Ask the Expert: The Power of Pilates Reformer

Pilates is an exercise system that focuses on building strength from the center or “core” of the body. Though there are similarities to yoga and martial arts, the Pilates Method has a distinct approach and specific series of movements that is unlike other methods. The exercises are clear and precise; they flow together and can be practiced frequently without any injury. Pilates is for people of all fitness backgrounds and has many benefits.

For many of us, we have either heard of Pilates and/or maybe seen a Pilates Reformer. The Pilates Reformer is a “contraption” made up of steel or wood frame, ropes, springs, pulleys and a moving padded bench that offers many benefits.  The Reformer may look complicated but don’t be intimidated.

The Reformer machine is fitted with springs of different tensions so that workouts can be adjusted to each individual’s needs and levels. Emphasis is put on relaxed rhythmic breathing while performing smooth, coordinated movements. Each controlled movement strengthens, lengthens and aligns the body to create a more balanced individual. The Reformer is low to no-impact, so it is great for people of all backgrounds. Its non-invasive approach is great for those who may have past injuries, may be out of shape or are just entering into the fitness world, as well as those who are fitness enthusiasts to professional athletes.

The Pilates Reformer trains the body to move through upper- and lower-body sequences with extreme control and stability. The Pilates Reformer really zones in on strengthening the core, or as we call it in Pilates, “the Power House.” The Reformer pays particular attention to strengthening the anterior and posterior sides of the body, elongating muscles and strengthening the opposing muscle groups and connective tissue to build a more balanced body, therefore decreasing injury, increasing balance and alignment.

Unlike traditional training/workouts that isolated muscles and joint action, the Reformer works the body as an integrated whole, using multiple joints, muscle groups and multiple planes of motion. It works on a deeper level, into the internal stabilizing muscles in the hips and spine, the key muscles keeping the body properly aligned.

Pilates Reformer sessions are mainly one-on-one but can also be done in a small group setting of 2 to 4. Reformer sessions are kept small so that enough attention can be kept on those practicing and your individual needs. Reformer sessions should only be taught by a qualified and educated Pilate’s instructor, so do not be afraid to ask your instructor of his/her background and credentials. You want to find an instructor and environment that you can connect with and are comfortable with. Wear comfortable clothes with either socks or bare feet.

Try adding one or two Reformer sessions a week into your fitness regimen and within a few sessions you will see improvements in strength, flexibility and mobility.  It takes a few classes to get comfortable with the sequence of exercises, so be patient with yourself and give it a few weeks. Change is great—try something new to spice up your fitness life. Hopefully you will find the joy of Pilates.

Vivian Jung, Certified Pilates Reformer Instructor
April Yakaboski, Owner of Aerial Fitness & Natural Wellness

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