Introduction to the Equipment: The Pilates Reformer

Today’s Pilates apparatus come in many different shapes and sizes but are fundamentally similar to the equipment Joseph Pilates used in his original studio in New York City. Some features have been enhanced but the basics of the machines remain the same.

The Pilates Reformer is a bed-like device that comes in different heights to accommodate the user. The original reformers were made with wood frames. At PSI all eight reformers are made from metal.

Features of the reformer include:

* The carriage—a mat that slides back and forth.
* Springs which are adjusted to increase or reduce tension to the Carriage.
* The Footbar which is adjustable for different exercises or to keep the client in proper alignment.
* The shoulder blocks help to stabilize clients while on the carriage.
* Straps which can be made of leather or rope are used to move the carriage back and forth.

With its sophisticated system of springs, straps and pulleys, more than 100 exercises can be performed on this surprisingly versatile apparatus. You can perform exercises on your back, stomach, side-lying, seated forward, seated backward, on your knees or on your feet. There is an extensive repertoire of exercises that can be done on the reformer and it is a great piece of equipment to have for group exercise settings.

The core, if you will, of the Pilates Reformer is in the gliding platform on which one can sit, kneel, stand or lie on their front, back or side. The user pushes and pulls off the foot bar using the arms, legs, wrists and ankles to slide back and forth along the rails in a controlled manner while the tension in the springs gently works the muscles.

Torso stability and postural alignment is established while working peripheral limbs in a range of motion. The adjustable springs allow for progressive resistance, which helps to lengthen and strengthen the muscles rather than building bulk. It makes for an effective, no-impact stretching and toning workout that is friendly to the joints.

Don’t be surprised if some beginner Reformer exercises seem simple – a relaxing, almost effortless glide back and forth on the carriage with none of that overexertion sensation you get from pumping iron. The effects go deep, and you’ll engage muscles you never knew you had. As you progress, the fitness challenge becomes significantly greater.