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Everything You Need to Know About Reformer Pilates

Everything you need to know about Reformer Pilates - Aleenta BARRE

If you read lifestyle mags or are on socials, you may have noticed that everyone from Margot Robbie and Cameron Diaz to David Beckham are obsessed with reformer Pilates, and for good reason. It’s the exercise of choice if looking to strengthen, lengthen and tone muscles and improve your balance and flexibility. 

Grab a mug of your favourite herbal tea, get comfy and let’s get started, lovely!


Know What You’re In For

For our Aleenta regulars, you’re probs already familiar with our mat Pilates classes and the associated ab-ache post-class 🤣. Or perhaps you’ve been practising regular mat Pilates elsewhere and ready to up-level your fitness game with reformer Pilates. Whatever the reason, we want to share the ins and outs to get you ready for your first class. 


So, What is Reformer Pilates?

Reformer Pilates uses the principles of Breath, Concentration, Control, Precision, Centre and Flow, similar to a mat Pilates classes, but in Reformer Pilates a piece of equipment called the Reformer is used. Developed by Joseph Pilates in the 1920s it was used for for rehabilitation of soldiers returning from war and with dancers and athletes.

Anatomy of a Pilates Reformer

Whilst it looks a little intimidating, the Reformer apparatus (as Joseph Pilates liked to call it) is a piece of equipment that looks like a bed with springs, a sliding carriage, ropes and pulleys. The springs can be adjusted to increase or reduce the resistance for each exercise. 

The best thing about the reformer is its versatility. A variety of exercises are performed using all aspects of the equipment including lying down on the carriage, sitting, standing, pulling the straps, feet in the straps, holding the footbar, one foot on the apparatus, etc.

So, just to give you an idea about how the Reformer works in action Aleenta Training, Head Trainer and Co-Founder, Alicia has a free online Reformer workout. Give it a watch to see how the reformer moves and some of the exercises you'll do during a class.

The Benefits of Reformer Pilates

1. Full-body Workout

A full body workout, Pilates is amazing for toning every muscle in your body. And the amazing variety of exercises on the reformer means you will never do the same class twice. According to Joseph Pilates "You will feel better in 10 sessions, look better in twenty sessions and have a completely new body in thirty sessions". 


2. Challenging Yet Low-Impact

It is a challenging low-impact workout which will have you working your entire body to improve strength, muscular endurance and flexibility. If you’re expecting the class to be slow and easy, think again! While small movements are performed slowly to begin with, they effectively target precise (and underused) muscle groups that you may not remember using before, if ever! The result: a strong core and burning muscles. Be prepared to wince every time you go up and down the stairs at work the next day, or two. On the upside, you’ll notice results in less time than traditional mat Pilates classes, especially if you’re averaging for 2-3 classes per week. 

3. The Class Can Be Tailored to Your Needs

Classes can be easily tailored to your fitness level with every exercise including a progression and regression option and springs adjusted according to your level of experience and strength. 

4. Perfect For Rehabilitation and Recovering From Injury

The reformer is great for injury rehabilitation with a focus on core strength and alignment. Today we spend so much time sitting, bent over our desks and many injuries come from muscle imbalances and improper posture or lack of mobility. Reformer Pilates strengthens the core muscles and focuses on teaching proper body alignment and stretches to aid in recovery. 


What is the Difference Between Reformer and Mat Pilates?

We’re glad you asked! The major difference is one is performed on a yoga mat on the ground, and the other elevated on the reformer bed-like machine (with moving parts!) throughout the entire class. There are some other key differences to be aware of before jumping into your first class.

1. You Need to be Super-Focussed

You will need to practice your listening skills, particularly as a beginner, as there’s lots of verbal guidance on positioning yourself into different poses on the carriage and platform. Your Instructor will be giving you direction on changing the springs, straps and the use of optional equipment such as hand weights.

2. Greater Balance Required

While the foundational movements are the same between mat Pilates and reformer, the later is a greater test of balance as you’ll be doing all sorts of movements (think lunges, squats and planks) on a moving carriage.

3. Ability to Adjust Resistance Levels

Probably the biggest difference between mat and reformer Pilates is the varying springs of resistance that can be altered to add or remove extra weight for the movements performed. In other words, the moves burn more than in a mat class. Think ouchy. Good ouchy!


What Equipment Does Reformer Pilates Use? 

Your instructor may incorporate the use of light hand weights in the class, a resistance band and/or a Pilates magic circle to grip and squeeze between the thighs or hands, and a box for seated positions. These are all optional and dependent on the exercises and your degree of comfort with utilising different pieces of equipment. We suggest you get used to the carriage, the springs and the platform first and then scale it up with the props once you’re feeling more comfortable after a few classes. While technically not equipment, we suggest you come prepared with fitted activewear and be aware that your body will be in lots of different positions, and you may not want your tank falling into your face as you’re practising your best downward dog on the carriage! Grippy rubber-soled socks are required to prevent any slips. Aside from that, bring along a hand towel for the sweaty forehead, a water bottle to keep hydrated between poses, and your beautiful self.


Can Anyone do Reformer Pilates?

Absolutely! it's perfect for those starting out on their fitness journey and for those more advanced. It can be used by itself or combined with other forms of fitness like yoga or barre. 


Ready To Get Started? 

Try out Aleenta for 7 days with UNLIMITED classes here.

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