Heard Reformer Pilates is great for you? Read the Margot Robbie raved about it for her whipping her into shape for her Barbie role? OR perhaps you’ve taken a few mat Pilates classes and ready to take the next step. Whether you’re starting fresh or returning to exercise, Pilates and the reformer Pilates machine can seem super intimidating and complex. Don’t stress, we’re here to make your workout experience as seamless and enjoyable as possible, so let’s explore what your first time participating in a Reformer class may look like and relieve those nerves! But first…
What is Reformer Pilates?
Reformer Pilates is a form of Pilates using an apparatus called the reformer machine in place of a yoga mat. We’ll dive deeper into what makes up a reformer and how it works a little later! Like its mat predecessor, Reformer Pilates uses the same principles of Breath, Concentration, Control, Precision, Centre, Alignment and Flow, so you will find many of the same movements in class, just translated onto different equipment. Developed by Joseph Pilates in the 1920s, Pilates was used for rehabilitation of soldiers returning from war, followed by dancers and athletes in the latter part of the 20th century. If you want to know more about the origins and benefits of Reformer Pilates, check out this blog!
It is a low-impact exercise: low-impact does not mean the class isn’t challenging, it simply indicates there is less stress and impact on your joints due to the absence of intense movement such as running and jumping.
Here’s What to Expect at Your First Reformer Pilates Class
1. The Reformer Pilates Machine
The first thing you will see when you walk into class is our Reformer machines. There are several different types of ‘machines’ utilised in Pilates; however, the Reformer is the most-popular and well-known. The Reformer apparatus, as Joseph Pilates called it, consists of a bed-like structure with springs, a sliding carriage, ropes, and pulleys. The springs can be adjusted to increase or decrease the resistance for each exercise, making it a versatile piece of equipment. If you're new to Reformer Pilates, the equipment may look intimidating at first! But don’t worry, just take it slow and your instructor will guide you the rest of the way, helping you perform a variety of exercises using all aspects of the Reformer, including lying down on the carriage, sitting, standing, pulling the straps, and more.
Many Reformer machines have interchangeable, additional equipment such as boxes and jumpboards, both of which can be found in Aleenta Health Club classes.
2. Grippy Socks
Get ready to show off your fancy feet with your very own pair of grippy socks! These are mandatory at Aleenta Health Club as they help maintain hygiene and provide you with a little extra support and grip which is essential on a Reformer machine. You may be a little unsteady when working on a Reformer for the first time, so think of grippy socks as an extra layer of protection helping you balance!
You can purchase grippy socks in-studio or through our online store.
3. A Rainbow of Reformer Mats
You may see your fellow Pilates pals using a thin, beautifully designed mat on top of their Reformer machines. Whilst these are not required for class, we do recommend using a Reformer mat not only for hygiene, but to provide additional grip and support. Sometimes when lying on the Reformer’s carriage, you may slide up and down, which the mats help prevent, allowing you to focus on connecting with each exercise instead. Plus, they certainly don’t hurt to look at!
4. Verbal Cues
This can throw off many first-timers, but don’t start stressing just yet! Even though your instructor won’t be demonstrating on their own Reformer machine, they will be constantly walking around the studio, engaging with you one-on-one to guide you in each exercise and of course, still providing verbal instruction. There will always be regular members taking class alongside you, so if you get really stuck on how you should be moving, don’t be afraid to look to your classmates!
5. Modifications and Adjustments
One of our favourite things about Reformer Pilates is the countless number of ways you can modify and adjust each exercise. Not only can your instructor give physical modifications such as working on your knees in a plank, they can also adjust the level of resistance by changing your springs. The ability to adjust resistance like this is unique to Reformer Pilates, which is why we love it so much! Instead of having to change to a similar exercise, you can simply make the load a little lighter and keep working at it!
This makes Reformer Pilates highly accessible to people of all ages and experience levels, as well as anyone experiencing injuries or chronic illness. Whilst you can take Pilates during pregnancy, Reformer Pilates in particular requires a lot of back-laying and prone positions (lying on your stomach). Our Instructors are trained to provide alternatives for you during this time. We love supporting you during your pregnancy, and always check you have medical clearance to be working out. You can find more information about working out at Aleenta during pregnancy here.
Speaking of resistance, you should definitely expect to be strength-training in a new way. That’s right, no more heavy weights! Each of the springs on the reformer indicates a different level of resistance: light, medium and heavy. The springs can be used independently or in combination to create many different levels of load! Finding it tough to pull the strap? Drop to a lighter spring! Want a little more challenge! Ask your instructor to help you take it up a notch… literally 😘
In addition to the Reformer machine, additional resistance is provided in class via the use of 1kg hand weights, Pilates rings and small balls.
7. A New Kind of Burn
Working with alternative resistance means you will be feeling the burn in places you may have never felt before! It is not uncommon for new clients to feel as though they have discovered new muscles after their first Reformer class. Whilst Pilates always targets the larger muscle groups of the back, abdominals and glutes, it also accesses tiny muscles through small-range movements. Get ready to burn, baby, burn!
8. Breathing Techniques
Breath plays a key part in all Pilates classes, including Reformer. Your instructor will often cue movement alongside your inhale and exhale so your breath is always working in tandem with each exercise. You will learn new ways to breathe by using your diaphragm, a dome-shaped muscle at the base of your chest that is responsible for the expansion and retraction of your ribcage. Consciously accessing this muscle allows for deeper inhalation and more connectivity between your mind and body as you actively engage with your breath.
9. Class Duration and Format
Our Reformer classes are 50 minutes long. You can always expect to begin classes with a warm-up; Bodyformer is a low-impact class that utilizes more traditional Pilates exercises to give you a total, full-body workout! There is little to no cardio, with primary focuses on strength training. Following warm-up, your instructor chooses the format for the exercises, ending class with a stretch and some breathwork.
After completing your first Reformer Pilates class, expect to leave feeling sweaty, perhaps a little sore, but most importantly refreshed and rejuvenated! Not only is Pilates proven to have positive psychological benefits, moving your body in a new way always feels good, so don’t be surprised if you end up wanting to come back for more.
When you're new to Reformer Pilates, it's normal to feel a little intimidated. However, with the help of this guide, you can walk into your first class feeling confident and prepared. Remember, Reformer Pilates is a low-impact form of exercise that is easy to modify and tailor to your individual needs, so you always have the option to take things slow and steady. Don’t be afraid to seek out guidance from your instructor as they walk around the studio; that’s what they are there for! At Aleenta Health Club, we're committed to helping you achieve your fitness goals, so grab your grippy socks and Reformer mat and get ready to feel the burn at our next Reformer Pilates class!
Ready to dive in? Grab your exclusive new-client intro offer here.
Want a deeper understanding of the differences between mat and Reformer Pilates? Check out this blog!