What is reformer Pilates?

You may have heard of the benefits of reformer Pilates, but how does Pilates on a reformer machine actually help? 

Reformer Pilates uses the principals of mat-based Pilates including core strength, breathing and flexibility. However, reformer Pilates involves a traditional, versatile piece of equipment that allows for a variety of safe but challenging exercises. While it may appear intimidating, a Pilates reformer is essentially a bed with springs for varied resistance, a sliding carriage, ropes and pulleys. Some may sit flat on the floor while others may be slightly elevated. 

The springs on a reformer can provide a range of resistance. With up to five springs on many reformers, when all combined, it can add considerable resistance. Conversely, depending on the exercise, having less – or zero – springs can be even more challenging, forcing muscles to stabilise the core.

Exercises can be performed on a reformer in a standing, lying or kneeling position.  Sometimes exercises even involve a combination. As the bed can be moved using your arms or legs (sometimes both!), the reformer can be used to target certain areas or enable a total body exercise. 

From a rehabilitation perspective, reformer Pilates allows people to exercise safely without weight-bearing through their lower limbs. For example, I regularly use the Pilates reformer as part of rehabilitation for patients following hip or knee surgery. By lying down and adjusting the springs, the reformer provides a safe way to strengthen the leg muscles with a large range of motion, using a resistance less than their body weight. Early strengthening and mobility provides a safe and speedier recovery.  

Spinal pain sufferers can also benefit greatly using reformer Pilates. A range of challenging exercises can be performed to help build strength and endurance through core muscle groups.  In addition to relieving pain, these exercises are often used in the prevention of chronic low back pain. 

A supervised and safe reformer exercise program should be developed in conjunction with your health professional.   Unfortunately, like all exercise programs, there is no ‘one size fits all’ method. Remember, all exercise programs should be developed while considering your exercise history, current medical history and past medical issues. 

Jason Lee APAM
B. Physiotherapy
Malvern East Physiotherapy 

Jason is happy to answer any questions you may have simply send an email to [email protected]

Written by Jason Lee


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