Reformer Pilates Explained: How It Can Work For You

Reformer Pilates


Words by Bridget March

It promises greater flexibility, strength and stamina – and yes, everybody’s welcome

The famous and influential – from Margot Robbie to Meghan Markle – swear by the body conditioning benefits of reformer Pilates (where the low-impact, mind-body discipline is performed on specialist equipment, allowing for a more dynamic, supportive, and/or targeted workout). But the practice is for all.

“The reformer machine was originally designed by Joseph Pilates using rudimentary materials such as bed springs to help add a level of resistance to exercises,” explains Hollie Grant, founder of Pilates PT – but the reformer was also designed to support those who needed help during certain exercises, she notes. “Many of the reformer exercises are simply mat Pilates exercises that use the machine to either make the exercise more challenging or make it easier. This is the beauty of the reformer – it can help intensify exercises (by increasing resistance), but it can also ease exercises (by providing support through resistance).”

Indeed, “that you need to be ‘in shape’ to do reformer Pilates is not true,” says James Shaw, who has taught reformer Pilates at Equinox St JamesFrame and Third Space. Ergo, reformer Pilates a great place to start in the world of studio workouts, he explains. “All the exercises can be progressed and regressed to the individual being taught. This will enable you to be challenged, thus strengthening you in multiple ways and setting you up to achieve your fitness goals.” It’s even ideal for those who are injured, Grant adds, as the machine can support you and help ensure correct positioning.

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But regardless of abilities, Grant adds that reformer Pilates classes can be more engaging than mat-based ones. “Reformer machines offer so many options, and alternatives to exercises that a mat simply wouldn’t allow. This is why people become addicted to the method and continue to practice it for decades!”

Here Shaw tells Bazaar all you need to know about reformer Pilates, plus we share our favourite spots to practice the discipline in the capital.

The unique benefits of reformer Pilates

“The Pilates reformer is an amazing piece of apparatus like no other, which helps you to find length and space in the body while under spring tension. Far from just a workout for your core, this piece of apparatus helps create internal pressure to elongate the spine, joints and muscles which then leads to greater flexibility, strength, stamina and a more balanced posture. This type of physical and mental workout is even more relevant now due to lifestyle factors such as long working days, being seated for long periods of time, and mental health aspects, to name just a few.”

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Practice means progress with reformer Pilates

“Like any other sport or discipline, to become better at Pilates you must practice. I’d say to start twice a week to get to grips with the apparatus and get oriented with the workings of the reformer machine. But then, the more you can practice the better you will become.

“Pilates is laced with technical term and movement choreography which at the start can seem daunting. But in time, as you become more familiar with the Pilates method, you’ll be moving using the deepest muscles of the mind and body that you didn’t even know you had.”


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Breathwork is a priority in reformer Pilates

“Holding the breath is a common mistake. Breath is one of the six Pilates core principles and we encourage breath with the movement. Breathing is proven to lower blood pressure, helps to bring one’s focus from the mind to the body and help engage the deeper abdominal muscles.

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“The Pilates philosophy is to build a strong powerhouse or core and then progress outwards.”

Reformer Pilates is suitable for all

“Pilates is for anybody and everybody – and the reformer doesn’t discriminate; it’s there to help us all.

“From rehab clients that need the support of the springs to enhance their recovery, to desk workers that sit too much, pro athletes and anyone on a pre- or postnatal fitness journey. Reformer pilates is complementary to all lifestyle.”

This article originally appeared in