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How to Use a Pilates Reformer for Beginners

If you’re ready to try reformer Pilates but haven't got the slightest idea how to use the machine, this guide is for you!

Whether you’ve practised pilates on the mat and you’re interested to see how the machine compares or you’ve heard about how the practice gives serious results, we know it can be a little intimidating at first.

But don’t let that sway you from giving it a whirl, because it’s a low-impact workout that can result in significant gains in long, lean muscles and strength, endurance and flexibility.

Pilates reformers have been around for a while, and the story behind them is actually quite surprising for such an of-the-moment workout regimen. In the midst of World War I, a German man named Joseph Pilates invented an exercise technique that we now refer to as "Pilates." Later on in the war, he worked in a hospital, and legend has it, he created the first Pilates reformer by rigging hospital beds with springs so that his soldier patients could exercise with resistance and build strength. And look where are are today!

Usually, in a Pilates reformer class, your body is positioned on the carriage, which glides forward and back using resistance from the springs, and then you use the straps to move through the exercises.

Each part of the reformer has its own purpose: the springs resist you, the straps stretch and strengthen you, and the jumpboards launch you.

Pilates Reformer springs:The coloured springs on the reformers offer varying levels of resistance and stability in each movement. Our teachers will always let you know which to use over the class so make sure to listen and always check in if it doesn’t feel right. The colours are:

  1. Green = Heavy

  2. Red = Regular/Full

  3. Blue = Light

  4. Yellow = Very lightThe key is to tune in to how you’re feeling in each time you’re class. If your energy levels are low or you’re feeling unbalanced, put your hand up. The instructors are there to make sure you get the most from your class and are always happy to make adjustments.

Pilates Reformer Straps:Our reformers have a strap that works as a long set and a short set. These have two loops at the each end and the inside loop is usually wrapped around the shoulder rests. The reformer straps can be used in endless ways, but generally, the shorter straps are used to create heavier tension, such as for lower-body or abs-focused moves. The longer straps on the carriage are typically used for more traditional Pilates exercises that focus on balance and stability while on the carriage. Like the springs, the straps provide tension. Insiders tip: if your teacher asks you to pop your feet into the straps and you’re unsure of how to do it in the least awkward way: lie down and put your head between the shoulder blocks. Reach behind and remove the loops from the blocks, then bend your knees and you should able to easily place the loop around each foot.

Pilates Reformer Foot bar:You will likely be asked to change the reformer foot bar up or down in class and will need to adjust according to your leg and torso length. When lying down, your legs should be at a 90 degree angle at the knee and your shoulders comfortable against the shoulder rest. To move the bar up and down, always hold each side and lift - that way it won’t lock on one side.

Pilates Reformer Jumpboard:A sure way to get your heart rate up! The reformer jumpboard is a padded plate attachment that replaces the foot bar on the reformer. It’s a brilliant non-weight bearing method to do fun running, jumping and hopping exercises without the stress on your joints. The spring tension takes gravity out of the equation so you’ll feel light and almost like you’re jumping on the moon. These are available in our Bondi studio for a play. 

Ready to give reformer Pilates a go?

It’s a workout that will get the endorphins flowing but with an emphasis on control and precision.

Pilates Align

If you’re new to the practice, we’ve created a nine week program with our Pilates Align classes where each week covers a different principle.

It’s a chance to get back to basics, build from the foundations up, and is both a great introduction for new students and a refinement course for those with a regular practice.

The program covers all the exercises in the repertoire broken down into leg and footwork, hands in straps, feet in straps (including spinal articulation), lunge work, hip disassociation, lateral work and hands on bar work, short and long box work, arm work, and hip abduction and adduction work.

Pilates Flow

If you’re familiar with reformer Pilates and are looking for a dynamic class and workout, our Pilates Flow classes offer a challenging series of movements that work to strengthen, tone and balance. Keen to get started? Checkout the schedule Buy a Pass

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