When Joseph Pilates created his system of movement in the 1920s, he invented an apparatus that eventually became the modern-day Pilates reformer. The goal: address physical dysfunction and injury and condition the body.
The Pilates reformer is a large piece of fitness equipment that kind of looks like a bed frame. It might look complex, but once you understand the parts and how to use them, you’ll more easily pick up the exercises.
The device is made up of a few key elements:
1. Carriage: This is a flat, moving surface that glides on wheels along the frame of the machine. It’s the part of the apparatus that you sit, stand, kneel, or lie on.
2. Springs: The carriage attaches on one end to several springs, which range in weight.
3. Foot bar: At the end of the reformer that contains springs is the adjustable foot bar. You’ll rest your feet or hands here.
4. Straps: At the end opposite from the foot bar, you’ll find straps that your hands and feet can use to perform various exercises.
There are a lot of different ways to do Pilates exercises on the reformer, but they ultimately all require you to control the carriage and work against the resistance of the springs.
"Most exercises are designed around pushing or pulling the springs, or holding the tension of the springs and the carriage still as you execute a movement," Jenny says.
While you may do the same Pilates exercises on the mat and on the reformer, the reformer allows for a more versatile experience and offers endless ways to change it up.
"The resistance created by the springs provides a more-challenging strength and endurance workout,” Jenny says. “The versatility of the equipment allows students to never plateau, as there are always ways to make an exercise more challenging.”