The reformer originates from the original piece of apparatus that Joseph Pilates developed using the beds in the POW camp. It resembles a bed with springs, ropes, pulleys, and a sliding carriage. On first impression, it can look quite intimidating and almost medieval. However, once you experience a workout on it, you will be pleasantly surprised and hooked.
The reformer gives you a lot more variety than the traditional mat workout, and due to the spring resistance, a lot more intensity. It was originally used to break down the fluent movements in a matwork sequence and strengthen the participant to enable them to execute the exercise with better movement quality. However, it is now used as a great piece of apparatus to strengthen, tone, lengthen, lift, and stretch. It is also a great sport-specific training tool. All exercises initiate with strength from the core, which is necessary for any athlete or sports enthusiast, and the exercises will encourage peripheral joint stability, balance, co-ordination, muscle strength, and flexibility.
From a rehabilitation aspect, the reformer is great as it enables the client to exercise in a horizontal plane of motion, therefore not vertically loading and weight bearing through the joints. An example of this is post-knee surgery, where strength and stability is needed around the knee joint but using light load and non-weight bearing. You can increase or decrease the workout intensity by changing the amount of springs on the hooks. Sometimes, less springs can make the workout harder rather than easier.
The Pilates cadillac is a raised mat table that includes metal poles, various metal bar systems, and springs. The raised table allows for easy accessibility, and it includes a strap which assists with grounding your legs during certain exercises. It also has leg springs, arm springs, the rolldown bar, fuzzy straps, the trapeze, and the push-through bar.
The leg springs can be used for supine or side-lying leg exercises and the arm springs for supine, kneeling, and standing exercises. The rolldown bar can be used for numerous exercises, which include the rolldown with an added arm press and side bend, as well as chest expansion and thigh stretch. The fuzzy straps are used for inversions, such as the half and full hang (of which you cannot do on the reformer), which allow reverse blood flow to your brain and decompression of the spinal column. The trapeze is classically used for the ballet stretches and other exercises. The push-through bar can be used to stretch your legs, shoulders, and spine in numerous ways, and can be connected from the top or bottom of the cadillac depending on the exercise.
One of the primary benefits the cadillac has over the reformer is that, when doing arm or leg exercises using the springs, each leg or arm has its own spring, so when doing bilateral work, it shows up any imbalances between right and left.
The stability chair is another extremely valuable piece of equipment that is very functional. The chair utilises tension springs, similar to many other types of Pilates equipment. The handlebars located on the side of the chair are adjustable for different heights, allowing it to work with different body types. While there are many exercises that can be practiced while sitting in the chair itself, there are countless other exercises that can be practiced by standing, kneeling, and balancing on different parts of the chair itself.
The stability chair is fantastic for people that cannot lie down on their back due to a pathology or pregnant ladies in their second to third trimester. It is therefore a brilliant alternative to the reformer during pregnancy when legwork can no longer be done lying down. It is great for leg strengthening work for skiers and sportspersons alike and can simplify a mat exercise or challenge a mat exercise. There are some great abdominal exercises that can be done on the chair and also great scapular (shoulder) work.
Consisting of a frame with a curved barrel and a wooden ladder attached, the ladder barrel is great for everyone, from beginners to the fully conditioned exerciser. It challenges core stability and strength and is designed for serious core conditioning and to increase flexibility and mobility. It compliments the reformer workout well as it enables you to learn some of the exercises on here first, with better ease, before doing them on the reformer.
The spine corrector is an essential Pilates tool that can be used to perform exercises lengthening and strengthening the torso, shoulders, back, and legs while correcting or restoring the spine’s natural curvature.
An ideal piece of equipment for aligning and mobilising the spine, the spine corrector can also assist with improving posture. Its slanted platform, with dense foam padding and smooth pale wooden handgrips, provides comfort for clients while accommodating diverse exerciser needs.
The arc barrel features a gentle curve that helps decompress and lengthen the spine and is used during matwork to increase or decrease challenge and to assist rehab clients. Dense EVA foam cushioning provides optimal comfort and faithful proprioceptive feedback
The spring wall is a wall-mounted piece of equipment that consists of a wooden board with 2 columns of eye hooks either side whereby springs with handles can be attached at different heights. It is similar to the cadillac, with arm springs, leg springs, and a rolldown bar, but can be used in a group class setting. You can then perform exercises in standing, kneeling, seated, side-lying, side-standing, forward-facing, backward-facing, supine, and prone positions. The spring resistance helps to add challenge to exercises and also make it easier to get into the deep stabilising muscles. A great workout.
The cardio tramp attaches to the end of the reformer. It is basically a mini-trampoline, but you are jumping lying down, on your side, or on your knees, but not standing. This allows you to elevate your heart rate, metabolise fat, and improve cardiovascular fitness without the stresses on your joints due to the laxity in the trampoline and also due to lying down so no gravity force is going through the body. The trampoline sections are intervaled with other reformer resistance exercises to produce an effective HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workout. This is a fun and challenging workout with a HUGE emphasis on the abdominal muscles.
The jump board is similar, but it is a hard surface, which means it does not offer as much give on the joints, but still provides a fab workout. It also affords a bigger base for footwork exercises with variations.
Exclusive Pilates will also incorporate many other pieces of equipment into the workouts. This includes: