Pilates Reformer

You may have noticed new Pilates studios cropping up in your community, decked out with strange-looking machines that look a bit torturous. These studios aren’t your classic Pilates studio. Instead, these are the celebrity-favorite Pilates reformer classes.

Pilates Reformer Machines

Traditional Pilates has you working out on a mat, where you use your own body weight as resistance in a series of moves and stretches. In the more contemporary version of Pilates, the mat is ditched and replaced with Pilates reformer machines that add resistance to the workout through springs and pulleys.

While the machines may look scary from a distance, they are actually quite versatile in their use and effect. The reformer machines were invented by Joseph Pilates and are typically made of a rectangular frame, similar to that of a bed. On top of this frame lies a flat platform called a carriage, which moves back and forth thanks to the wheels that are attached to it.

To give the user a variety of resistance workouts with differing levels of resistance, the Pilates reformer machines come decked out in springs, an adjustable footbar, and long straps with handles on them. All of the reformer parts are adjustable so people of different body sizes and skills can use them.

women working out on pilates reformer machines

Pilates Reformer Benefits

Like classic Pilates, Pilates reformer offers all the same benefits of flexibility, strength, balance and an emphasis on core power (strengthening the muscles of the abdomen). The unique aspect of Pilates reformer is that it offers all of these benefits through a varied exercise routine that keeps the workout from becoming boring.

Some specific Pilates reformer benefits include:

  • Allows full-range motion

    The reformer machines are long enough to allow full-range motion, which helps you achieve increased flexibility and length in the body. The bars and cables on the machine also offer guidance to your body to extend to its fullest capability, something your body might not do by itself in mat Pilates.

  • Strength-building

    Because of the pulleys and springs attached to the reformer machines, you have increased resistance that helps build strength and tone muscle. Because of the increased resistance, your arms and legs are worked out more thoroughly, which means you’ll also get faster results than classic mat Pilates.

  • Promotes balance and core strength

    Because the carriage on the reformer machines has wheels and moves back and forth, you’re often left in a situation where you’re not only working on resistance movements but also trying to keep yourself stable on the platform. Achieving that kind of stability so that you don’t fall off the machine requires you to use your abdomen muscles and practice balance.

  • A better back

    In addition to having great-looking abdomen muscles, a stronger core can also mean a better back by easing any back pain you may suffer from. Researchers believe that by stabilizing the core’s lower back area, mobility is increased and any stress on the area is diminished.

  • Increases body fitness

    In a study published in 2015, it was found that women who did 1-hour Pilates reformer classes 2 times a week over a 16 week period lost fat from their triceps, waists, and thighs. More than that, the women also gained lean mass through their dedication and commitment.

  • Minimal impact on your joints

    Because the movements in Pilates reformer are slow and controlled, there’s little impact on your joints. Plus, the padding on the carriage platform is nice and thick, making it more comfortable for your back and knees.

Pilates Reformer Classes

If you’ve never used a Pilates reformer, you’ll want to look for a class near you to get started. Because the Pilates reformer machines have various parts and adjustments, it’s best to have the guidance of a practitioner for your first few times.

Advanced students may wish to purchase their own home Pilates machine, which is available in both big box stores and online retailers. When purchasing a Pilates reformer machine, you will want to take space, weight, ease of assembly and price all into consideration.


Fetters, K. Aleisha. “Benefits of Pilates: 8 Reasons Every Woman Should Try Pilates.” Fitness Magazine, Fitness Magazine, 30 Mar. 2017, www.fitnessmagazine.com/workout/pilates/benefits-of-pilates/.
Ogle, Marguerite. “What Is a Pilates Reformer and How Do You Use It?” Verywell, www.verywellfit.com/the-amazing-pilates-reformer-2704339.
Cespedes, Andrea. “What Are the Benefits of Pilates Reformer Exercise?” LIVESTRONG.COM, Leaf Group, 30 Jan. 2018, www.livestrong.com/article/261676-benefits-pilates-reformer-exercise/. 
Born and raised in Southern California, Beeta has embraced a healthy lifestyle focused on farm-to-table cooking, natural products, and wellness routines. When she's not writing up recipes or discussing the latest natural living trends, Beeta enjoys spending time trying new restaurants, traveling with family and friends, and relaxing at home with her furry companion.