Pilates Reformer beginners Guide

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Reformer Pilates uses a machine invented by Joseph Pilates, helping improve techniques. The Joseph Pilates Reformer offers resistance and at the same time also assistance. This assistance allows you to have the confidence to take your body to the next level

Joseph Pilates invented the reformer which he originally called the Universal reformer, due to the fact that it could be used for numerous movements (Joseph Pilates didn’t regard his system as exercises – but movements and movement patterns).

Pilates Reformer Machine

Apparently, whilst held captive during the First World War and often confined to their ‘bunks’, it was designed around a bed and bunk bed. His original versions were made mainly of wood, where very heavy and sturdy. The more modern designed can be very light weight, and run very smoothly on rollers.

Perhaps you have tried mat based Pilates and were wondering what all the noise was about the Pilates reformer? You may want to know how the two compare.

When you first glance at the reformer, it can look very intimidating piece of gym equipment. Our ladies at Elite Pilates Studio refer to their reformer as Christian Grey (Fifty Shades of Grey).

Joseph Pilates Universal Pilates machine

Don’t let its intimidating looks put you off though.

Guide to the Pilates reformer machine

Some Pilates Studios run small group reformer classes. Whilst we hope to have a few more reformers, Elite Pilates has personal one-2-one private Reformer sessions.

For the most part in a class you are on the carriage, which moves along the bed using resistance springs.

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The resistance is controlled via springs and differing resistance. This means that for certain movements a heavy resistance may make that particular movements very challenging. Yet the same resistance used on another movement may mean it is made easier. Conversely a light resistance does not mean that the movement is going to be easy, quite the reverse. And with other movements a light resistance may make one part of the movement hard and another part easier ( I am loathe to use the term ‘easier’ or ‘hard’ but for simplicity sake I have chosen to .

Each part of the reformer services its own role. Such as the springs that resist you, the straps tend to strengthen and stretch you.

The carriage of the reformer moves on the reformer ‘bed’ via rollers that help it cast along. When springs are attached it is possible, if you use incorrect technique, for the carriage to ‘slam’ against the reformer bad, making aloud noise.

Pilates Reformer Machine

Apparently Joseph Pilates would come rushing out of his office to berate the poor soul who was clashing the reformer about. Not sure if it as because of their incorrect technique, style or lack of control, or because of the damage this could cause to the reformer!

The Pilates reformer Springs

Most makes of reformer (and there are a few) come with coloured springs. As a general rule the colours mean different strengths / resistances. This may however, vary from make to make. It is getting standardized.

Green = heavy

Red = full

Blue = light

Yellow = very light

Don’t feel that you have to use the same resistance every time you perform a particular movement on the reformer. One day we may feel stronger, another tight and restricted. As with most sports performance, judge how you are on that particular day; what you have used in the past is there to serve as a guide!

The Pilates reformer Straps / Handles

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At Elite Pilates Studio our reformers have straps that can adjust and be used as a ‘long set’ or as a ‘short set’.

Ropes have handles attached and can be used with the hands or feet. The straps can therefore be used in numerous ways, adding to the reformers Universal name. As a general rule, the shorter strap tend to create a heavier tension. The longer straps tend to focus more on balance and stability.

Just placing your feet in the straps to perform a movement, can in  itself be tricky, and can require a certain degree of flexibility.

Pilates Reformer Foot bar

On the other side of the carriage a foot bar again may be used for the feet or the hands. This adds to the repertoire of movements that may be performed on the Universal reformer.

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Most reformer foot bars can adjust, again the degree of adjustment may vary from machine to machine. At some stage you will have to adjust the angle of the foot bar. This may be to perform a different movement, or to make a movement either more, or less challenging.

It can also be moved to accommodate peoples torso, leg and or arm lengths, as we all come in different sizes and ratios of limb length.

Advanced or just Different?

Most people wrongly consider the reformer to be advanced level stuff. Nothing could be further from the truth. His intention was to use the reformer to perfect his movements, and this was translated over to the mat work.

Joseph Pilates reformer machine., YMCA Reformer Pilates Course

The reformer is considered more dynamic and stricter / harder than mat based work. For this reason again he preferred few repetitions on the reformer. Similar to his mat based work of 34 exercises, Pilates had a set ‘routine’ on the reformer. Grouped into series of movements that were linked. Each movement built of the previous and flowed together, complimenting the last series of movements.

Similar to the mat work, his movements have changed and been added to and adjusted over the years. The order likewise has and can be adopted and changed around to suit the needs of the client.

Pilates Teaser (Tower / Reformer)


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Pilates Reformer + Pilates Mat Work

The reformer is a marvelous addition to your Pilates mat based work – but it is not meant to replace the mat work its aim is to go hand in hand and compliment the mat based movements. It is tempting to view the reformer as ‘superior’ to mat work – but it truly is not, they genuinely complement each other. Your mat work will be enhanced due to using the Joseph Pilates Universal reformer. joseph pilates reformer machine, Pilates Practitioner Teacher Training Course

The reformer is a terrific piece of training equipment that offers a tough and challenging workout for the mind and body, allowing you to take both – to the next level.

Much Love from Devon

Tanja x

St Marychurch Road, (next to Plant World)
Newton Abbot
TQ12 4SE
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