I’m sure the first time you ever ventured into a Pilates studio you took a look at the equipment also known as “apparatus” and had no idea what you were going to be doing on those big machines we call a reformer. It consists of a carriage that moves back and forth on tracks within a frame and a set of springs attached to both the carriage and the platform.

It is important to understand the history of the apparatus. Joseph Pilates first created the reformer during World War One while being held at an internment camp. The idea came to him when some of his bed ridden internees needed a way to stretch and strengthen so he attached springs to their hospital beds and started creating his method over the next decade.

Over the years the apparatus has changed forms many ways while still trying to respect the integrity of Joseph’s initial design. Reformers are used in most Pilates group classes as a resistance-based workout using a set of springs. The springs all have a different heaviness’s based on the tension. Ex: red spring is heaviest, blue is in the middle and white being the lightest. Each exercise’s difficulty level can usually be a changed by adjusting the spring setting. Sometimes the exercise actually gets harder the lighter the spring is (Ex: Standing side splits)

The footbar provides a perch for the feet or hands as you send the carriage back and forth. Most reformers allow you to adjust the height of the footbar based on the exercise. For example, when doing footwork, you would have the footbar all the way up versus doing a plank you would bring the footbar all the way down so it sits flush with the platform almost making it as if it isn’t there.

As many exercises are done lying down, your head will be on a headrest. The headrest can also be adjusted to be down and flat or raised up at an angle. Instructors will often let you know the position of the headrest. Usually it is down as to be safe not to load too mush pressure onto the cervical spine. Attached to the headrest will be your shoulder blocks which are mainly used to keep you in place on the carriage.

Last but not least, the straps. Connected to poles at the top end of the reformer, the straps have handles on the ends in which you can grip with your hands or for certain exercises like hipwork, you would loop the straps over your feet.

Understanding the basics of the reformer can help you get more out of your workout. We can’t wait to see you at the studio!