The Reformer is probably the most widely-recognized piece of Pilates equipment around. Invented by Joseph Pilate, the Reformer is basically an all-in-one gym within the confines of a rectangular frame approximately 3 feet wide and 8 feet long. In addition to the traditional Reformer repertoire designed by Mr. Pilates there are countless other applications and opportunities for therapeutic practice, creative movement flows, and athletic conditioning within this one piece of equipment.
In this blog I have included a series of videos highlighting and demonstrating many features of the Reformer so you can gain a better understanding of the spring settings, how it works, how it moves, and individualized set-ups for specific body types. I will also demonstrate some common exercise using the sitting box.
The Pilates Reformer operates with a gliding carriage attached to a series of springs within a wooden or metal frame. Some brands of Reformer have equally-weighted springs, while others have a series of springs with different degrees of tension. I use the Balanced Body Studio Reformers with two green springs (heavy), one Red spring (medium heavy), one Blue (medium), and one yellow (light). As your teacher, I will instruct you as to which springs to use for the exercises. The springs are attached to hooks at inside the frame under the footbar.
The Footbar can be adjusted vertically by moving a little kickstand into slots and locking it into place with sliders. On the Studio Reformers, it can also be adjusted horizontally by moving the spring bar away from the footbar to accommodate taller clients or people with knee issues.
Under the spring bar is a foot strap used when doing the abdominal series on the Short Box and Sidebends. I will demonstrate these in the video.
The Carriage is the platform on which the majority of exercises are conducted. It glides on wheels located just inside the frame and is tethered by the springs. At the top of the carriage are shoulder rests, hooks or pegs for the loops and handles, and the handles/loops. The handles are attached to ropes which feed through pulleys and tie back into the carriage. I will demonstrate the relationship of the ropes to the springs in a series called Supine Arms so you can see how they connect. This connection creates a consistent loop of resistance in both directions, working both the concentric (contraction) of the muscles and the eccentric (release or lengthening) of the same muscles. In other words, there is always work in both directions. Genius!
Last but not least, an integral prop to the Traditional work is the Sitting Box. This prop is necessary for any exercise that requires lying on the stomach, or prone. I will demonstrate this with a series called Pulling Straps so you can see how the box elevates the body to aid in spinal extension (back-bending) and upper back strength.
This barely begins to scratch the surface of all the exercises that can be done on the Pilates Reformer. I highly encourage you to try it for yourself if you’ve never done so, and I would love to take you through your first session.