The Joint Ventures' Blog

What Is A Pilates Reformer?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Despite its intimidating looks, the Pilates Reformer is an intelligent apparatus that offers a challenging and effective workout for all. The most well-known piece of Pilates equipment, its sophisticated design of springs, pulleys and a platform offer a versatile repertoire of exercises that incorporate strength and flexibility training in a way that enhances posture, balance, and coordination.

pilates reformer

Starting from the “foot of the bed” the parts of the Reformer are as follows:

Stationary platform

• Adjustable footbar, which is pushed or pulled using the arms, legs, wrists, and ankles in a controlled manner

Springs of multiple tensions that easily hook and unhook on the spring bar to modify resistance for different exercises and muscle strength

Carriage stopper which allows one to change the distance of the spring bar from the end of the carriage to accommodate leg length

• The body works on the carriage lying down, sitting, kneeling, or standing and glides it by working the footbar or straps at the head of the Reformer. An adjustable headrest and shoulder rests are present for comfort.

Straps are connected to pulleys at the head of the reformer and have loops on the end that you grasp or put on your feet to pull or push the carriage

Essentially, the extremities push or pull the carriage against the resistance provided by your bodyweight and the springs, while you work to maintain spinal stability and postural alignment.  The variable springs provide an effective, non-impact workout, and allow for progressive resistance, which helps to lengthen and strengthen the muscles.  The joints are not stressed and the deep core muscles engage in a way that you have never experienced before.

Physical therapists have had successful results using the Reformer with a wide variety of patients, including professional athletes, wounded warriors, women post-mastectomy, prenatal and pediatric patients.  Kerri Walsh-Jennings and Misty May-Treanor, who won gold medals in beach volleyball at the 2004, 2008, and 2012 Olympic Games, credit Pilates as part of their success.  Walsh-Jennings reported that she took 60 minute Pilates sessions 2-3 days/week to increase her flexibility and strengthen her core, in addition to helping to her restore body awareness after her two pregnancies between the 2008 and 2012 Games.  Mark Recchi, who announced his retirement after Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals at the age of 43 (elderly in NHL years), found an integrative approach of cross-training essential to his success.  He reported that combining yoga and Pilates “is one of the best things I ever decided to do when faced with the realization of retirement and wanting to ‘go out’ on posture has improved, core strength fortified, leg strength enhanced, and joint mobility and flexibility have increased 10-fold. My stamina is significantly greater. I’m playing hockey stronger and more youthful then when I began my career 20 yrs ago, and this was only after a few sessions.”

Even the biggest NBA stars utilize the Reformer to condition! Check out several photos here:

Joint Ventures offers Pilates Reformer training in its Kenmore Square office, for both physical therapy and private training to enhance rehabilitation, injury prevention and sport performance! If you are interested in these services, please e-mail Kristen at

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