintain circulation through your body. If you’ve practiced Mat Pilates, you’ve learned the importance of posture. With Reformer Pilates, it is crucial to keep your posture in check to avoid lower back pain now that we’re adding weight to these exercises.

Is Reformer Pilates Better Than Mat Pilates? 

In short, no—it all depends on your personal and fitness goals. A workout on the Reformer takes the mind-body Pilates method up a notch. If you are a beginner, we recommend starting with Mat Pilates* to understand the practice’s foundations and classic movements. If your fitness level is moderate to more advanced and are seeking to strengthen and grow in your fitness journey, Reformer Pilates is just for you. Either way, you’ll receive an excellent workout that you can scale to your current fitness level. 

Reformer Pilates can be a transformative workout, offering numerous physical and mental benefits. As a beginner, the key is to approach it with an open mind and willingness to learn. With the right guidance and consistent practice, you’ll soon discover the many advantages of this dynamic form of exercise. So, take a deep breath, stretch, hop on the Reformer, and start your Pilates journey today! 

Read More: Beginner’s Guide to Mat Pilates


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