Health and Fitness

Reformer Pilates – What’s the difference and what’s all the fuss about?


Reformer Pilates is similar yet very different to mat based Pilates. Reformer Pilates is done using the Pilates reformer machine and is generally more intense and more dynamic than mat based Pilates as it adds resistance to the Pilates exercises via the use of the springs which form part of the machine.

Reformer Pilates is superior to mat based Pilates as the repertoire of exercises available is greatly increased providing far more variety. The exercises usually work muscles through a large range of motion which is ideal for building and toning muscles as well increasing stability through the joints. Reformer Pilates works more areas than matwork as matwork is mostly core whereas reformer works the entire body and more the peripheral muscles of the arms and legs.



Reformer Pilates was originally used to break down the flowing movements of the matwork to strengthen an individual and get them to a level to which they can do the matwork effectively but it has many more athletic and toning benefits than just this.

Reformer Pilates can be used as a sport specific cross training tool. Reformer Pilates works on core stabilisation which is vital to any athlete as well as muscle endurance, lactate tolerance, peripheral joint stability, muscle strength, balance, co-ordination and much more.

Reformer Pilates is great for rehab purposes too as it allows the client to exercise in a horizontal plane of motion and not be vertically loaded and weight bearing through their legs. For example if a client has had knee surgery or a knee injury, this horizontal plane enables you to strengthen the muscles of the leg through a larger range of motion using a lighter resistance than their body weight, speeding up their recovery through controlled movement.

The Pilates reformer is a traditional piece of Pilates equipment which looks like a bed with springs, a sliding carriage, ropes and pulleys. The origins of the Pilates reformer date back to the original Pilates studio in New York in the 1920’s and was designed by Joseph Pilates himself.

Many people are quite scared of the reformer when they first see it as it looks quite intimidating and almost medieval. Put any fears you may have aside because after just one or two workouts on a reformer and you realise that it is the most versatile and effective piece of exercise equipment ever made…plus it’s great fun!

The springs that provide much of the resistance from the reformer are generally quite strong. Most reformers have up to 5 springs and when combined can add up to a considerable resistance. Conversely, as there are five springs, using only one or two of them can provide a gentler resistance depending on the exercise and the muscle being worked.

This means that the intensity can be varied considerably from one person to the next, making it an incredibly versatile piece of equipment to use as a workout or rehab tool.

Some reformers are made with a wooden frame and others are made with a steel frame. Some sit on the floor while others are raised. Depending on the brand of reformer, the style changes slightly.

When purchasing a reformer you should stay away from the ones priced at just a few hundred dollars. Your investment should range from $3,000 to $6,500+ depending on the quality. This might sound like a lot for a home user, but if you consider the fact that you can duplicate almost every exercise that every piece of gym equipment does as well as about 200 or so more, then all of a sudden it’s looking like a great value investment. Add to this the fact that you will never have to buy a gym membership again and it’s looking like a real winner!

How do I get certified to teach? Well the first step is usually to get Pilates matwork qualified as this gets you a good base of knowledge and experience. You can then take it to the next level by getting reformer certified.

Pilates matwork training enables you to teach matwork classes in gyms, while reformer training enables you to teach in a Pilates studio environment or teach group reformer classes.

Studio Pilates International® provides both Pilates Matwork and Pilates Reformer training across the country with easy payment plans available. CLICK HERE TO SEE UPCOMING COURSE DATES

Learn about becoming a Pilates instructor from Studio Pilates International® Co-Founder Tanya Winter by clicking on the video below. To find your nearest studio where you can do Reformer Pilates call 07 3899 4555 or click the image below.