Reformer pilates is a low impact, total body workout that uses spring resistance to sculpt and tone the body. It can also improve core strength, flexibility, balance and posture and increase coordination and endurance. The benefits of the practice are long lasting and can be seen outside of the Pilates studio too, in everyday movements such as walking, lifting, reaching to tie shoes or bending down to wash your hair.
To get the most out of reformer pilates, it’s best to stick to beginner classes until you feel strong enough to advance your technique. This may take a few months, but once you feel confident in performing the basic moves, you will know when you are ready to progress. Like an Olympic figure skater or gymnast, you must learn and master the basics before moving on to more difficult work.
For runners, reformer pilates is a great way to increase stability, which will prevent injury and help you move more efficiently, while improving lactate tolerance, core strength, balance and co-ordination. In addition, it helps strengthen the legs and hips, which is beneficial for reducing knee and ankle pain.
As an alternative to high intensity gym workouts, a reformer class can be calming and focussed on correct form. It also teaches the mind and body to slow down and move mindfully, which is ideal for busy, stressed-out city dwellers.
The best thing about reformer pilates is that it’s completely adaptable and suitable for any age or fitness level. However, as a newcomer, it’s important to seek the guidance of an experienced teacher. “Start with a beginner class to get familiar with the equipment and your instructor’s teaching style,” says certified clinical naturopath and accredited Pilates instructor Bianca Melas from Alo Moves.
Once you have built up your confidence, you can start to mix things up by adding on different exercises and varying the pace of your workouts. Many studios offer different levels of reformer, from beginners-focussed sessions to more advanced options. Some even offer cardio and circuit versions of the workout, as well as options for those who are injured or pregnant.
Most reformer classes are a little smaller than a traditional group fitness class as you need a lot of space for the reformer. Your instructor will help you set up on the reformer, explain how it works and show you how to adjust your body weight with the various springs (yellow is the lightest, blue is medium and red is the most intense). Your instructor will also shout out the correct reps so you can follow along.
While you don’t need to be a reformer expert to start taking classes, you do need to be Pilates matwork trained and have a good understanding of anatomy before becoming a Pilates reformer instructor. Once you are qualified, you can then teach Pilates matwork and reformer classes, and specialise in certain areas if you wish to. For example, a yoga teacher can do a training course to become a pre/post-natal reformer trainer and help expectant mums stay fit and strong throughout their pregnancy. reformer pilates classes