Reformer pilates classes are a feel-good workout that tone the entire body. While they’re often seen as a low-impact exercise, they’re a great way to strengthen core and upper-body muscles and improve posture, balance and flexibility. But the machine—which is outfitted with springs, a moving carriage and a set of straps—can be intimidating for a beginner.
“It’s really important to get comfortable with the equipment before jumping on and starting class,” says Elizabeth Heidari, a certified Pilates instructor and trainer at Frame, London’s original pay-as-you-go boutique fitness studio. She recommends finding a local studio or beginner online class to learn how to use the equipment and get familiar with its many features, including springs, a front platform, adjustable bars and two sets of shorter straps that can be used for more tension-driven exercises.
A typical reformer includes a flat, cushioned carriage that moves forward and backward along with shoulder blocks for added comfort and stability. A front platform, which is usually hidden by the carriage, houses the springs that can be adjusted for resistance. The long straps near the carriage and a moveable bar facilitate other exercise variations, while a set of shorter straps with handles are often found on the back platform. Your instructor will be able to guide you through the different mechanisms of the reformer as well as any other special components like jump boards or boxes that can increase the challenge of certain workouts.
The movements of reformer Pilates can help prevent and ease common aches and pains associated with pregnancy, such as back pain or pelvic discomfort. They also strengthen the deep abdominal and pelvic floor muscles, referred to as core stability. The exercises are safe for women in all stages of pregnancy and may even decrease urinary leakage in some pregnant women, as well as helping with the positioning of the baby during delivery.
Reformer Pilates can also help runners stay healthy and injury-free by improving their form and creating a strong foundation for running. Runners need a strong core to support their hips, shoulders and pelvis for better posture and increased power and endurance. Reformer Pilates can also help improve the flexibility of the hips, which helps with a smoother stride and reduces the risk of knee injuries.
A strong core is essential to a strong, healthy and flexible body, regardless of age or injuries. While anyone can benefit from a reformer pilates class, Wilson believes it’s particularly beneficial for people who suffer from spinal conditions or have poor posture, as it strengthens core muscles and helps them move with greater efficiency.