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What is a Pilates Reformer
At the spring end of the reformer, there is an adjustable bar called a footbar. The footbar can be used by the feet or hands as a practitioner moves the carriage. The reformer also has long straps with handles on them that are attached to the top end of the frame.
They can be pulled with legs or arms to move the carriage as well. Body weight and resistance of the springs are what make the carriage more or less difficult to move. Reformers parts are adjustable for differing body sizes and different levels of skill.
How is a reformer used?
Exercises can be done lying down, sitting, standing, pulling the straps, pushing the footbar, perched on the footbar, perched on the shoulder blocks, with additional equipment, upside down, sideways and all kinds of variations. In other words, the reformer can train many parts and dynamics of the body in so many different ways with just one relatively sleek piece of equipment.
All kinds of exercises are done on the reformer to promote length, strength, flexibility, and balance. Most Pilates reformer exercises have to do with pushing or pulling the carriage or holding the carriage steady during an exercise as it is pulled on by the springs.
There are many, many reformer exercises, including those for first-time beginners to exercises that challenge the most advanced practitioners. For example, there are beginner Pilates reformer workouts and an intermediate Pilates reformer rowing exercise workout.
Benefits of the Reformer
The Pilates powerhouse muscles, the muscles of the core, are paramount for building strength. Flat abs, strong backs, toned buttocks, and thighs are all results of this emphasis. Other equipment and Pilates mat exercises do that too, but the reformer creates a unique and varied exercise environment.
The reformer is large enough to accommodate full-range motion which is wonderful for increasing flexibility while building strength. It seems to invite the length we want to create in the body, and it trains the body to sustain that length.
Pushing and pulling with legs or arms against the resistance of the springs, carriage, and body weight is generally strength building.
The exercises provide enough resistance and movement variety to help build strong bones. And there is a special feature, eccentric muscle contractions. This is when a muscle lengthens as it resists a force. The reformer is a set-up for eccentric contraction. That is one of the keys to achieving the long, strong muscles without bulk that Pilates is known for.
The instability of a rolling carriage with the springs set at different levels of resistance provides all kinds of stability challenges that develop core strength and promote better balance. For example, having less of the body on the carriage is one of the ways Pilates exercises get harder. It means more body weight has to be supported by the practitioner, and the body and machine have to be controlled even more from the core. Paradoxically, when the springs are in a lighter setting, some exercises are more challenging for the core because it has to work harder to control and stabilize the movement. The stronger core, the better the balance, posture, and overall well-being.
Reformer Pilates can be used as a sport specific cross training tool. Reformer Pilates works on core stabilisation which is vital to any athlete as well as muscle endurance, lactate tolerance, peripheral joint stability, muscle strength, balance, co-ordination and much more.
Reformer Pilates is great for rehab purposes too as it allows the client to exercise in a horizontal plane of motion and not be vertically loaded and weight bearing through their legs. For example if a client has had knee surgery or a knee injury, this horizontal plane enables you to strengthen the muscles of the leg through a larger range of motion using a lighter resistance than their body weight, speeding up their recovery through controlled movement.
Exercising with the reformer is possible for anyone, at any level of fitness. It’s no wonder the full name of the reformer is the Universal Reformer.