What is Reformer Pilates?

Reformer Pilates is a dynamic form of Pilates that utilises a specially designed machine called a Reformer to intensify workouts. With greater resistance and a broader range of motion Reformer Pilates is a great way to build strength, recover from injuries, and build definition.

When people hear the term “Pilates”, a series of mat exercises often comes to mind. Still, there’s another dynamic variant of this workout called Reformer Pilates. Let’s embark on a journey to understand it in detail.

The Reformer Machine

The Reformer resembles a bed frame, but it’s equipped with a moving carriage, springs for adjustable resistance, ropes, pulleys, and a footbar. These components allow users to perform a wide range of exercises that can be modified to suit beginners through to advanced participants. This machine adds a whole new dimension to the Pilates practice, making it more dynamic and challenging.

How is Reformer Pilates Different from Mat Pilates?

Mat Pilates is often seen as the foundation of Pilates practice, focusing on core strength and stability. The Reformer introduces varied resistance levels with its spring system while using your body weight for resistance on the mat. This additional resistance can be beneficial for muscle toning, flexibility, and balance.

Moreover, the Reformer aids in performing movements with better alignment and precision. This can be especially helpful for those recovering from injuries as it allows for controlled, low-impact exercises.

Benefits of Reformer Pilates:

Muscle Tone and Strength:

  • With adjustable resistance, Reformer Pilates can rapidly enhance muscle tone and overall strength.


  • The guided movements of the Reformer help lengthen and stretch the muscles, improving overall flexibility.

Improved Posture:

  • Working on the Reformer promotes better spinal alignment and strengthens the postural muscles.

Low Impact:

  • It’s an excellent option for those seeking an effective workout that’s easy on the joints.

Adaptable for All Levels:

  • Whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned Pilates practitioner, the Reformer can be adjusted to cater to all fitness levels.

Who Can Do Reformer Pilates?

The question of who can embark on the journey of Reformer Pilates is valid, especially given the impressive, albeit slightly intimidating, appearance of the Reformer machine. But one of the beautiful aspects of this practice is its adaptability and accessibility. Let’s delve into the diverse range of individuals who can benefit from Reformer Pilates.

Beginners to Exercise:

  • Reformer Pilates can be a gentle yet effective starting point if you’ve been leading a sedentary lifestyle or are new to structured workouts. The guided and controlled movements on the Reformer machine allow beginners to build strength and flexibility progressively.

Individuals with Postural Concerns:

  • Reformer Pilates is often recommended for those with postural imbalances, such as scoliosis or kyphosis. By focusing on spinal alignment and core engagement, it promotes a more upright and balanced posture.

People in Rehabilitation:

  • Those recovering from injuries, surgeries, or chronic pain often turn to Reformer Pilates. Its low-impact nature and controlled movements make it ideal for rehabilitating and strengthening the body without putting undue stress on vulnerable areas.

Fitness Enthusiasts:

  • Reformer Pilates is an excellent addition to the fitness regime of those looking to enhance core strength, flexibility, and muscle toning. Whether you’re into cardio, strength training, or yoga, incorporating Reformer Pilates can offer a holistic approach to physical wellness.

Those Seeking Mind-Body Wellness:

  • Beyond the physical benefits, Reformer Pilates encourages mindfulness, breathwork, and a deep mind-body connection. If you’re looking for a practice that nurtures your mental and physical well-being, this path is worth exploring.

Pregnant Women:

  • With modifications and guidance from a certified prenatal Pilates instructor, many pregnant women find Reformer Pilates beneficial. It helps maintain strength and flexibility, prepares the body for childbirth, and can even aid in postnatal recovery.


  • Athletes from diverse fields – runners, swimmers, golf or tennis players – can harness the benefits of Reformer Pilates. It aids in balancing the body, enhancing performance, and reducing the risk of injuries.


  • Age is just a number when it comes to Reformer Pilates. The practice can assist seniors in maintaining mobility, enhancing muscle tone, improving bone density, and fostering better balance, thus reducing the risk of falls.

Some Considerations:

While Reformer Pilates is accommodating for many, it’s crucial to:

Consult a healthcare professional:

  • Especially if you have existing medical conditions, recent surgeries, or any health concerns.

Start with a certified instructor:

  • If you’re new to Reformer Pilates, beginning your journey with an experienced instructor ensures you learn the correct techniques and get the most out of the practice.

Listen to your body:

  • Everyone’s body is different. It’s essential to tune in, listen to its signals, and make modifications as needed.

Reformer Pilates is a versatile, adaptable, and inclusive practice. From young adults to seniors, from seasoned athletes to those just starting their fitness journey – Reformer Pilates welcomes everyone, offering a unique blend of strength, flexibility, and mindfulness.

Do Reformer Pilates classes teach breathwork?

Yes, breathwork has always been a cornerstone of traditional Pilates practice, and when it comes to Reformer Pilates, this principle becomes even more critical. 

Incorporating focused and mindful breathing patterns enhances the effectiveness of each exercise and transforms the entire Reformer session into a meditative and holistic experience.

Why is Breathwork Essential in Reformer Pilates?

Power and Precision: 

  • In Reformer Pilates, each movement and position requires a certain level of power and precision. Coordinating your breath with these movements ensures that muscles receive adequate oxygen, optimising muscle function and endurance.


  • Proper breathwork is vital in engaging the core, which is the stabilising centre for most Reformer exercises. When you exhale deeply, you naturally engage the deep abdominal muscles, ensuring better stability and posture.

Enhanced Mind-Body Connection: 

  • Mindful breathing helps foster a deeper connection between the mind and body. As you focus on your breath, you become more attuned to each movement, ensuring you perform each exercise with intention and awareness.

Toxin Release and Oxygenation:

  • Deep, purposeful breathing helps better oxygenate the blood. Additionally, exhaling thoroughly aids in releasing toxins and promotes efficient cellular functions.

Integrating Breathwork into Reformer Pilates:

The Lateral Breath:

  • One of the primary breathing techniques taught in Reformer Pilates is lateral or thoracic breathing. Instead of breathing into the belly, one breathes into the sides and back of the rib cage. This technique ensures that the core muscles stay engaged throughout the exercise.

Inhale to Prepare, Exhale to Move:

  • A general guideline in Reformer Pilates is to take a deep inhale to prepare for the movement and exhale as you execute the movement. This pattern can vary depending on the exercise, but it’s a common principle that helps utilise the core’s power and stability.

Breathing with Resistance:

  • The Reformer, with its springs and pulleys, offers a unique resistance that isn’t present in mat-based Pilates. Adapting your breath to this resistance means you’re not just moving against the machine’s tension but also coordinating that tension with the rhythm of your breath. This coordination amplifies the benefits of each exercise.

Breathwork Beyond the Reformer:

Remember, the breathing techniques you cultivate in Reformer Pilates are not just confined to the studio. Incorporating them into your daily life can help in stress reduction, improved focus, and overall well-being.

Joseph Pilates (the creator of Pilates) once said, “Breathing is the first act of life, and the last.” In Reformer Pilates, breathing isn’t merely a background act; it’s at the forefront, guiding, energising, and harmonising every movement. By giving breathwork its due importance, you unlock a richer experience of Reformer Pilates.

Time to Get Started

In conclusion, Reformer Pilates is a versatile and engaging extension of traditional Pilates, suitable for all ages and fitness levels. Whether you’re seeking rehabilitation, strength training, or simply a change in your fitness routine, it’s worth giving Reformer Pilates a try.

Ready for a taste?

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Frequently Asked Questions

Absolutely! Many beginners find the Reformer’s guidance helpful in mastering Pilates’s basics.