“THE REFORMER DOESN'T LIE”
The reformer does something a little sneaky. It takes all those times you cheated during mat work – with our without knowing – and brings it to your attention. Because you're on a moving object that is attached to springs, if you don't do the exercise just right, you're in for a not-so-smooth ride.
“You cheat on the mat a little bit and you don't know,” says Wade, the owner of Halifax's Studio In Essence. “And the reformer doesn't lie. It moves or it doesn't move, or it moves really fast. So you have to articulate through your body and be more controlled.”
The resistance from the springs also allows you to isolate specific muscle groups. On the mat, where the only resistance is often your own body, exercises like bicep curls and tricep extensions aren't in the workout. But with the straps, you can target small muscle groups in the arms, for example; or with the foot bar, you can work out all parts of the leg.
Evans says the reformer's versatility means the participant is in for a full-body workout.
“You can get into many, many different positions on the reformer,” she says. “You can lie supine, you can lie prone, you can sit facing any direction, you can kneel, you can stand, and you can lunge. So with that in mind, you can target any of your muscle groups.”
And with all those directions and parts, Pilates on the reformer requires your mind to work just as hard as your body. Not unlike every other form of Pilates, you must focus on your muscles – and concentrate.
“It brings your attention to what you're doing,” says Evans. “You can't do it mindlessly.”
ANYONE CAN DO IT
Despite the reformer's complicated nature, both Evans and Wade assure me it's for beginners and experts alike. Anyone can get on the reformer, so long as the participant is appropriately prepared.
Wade says a participant should use the mat to get comfortable with basic Pilates principles, such as breathing and muscle awareness, and then move to the reformer. She says this process could be as simple as attending a private class before moving to the equipment.
“You need to get an idea of where you're breathing and all of that, and then apply that to the reformer,” says Wade.
Evans says a participant could start on the reformer if they wanted, provide the class goes through the same awareness that would be done on the mat.
No matter your background, you don't want to completely switch your exercise regime to Pilates on the reformer. It's important to vary your workouts as much as possible so that your body doesn't get used to the same routine.
“For a healthy person who is really doing it for fitness, it's good to have as much variety as possible, in the workouts and on the equipment,” says Evans.
With all the other pieces of equipment Joseph Pilates provided for his exercise system, such as fitness circles, weighted balls, barrels, the stability chair, and the Cadillac, variety isn't hard to achieve.
For Wade, equipment such as the reformer, designed to either give support or provide a challenge, opens up to the participant another layer of the Pilates method.
“I think all of the equipment serves its purpose to give you a little extra piece of the puzzle to help you understand.”