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Ask the Expert: Is there a standard spring and stopper setting on the Reformer that works for all clients?

Q: Is there a standard spring and stopper setting on the Reformer that works for every client, or should this be adjusted for each individual based on their torso length and ability?

A: There are a few basic things to keep in mind when setting the Gearbar and Carriage Stopper positions ahead of a Reformer workout.

At the outset of a session, the Carriage Stopper position should be set based on the client's torso length, leg length and comfort.

For most individuals, the ideal position is achieved when there is a 90-degree angle at the hip joint when they are supine on the carriage with their heels on the bar.

If there is too much flexion in the knees when the balls of the feet are on the bar, or if they have knee or hip issues, you can adjust their settings and positioning as required.

The Gearbar is then set based on the Carriage Stopper position.

Merrithew®’s High-Precision Gearbar has six positions. So each Carriage Stopper position matches up with its corresponding High-Precision Gearbar position, like so:

Carriage Stopper position 1 = High-Precision Gearbar position 1
Carriage Stopper position 2 = High-Precision Gearbar position 2
And so on…

Merrithew’s Traditional Gearbar only has three positions. So the Carriage Stopper and Traditional Gearbar should be arranged as so:

Carriage Stopper position 1 = Traditional Gearbar position 1
Carriage Stopper position 2 or 3 = Traditional Gearbar position 2
Carriage Stopper position 4 to 6 = Traditional Gearbar position 3

After the Footwork portion of the workout, the Carriage Stopper can be adjusted based on the exercise being performed, the client’s comfort level or the desired spring tension.

For example, if the Carriage Stopper is at position 4, it may need to be moved in to position 2 to create a better range of motion for the arms in the STOTT PILATES® Mid-back Series or Back Rowing Preps.

The positions may also need to be adjusted for any exercises where the feet are in straps, like Bend and Stretch or Short Spine, to ensure the carriage is not being drawn too close to the Pulley Bars.

When the Carriage Stopper and Gearbar are both at positions 2 and 2, this is often referred to as the ‘standard position,’ as it is appropriate in the majority of situations. However, it is not the best choice in every instance.

It’s up to the instructor to determine which setting is most suitable for each client and each exercise.

Be aware that by changing the relationship between the Gearbar and the Carriage Stopper, you will alter the spring tension. If they are closer together, there will be less tension; if they are farther away, there will be more tension. 

The only time there is an ‘incorrect combination’ between Gearbar and Carriage Stopper is when there’s no initial tension on the springs, creating some 'play' or looseness when the carriage is all the way in to the stopper.

There must always be some initial tension on the springs to ensure safety and exercise effectiveness.

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