Reformer pilates classes are a great workout for people looking to tone muscles, improve posture and strengthen the core. They’re also a good option for anyone recovering from an injury or who is pre- or post-natal. But it’s important to choose the right class for your body and fitness level. “It’s a good idea to find out as much as you can about the instructors,” says Pilates instructor and clinical naturopath Bianca Melas of Alo Moves. “Check their website or call them to talk about their training and philosophy.”
Many reformer pilates studios offer a range of classes that vary in difficulty from beginner-focussed to those suitable for intermediate and advanced abilities. Some even have cardio and circuit options, stretch sessions, and options for those who are pre- or postnatal. For those new to the reformer, it’s important to take a few beginner classes before moving on to the intermediate and advance offerings, as well as familiarise yourself with the different parts of the machine. Most traditional reformers have a moving carriage, a flat platform that is stationary and houses springs to adjust tension, as well as longer straps for balance and stability exercises and shorter ones for more movement-driven resistance-based exercises. Generally, springs are colour-coded with yellow meaning light, blue medium and red heavy. It’s also a good idea to be mindful of your hands and feet when using the equipment, keeping them away from the spring area to prevent injury.
Generally, the slower pace of reformer pilates classes might feel a bit counterintuitive if you’re used to the high-intensity sprints and bursts of Tabata exercise. But Gordon adds that slow and controlled movement can be more effective because it allows you to perform each exercise correctly, helping you achieve better proprioception of the spine and core as well as a deeper awareness of your breath.
For those who are interested in becoming a reformer pilates instructor, the first step is usually to get matwork certified and then go on to do further reformer training. Once you’ve got your certification, you can then teach both matwork and reformer classes in studios or gyms.
Reformer pilates is also an excellent workout for pregnant women, as it’s safe to do under the guidance of a qualified instructor during all stages of pregnancy. The exercises are low-impact and help strengthen the deep abdominal and pelvic floor muscles (also known as core stability) that can reduce back pain during pregnancy and help with delivery and labour. They also increase postural strength and can decrease urine leakage in those with bladder problems like urinary incontinence. Pregnant women who regularly participate in pilates have been shown to have easier deliveries, less fatigue and are able to recover faster after giving birth.