What Is Reformer Pilates and What Can It Help With?

Pilates is a series of exercises and fitness techniques, which were invented by Joseph Pilates, as a way to train and strengthen your body.

Pilates tends to focus on exercises that strengthen the core muscles, thereby stabilising the set of muscles that act as a foundation of support for all other parts of the body and muscle groups.

A common misconception is Pilates is limited to exercises which use only the resistance offered by one’s own body weight.

While Pilates commonly consists of exercises that use no extra weight as resistance, there are, in fact, many techniques in pilates which incorporate resistance training with equipment beyond one’s own body weight.

This is where a key difference between the more commonly known “Mat Pilates,” and the lesser known “Reformer Pilates” begins.

Mat Pilates is mostly about exercises done on a mat with no additional weights or equipment, while Reformer Pilates is done using equipment that has been specifically designed for Pilates exercises.

The equipment that is mostly used in this type of Pilates is a device called “the Pilates reformer,” hence, the name, “reformer Pilates.”

The Reformer

A Pilates reformer is a mechanism which consists of various pullies, levers, springs and bars which can be adjusted to facilitate many different Pilates moves and for variable amounts of tension or resistance.

Many have jokingly said that to someone who has never seen a reformer, it may resemble something like a torture device with all of its straps, bars, and contraptions.

In most cases, Reformer Pilates is thought to be a more advanced evolution of the Pilates series of exercises and is therefore not usually the first thing that a skilled Pilates instructor will give to a class of beginners.

It is said by many seasoned practitioners of Pilates that the reformer should not be used until the practitioner has had an adequate amount of time as a Pilates student with plenty of instruction and experience in the Pilates realm.


Before you jump the gun on choosing to enrol in a Reformer Pilates class over a Mat Pilates class, keep in mind that even some of the most seasoned teachers of Pilates will tell you, that the two different approaches will actually bring similar results.

They both have the fundamental Pilates ideas on how to train the body, which muscles to focus on and what types of movements are most beneficial.

Due to the enhancement of the exercises by the equipment used in reformer Pilates, it could be said that results could become noticeable in a shorter period of time with reformer pilates, but at the cost of a more intense workout session.

That said, reformer pilates could likely be a bit much for someone who has not done Pilates before, so even if you are someone who is in a rush to see results, everything must start somewhere, and for true results, that place should probably be the beginning.

Be sure to seek out a good instructor for your Pilates endeavours, as the case tends to be in all fitness practices, a bad teacher with bad habits can be counterproductive or even cause injury, while a good one will get you right where you want to be in less time than you expected to be there.