Reformer Pilates: What is it and Does it Get Results?

Words by Isobel Coughlan

Reformer Pilates is fast becoming the go-to class if you're looking to strengthen and sculpt your perfect body. The practice has received particular press attention this year, with personalities from newlywed Megan Markle to professional World Cup football players singing its praises.

With a focus on resistance and alignment, this 20th-century concept of exercise is undoubtedly challenging for both the body and the mind. The whole workout is done on a Pilates Reformer machine - a sliding metal bed with springs and pulleys - adding intensity to the exercises through resistance.

The equipment might look more like a torture tool from the 19th century than the basis of a good sweat session. But fear not! It's a more straightforward piece of equipment than it first looks. Keep reading to find out more.

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What is the difference to Classic Pilates?

You can’t scroll through your Instagram feed without seeing someone snapping a chic reformer Pilates class these days. But how does this swanky alternative measure up against classic Pilates workouts?

Classic Pilates focuses on working your body on a simple mat. No machines around here! Rather than relying on a Pilates machine for resistance, you use your body to simulate the same movement.

Also, classic Pilates is the basis for the whole system of these workouts. Reformer Pilates takes this resistance-based approach and transforms it from you vs gravity to you vs pulleys and springs.

Here’s a quick comparison of Pilates vs Reformer Pilates at a glance:

  • Intensity — Typically, Reformer Pilates is more intense than mat-based Pilates.
  • Resistance — Both types of Pilates are based on resistance. However, Reformer Pilates offers more resistance due to the machine.
  • Equipment — Traditional Pilates is based on a floor mat, while Reformer Pilates uses a specialist “reformer” machine.
  • Cost — Reformer Pilates classes require big studio spaces for the machines and tend to be more expensive than traditional Pilates.
  • Accessibility — Without a reformer machine, you can’t do Reformer Pilates at home. But you can watch online videos and simulate traditional Pilates classes from anywhere.

Which style of Pilates is best for beginners?

Most Pilates teachers would say classic Pilates is the best option for beginners. This is because it teaches you how to control your muscles during the workout, where to focus, and how to pace yourself.

However, don’t let this put off trying out Reformer Pilates classes first. They can be a great way to challenge yourself, especially if you’re already fit and into strength training.

The only place beginners probably shouldn’t start is with advanced classes! Advanced classes are designed to be tougher, and the teacher won’t explain the basics.