Pilates is a form of strength conditioning exercise with a highlight on core strength. Dynamic movements flow through its “five essentials”: breathing, cervical alignment, rib and scapular stabilisation, pelvic mobility and utilisation of the core.
Joseph Pilates created this exercise method based on his experience studying yoga, martial arts, Zen meditation and Greek and Roman Exercises. He first applied it to a non-ambulatory.
Adding support to the patient’s limbs facilitated earlier recovery, to which the Pilates method was born. He also highlighted the connection between the mind and the body in this method and its dynamicity to be gentle and challenging as needed.
In 2018, there was about 9 million training in pilates in the United States, showing that this method has a significant following in the US.
In this article, we’ll go through the different types of Pilates to give you an idea of what suits you best. We’ll review Mat Pilates versus Reformer Pilates, looking into their differences. After which, we’ll go deep into the Reformer Pilates. Who is it for, how is it done, and what benefits can we get with this method.
Reformer Pilates – Definition
Reformer Pilates classes uses a Reformer machine, a sliding horizontal platform within a box-like frame where the person will sit, stand, kneel or recline. The reformer machine can provide support, full range of motion and varying resistance to movement with the use of springs, pulleys and wheels. Joseph Pilates invented this pilates equipment as a device to help soldiers injured in war to recover faster.
The reformer pilates has the following parts:
1) Reformer Frame
The frame is one of the important parts of the reformer machine, being where everything is attached to it must be very stable to carry the weight of the user and all the contraptions attached. Classically, this is made from solid hardwood but now metal frames are available.
2) Reformer Springs
This is the main source of resistance in the reformer machine along with the user’s body weight. There are about 4-6 springs hooked to a spring bar that allows graded resistance.
The footbar provides a rest for the foot or hands, and may also act as a launch pad to people the carriage out.
4) Gear System
The gear system helps in changing the distance between the spring bar from the end of the carriage, therefore adjusting the spring tension.
5) Reformer Carriage
This looks like a flat board that you’ll most likely lie or kneel on. Placed on top of this are the shoulder blocks and headrest that can be used as support.
6) Reformer Shoulder Blocks and Headrest
These are adjustable supports that can be used as props for the feet, knees and hands as well.
7) Reformer Straps and Ropes
The straps are connected to the pulley system at the top of the Reformer Machine. These straps have loops or handles that can be grasped for pulling or pushing the carriage.
Other types of Pilates
Mat Pilates, from the name itself, usually involves movements with lying supine, prone or sitting positions performed on a mat. It has a high premium in stabilising the core muscles with gravity. This creates resistance through body weight movements. Exercises are usually done without exercise equipment by needing just the mat and still being able to give a great whole body workout.
Comparison Between Mat Pilates and Reformer Pilates
Both would help activate the core to flatten and tone the midsection and strengthen the spine and back. But still, one can be better depending on your preference and fitness level.
The reformer machine can provide greater sources of resistance with springs as well as acting as a support system with the cables, bars and blocks. Having such assistance can help recovering patients who are undergoing rehabilitation. Mat work may seem basic but it can facilitate full control of your body without relying on springs and cables for resistance and assistance.
But due to the resistance by the springs and pulley system of the Reformer, there are a greater variety of exercises that can be done in the Reformer. Anyone can perform from basic to highly advanced exercise in any position in this machine, as it facilitates a full range of motion to help build, tone and strengthen muscles, as well as increase joint stability. Another key difference is that mat class usually targets a specific target muscle group, while Reformer Pilates can target multiple muscle groups at the same time, for example in the Chest Expansion, the core muscles are engaged and the upper arms, chest and shoulder muscles are also working in the same move.
Reformer Pilates–Who Is It For?
Pilates reformer workouts, according to instructors, is low-impact and adaptable to all fitness levels. Hence anyone can have a great workout with the reformer. The equipment and exercises can be modified and adjusted to anybody.
This can be utilised for various reasons, such as injury rehabilitation, training for other sports and toning up if a person has certain medical conditions, such as spinal or neck problems.
