Reform Your Body with the Reformer

When you have your first look at Pilates equipment you may think it appears, well, bizarre. I can sympathize with that. It is certainly not your run of the mill exercise equipment. The reformer? Let's face it: it looks like a very uncomfortable twin bed with springs and pulleys attached to it.

Not so inviting.

But it has a very cool history, and the workout that you get from it is anything but average.

Here is some background:

German born Joseph Pilates, who developed the Pilates method, was forced into an internment camp during WWI. While he was there, he developed exercises to rehabilitate the injured and sick men around him. He used items like hospital beds, bed springs and even beer keg rings to create his exercises.

No, we are not in a WWI hospital. So what are you likely to find in a Pilates studio today? A standard reformer looks like this:

The black, rectangular piece is called the carriage. It slides back and forth on rails. You can exercise by lying, sitting, kneeling, or standing on the carriage.

Straps are connected to the pulleys at the top of the reformer. You can put both your feet and your hands in the straps as you perform exercises.

From the front of the machine, you can see the springs.
They provide the necessary resistance for each exercise.

This view also allows you to see the shoulder rests and the headrest. When lying supine, you may rest your head on the headrest, located between the two shoulder rests. However, the headrest can also be a place to position your feet. Likewise, the shoulder rests may well be a prop for your hands.

The black bar on the end of the machine is the footbar. When placing your feet on it, you can exercise lower body muscles. When placing your hands on it, you can exercise upper body muscles.

I know this is a lot to take in.

Here is the skinny: the reformer is a versatile machine that uses springs for both resistance and assistance. The exercises can be modified to work for post-rehab patients as well as athletes.

Like all Pilates exercises, those performed on the reformer facilitate development of the muscles with limited stress on the joints. They restore postural alignment and challenge the core muscles to support the body. They enhance body awareness.

Joseph Pilates called his work contrology. He said it was, "A comprehensive integration of body, mind, and spirit." The reformer, a truly unique machine, facilitates contrology.

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