When you first look at a Pilates reformer, you might think the piece of equipment in front of you is more of a medieval torture device than some workout equipment. That’s because of its sliding platform, ropes, springs, handles and foot bars. And you might wonder why anybody would want to use it and torture themselves.
However, once you have tried a Pilates reformer for yourself, you will love it – regardless of whether you are brand new to Pilates or have previous mat Pilates experience, as it is extremely versatile. In fact, the benefits of a Pilates reformer are almost endless offering a myriad of exercises helping body and mind harmonize and work more efficiently.
Low-impact, maximum intensity
There is a common misconception that reformers are something for the more experienced with a strong core and strong muscles. However, this type of Pilates machine is perfect for anybody. One of its great advantages is the fact that it offers support during exercises making it also ideal for beginners or those with a weaker core.
All reformer exercises are based on the principle of resistance, i.e. on pulling and pushing with legs or arms to move the carriage. It is the resistance of the springs and the body weight that make the carriage more or less difficult to move. To customize individual exercises, the level of resistance can be adjusted by the amount of springs used in each exercise.
Regardless of the type of reformer exercise, it is not speed that counts but performing each resistance exercise in a slow and controlled manner exerting little force on your joints thus making the exercises low-impact with a very low risk of injury. And as the level of each reformer exercise can be adjusted according to your level of strength and fitness, the exercises offer maximum intensity for the individual. So you get the maximum benefit out of your reformer workout.
Stronger core, healthier spine
Workouts based on a Pilates reformer are very effective full-body workouts. The reason is that the constant resistance of the tension springs on a moving carriage requires the whole body to stay awake and work through full ranges of movement. So all major muscles in the body, including the core made up of abdominal and lower back muscles, are involved and worked.
As all core muscles get exercised in a reformer workout, the result of these exercises, among others, is a stronger core leading to a healthier spine as you will be able to generate power without exposing yourself to back injuries. So when you engage in rigorous physical activities or just lift and carry heavy bags, you are far less at risk of hurting and damaging your back.
Also, exercises can be performed sitting, lying down, standing, kneeling, pushing the foot bar, pulling the straps, resting on the foot bar, perched on the shoulder blocks, on your side, upside down, and in all sorts of similar positions. This is a significant advantage when you are suffering from injuries or pains as you can do your exercises in a position that is comfortable and suitable for you helping your body heal and get stronger.
Improved posture and flexibility
There is no doubt that reformer Pilates has a highly beneficial impact on your posture and flexibility. It targets whole muscle groups with a full range of motion strengthening and toning those muscles that help stabilize the spine and pelvis. This, in return, leads to more muscle flexibility while minimizing back pain caused by muscular imbalances.
In other words: when your muscles are balanced and flexible, they can support the spine more evenly and correct incorrect postures. And this helps to alleviate back pain that was due to sitting or standing incorrectly.
A good Pilates reformer workout addresses virtually every part of the body, and each exercise is balanced by another – every contraction is followed by a release and for every pull there is a push. So a Pilates workout is highly balanced in itself.
During the exercise, the ropes and bars of the Pilates machine help the body align properly and stay in the correct position ensuring it is stable and balanced. This way, the whole body gains more stability and ‘learns’ to stay in the right posture.
Healthy body, healthy mind
Joseph Pilates, who developed the Pilates workout system, believed that mental and physical health were closely connected and that it was necessary for the general wellbeing to harmonize body and mind. For this reason he devised exercises that not only benefit the body by improving posture, muscle tone, balance and joint mobility, but also the mind by relieving stress and tension.
The calm motion when performing rhythmic movements on the reformer can be very soothing and a huge stress-reliever as tension is worked out of your body. Also, synchronizing breathing with the flowing movements on the reformer tremendously helps to create better body awareness enabling you to better understand physical signals. At the same time, consciously controlling your breath will help quiet the mind.
Finally, by focusing on how your body and mind relate as you work through the reformer exercises, you will improve your concentration levels which is said to boost thinking and problem solving. So the reformer workout is one that leaves you relaxed and energized rather than exhilarated and exhausted.
To sum it up: anybody can exercise with the reformer and at any level of fitness. There are so many different exercises – and positions to perform them in – available, that any sort of need is covered. So the reformer is truly a universal piece of Pilates equipment and the benefits of a Pilates reformer are almost endless.
Whether you wish to improve your overall strength and flexibility, correct your posture or strengthen the stabilizing spine and pelvis muscles to minimize muscular imbalances and back pain, the reformer is an invaluable piece of equipment helping you achieve these long-term health goals.
As with any type of exercise, it is important to practise reformer Pilates regularly to ensure lasting results. So having your own machine at home will make this much easier for you. And you don’t need a lot of space as there are foldable reformer models available now, like the AeroPilates Reformer 287.
But a word of warning: Never start exercising with any type of equipment before getting introduced to it by a qualified instructor. This is particularly important if you suffer from any injuries or back pain. You need to know how to do your exercises correctly and – when suffering from back problems – which exercises are best for you.
Performed correctly and regularly, reformer workouts are simply a perfect way of gaining and sustaining a healthy body and mind.