Pilates is well known for being the ultimate whole body workout, through routines based around the repetition of movements which extend and tone muscles.
Devised by Joseph Pilates during WW1, the general practice of these movements tends to be on a mat. However, when devising his exercises, Joseph Pilates also identified that more precision, targeted practice – and results – can be achieved by using a machine to improve the impact of exercises by offering resistance, so Pilates himself created the first Reformer Pilates machines. Initial prototypes were further developed as a means of offering exercise to war casualties who were confined to bed and, along with mat Pilates, modern versions of Reformer Pilates machines are now a regular feature at Pilates studios, including at The Klinik.
The Pilates platform
A Reformer Pilates machine is a flat platform which rests on a frame. This platform (known as a carriage) has springs at one end, which attach it to the frame and shoulder blocks at the other end. The spring end of the frame includes a footbar which is adjustable and can be used by the user’s hands or feet, whilst the whole platform moves on wheels within the frame.
The Reformer also includes straps, pulleys and ropes which, in conjunction with the user’s body weight, provide resistance for a more effective workout, as inner muscles have to work against the resistance, something which improves the quality and outcome of each Pilates exercise.
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Machine over mat?
Although a highly popular method for Pilates, and a way in which most of us initially learn Pilates, mat exercises are in fact just a small part of the complete Pilates repertoire. Overall, a workout on a mat, using no additional props, means that about 50 exercises can be completed.
However, approximately 250 movements can be facilitated by a Reformer Pilates machine, exercises which can be performed sitting, lying down, standing, or perched on the foot bar, all of which helps to train and tone many parts of the body using just this single piece of equipment.
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The key to exercising on a Reformer machine is that the focus is on eccentric muscle contractions – the lengthening of a muscle when it acts in resistance. With resistance built into exercising on the machine, length, flexibility and motion, rather than bulk in the muscles, are key benefits which a Reformer machine can deliver more effectively than mat exercises with no resistance.
Additionally, Pilates is not just the number of movements, but the range of motion achievable. The resistance aspect of the Reformer supports development of this range of motion and is an additional benefit which a mat routine cannot deliver in the same way. This range of motion, coupled with the wider exercise range offered by Reformer Pilates, can particularly suit advanced Pilates practitioners too, helping to take progress to the next level and achieve better results.
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With these additional exercise options, the Reformer Pilates machine can offer a considerable number of additional benefits to Pilates enthusiasts of any level of skill or experience, particularly by:
- Facilitating greater accessibility for beginners or those looking for rehabilitation.
- Supporting understanding into how the movements actually exercise the muscles whilst training and toning bodies, as well as how Pilates can support injury prevention in other sports.
- Supporting body alignment, as the in-built ‘lead’ of pulleys and ropes can supporting beginners to achieve the exercises correctly and reduce any injury risk associated with slipping on a mat.
- Offering a low impact exercise option which really supports healing of those undergoing rehabilitation and also supports progress of those new to Pilates or those with additional concerns, such as weight or medical conditions.
- Offering additional variety – as well as that greater number of exercises, the fact that Reformer Pilates makes it easy to try different body positions means that exploring alternative, as well as the most effective movements for individual bodies, allows Reformer Pilates to deliver more.
- Motivation – all Pilates takes effort and on a mat this can, literally, fall flat, but using a Reformer machine means advanced users can increase the intensity, as well as variety of their workouts.
- Improving overall working out – of course all Pilates (mat or machine) delivers holistic health benefits beyond muscles and joints, but using a Reformer Pilates machine also tips Pilates workouts into the realms of additional strength and cardio training, afforded by the resistance training.