Reformer pilates classes are low impact and a full-body workout that strengthens muscles and improves flexibility. However, they can be a bit intimidating for beginners. To help ease the transition, certified clinical naturopath and Pilates instructor Bianca Melas of Alo Moves recommends finding a local studio with a beginner class. Alternatively, online classes that focus on the fundamentals are also a great option.
In addition to providing a foundation for the beginner, these classes can teach proper form and movement while also allowing participants to push themselves to different levels of difficulty. Once you feel comfortable moving your body at a slow and controlled pace, it’s time to advance your practice and incorporate more advanced exercises into your routine. “Just like a ballet dancer or gymnast starting out, you will likely see your progress in small increments,” she says. “Perhaps one or two of the beginner exercises are used within each session while adding in more challenging movements and advancing the progression of the whole sequence.”
Reformers are highly adjustable, so instructors can tailor the equipment to all bodies and abilities. For example, a beginner can start with smaller springs to prevent injury while more advanced practitioners can increase the amount of tension and challenge their bodies even further. This is a big part of what makes the reformer so beneficial for all types of fitness enthusiasts—from those new to exercise to those with long-standing injuries or medical conditions.
The equipment consists of a flat, cushioned carriage with shoulder blocks and a front platform that often houses the springs for adjusting resistance and facilitates additional exercise variations. Depending on the reformer, the back platform may also have longer straps with handles and adjustable bars to allow for more challenging core exercises.
Aside from building strength and endurance, reformer pilates can be used to treat injuries by strengthening weak muscles and correcting misalignment. It can also be used as an aid for pregnant women and can help reduce back pain, fatigue, hip and leg pain and aches. In fact, research suggests that women who regularly participate in exercise during pregnancy can deliver their babies with less pain and recover faster after childbirth than those who don’t exercise.
In a group reformer class, students perform a series of core-centric movements and exercises that focus on the spine, legs, arms and hips, using the carriage as a base to move the body. The combination of movements creates the long, lean, strong yet flexible physique that is a hallmark of the Pilates method.
If you are new to reformer pilates, a beginner or advanced class is the best place to begin. Beginner classes are designed for anyone looking to build a foundation for their Pilates practice or gain experience operating the equipment. The advanced classes are for those who have mastered the beginner exercises and are ready to challenge their core strength, balance and stability.
Reformer Pilates is a safe and effective exercise for any age or injury, provided your doctor has cleared you to exercise. It is a low-impact and full-body workout that strengthens muscles without bulk, builds muscle tone and helps prevent injuries, such as back and neck pain. Those who do Pilates regularly report that they have more energy and have better posture, flexibility and balance. In addition to being a great workout, reformer Pilates is an effective way to manage stress and anxiety and can improve sleep.