5 reasons why you should give reformer Pilates a try
We hear that Meghan Markle is a big fan…
By Liz Connor, PA
Anyone who thinks that Pilates is easy has clearly never tried a 'reformer' class before. This trendy type of exercise class delivers a killer workout by transferring the techniques taught in the original mat-based Pilates workout onto a machine that's loaded with springs and pulleys.
During a class, your own body weight and the spring-loaded table on the machine is used as resistance, and you're challenged to perform movements that are designed to target specific muscle groups. It's no wonder it's loved by super fit A-listers like Vanessa Hudgens, Karlie Kloss and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex.
The reformer machine looks a bit like a rowing machine and consists of a cushioned platform (called the carriage) which is attached to a metal frame by springs and moves as you push or pull with your legs and arms. The springs are weighted to provide resistance, and there are also long straps with handles attached, which can be pulled to move the carriage.
The machine you use might look like a torture device, but don't let that put you off giving it a go. Here are some of the seriously great benefits you can reap from a regular reformer routine.
1. It works all the muscles
Pilates is famed for helping people to achieve abs of steel, but it's secretly great for targeting every area of your body. Although the exercises don't look as explosive as plyometrics or cardio classes, the range of movements engage muscles in the legs, arms and shoulders.
Lorraine Jenkins who is a teacher at Love Lagree (lovelagree.com) and teaches her classes on a megaformer machine (a souped up version of a reformer) says: "Clients leave the 50-minute workout feeling complete from head to toe, working not only their larger muscle groups but also the intrinsic muscle groups. Many of them say that they've worked muscles they didn't know they had."
2. It's the ultimate leg toner
Looking to achieve the pins of a Victoria's Secret model? The reformer might look like your worst enemy, but it's your best friend when it comes to leg toning. Pushing away the carriage of the machine with your legs requires brute strength and ultimate control, which is no easy feat over the course of an hour-long class.
"It takes a lot of stability to balance on the reformer machine so the muscles have to work even harder," says Jenkins. "Quadriceps, glutes and hamstrings are all fired up from squatting and lunging in all directions. "Performing inner-thigh exercises on the moving carriage also works the abductors to prevent hip and knee pain."
3. It's low-impact
Using springs, straps and the padded carriage in a reformer class makes it the perfect low-impact fitness option if you're recovering from an injury. Ahead of the class, you should let your instructor know so they can modify the exercises to work with your injury.
Lying on the carriage and moving the legs using the foot straps keeps the range of movements while taking the pressure off weak or damaged joints, for instance. "Even though the method is low-impact and safe on the joints it doesn't mean we lose intensity," says Jenkins.
4. It promotes flexibility
Flexibility is one of the key benefits of the reformer workout. "The different range of motion used in the workout lengthens and strengthens the muscles at the same time," says Jenkins. During exercise, it's important to not only lengthen the muscles but strengthen around the joint to prevent injuries, says Jenkins. "For example, the lunges performed on a light spring with a long back leg lengthens the hip flexors while working the quads, hamstrings and glutes in the primary leg to strengthen around the hip and knee joints."
5. It can blitz away stress
If you don't like the sound of getting barked at in a boot camp class or performing repetitive burpees in a HIIT session, reformer Pilates is a great way to reap the benefits of a post-exercise high without gasping for breath or feeling like you're on the verge of passing out. Classes are usually an hour long and are a great excuse to get out of the house, leave your phone in a locker and escape from the day's stresses.