You can proceed with proper modifications on your pilates exercises by communicating with your pilates instructors your level and medical conditions that you may be experiencing. Though it doesn’t have many restrictions, an important caveat is that the person should be able to lie down on their back for prolonged periods, which is not indicated in pregnant women in their third trimester as they may have difficulty breathing.
Starting out easier or in a lighter setting should not bring you any shame. As we’ll all start from somewhere and there is no shame in trying. If you haven’t had any workouts for a while, this can also be a good start. Starting with a few sessions and slowly building it up can help us overcome our sedentary lifestyle and achieve our weight loss goals.
Living in such a fast paced world with tons of deadlines and activities to be done, responsibilities to comply with. We tend to get cooped up with all. Having reformer pilates class can help us relieve ourselves of stress, as it has been found out that pilates training creates changes with our stress hormone levels. What a win for us to have better physical health and mental health.
If you are feeling kinda scared in starting, fret not as during reformer classes we are accompanied by a certified pilates instructor to guide us in the movements. Sessions can also be done with friends in group reformer pilates classes or in big groups with club pilates.
Sample Moves Done in Reformer Pilates
We’ll get on the sample moves done in the Reformer pilates machine. Reformer pilates focuses on areas of the body that are overlooked or abused.
This move is usually the first move done by the reformer. It is done while lying on the pilates reformer machine’s carriage or the flat platform with both feet on the foot bar. Hips and knees would be flexed, forming a right angle while pulling on the bar, in a controlled manner, towards the navel area.
This strengthens the muscles of the feet and stabilises the ankle joint. Variations can be done by opening up the knees to create a V-shape when pulling the bar to the navel.
2) Long Stretch
This is done starting with a hinge position or a downward dog position. The performer bends at her hip with both hands on the bar, hips high up the ground and both feet planted flat on the carriage of the pilates reformer machine. After which the performer slides down to plank position. And goes back again to the starting position. This works to strengthen core muscles and shoulder and back muscles.
3) Chest Expansion
This is done while kneeling on the pilates reformer carriage and the front of the thigh resting on the shoulder blocks. The performer would be holding the pulley straps at the level of their mid-thigh, and with their shoulders engaged, they would pull the pulling straps towards their back while maintaining balance on their knees. This is a great way to strengthen and sculpt the upper body, especially the triceps and the back muscles, thanks to the resistance provided by the straps.
4) Side Overs
This is done by sitting sideways on a short box on top of the pilates reformer carriage. The foot closest to the foot bar is hooked on the strap, while the other flexed leg rests on top of the short box.
The next step would be orienting the body to a side plank position with hands outstretched to both sides.
This is to ensure that all joints are in the same line, pointing to the same side. Then the performer inhales, gently dipping the body, in a controlled manner, towards the side bed. And then going up to the starting position. Repeat on the other side after a couple of reps. This targets the obliques and the deeper abdominal muscles.
5) Leg Circles
This is done while lying at your back on the pilates reformer carriage with both feet in the straps—shoulder against the shoulder pads. The starting position would be both legs straight up and together, reaching as high up with the head to the tailbone straight and stable.
The next step would be separating the legs, maintaining straight legs, completing one circle, and returning to the starting position. This works the core muscles and the pelvic floor muscles as we have to control the movements.
Benefits of Reformer Pilates
Benefits include the following:
Strength building, especially with the arms and legs, while focusing on the core.
Reduced injury risk and improvement in static and dynamic balance and functional mobility in adults ages 65 and up who are at risk of falling
Increased bone density
Increased muscular endurance
Strong and lean muscles
Helps lower blood pressure
Helps in weight loss
Decreased stress levels
Reformer Pilates exercises are a great body workout regimen that provides low-impact movements and is highly effective in muscle strengthening, toning, and increasing flexibility and improve posture. Anybody can do it with or without previous experience in Pilates.
Reformer fitness classes Singapore can help gently build up strength for beginners, improve physique for athletes and rehabilitation and recovery for patients with musculoskeletal problems.
Give it a try, ask your local pilates instructor more about it and enjoy the workout!