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What is Reformer Pilates? Everything you need to know

Loved by stars like Kendall Jenner and Margot Robbie for staying in shape, Reformer Pilates is becoming increasingly mainstream


Hansa Tote
Lifestyle Intern
Updated: 5 days ago
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Loved by A-listers like Hailey and Justin Bieber, Kendall Jenner and Margot Robbie, Reformer Pilates has been around for years but has finally become mainstream. No longer reserved for the rich and famous, Google searches for Reformer Pilates have grown almost five times since 2020 with search volume increasing by an incredible 652% as it becomes ever more popular.

Reformer Pilates uses an apparatus made up of pulleys and springs to work the body, using the resistance of the springs to feel the burn. The benefits can be huge, according to Martyn Oakley, head of fitness at Everlast Gyms (part of Sports Direct). "Reformer Pilates often involves many of the same stretches as mat Pilates, but the beauty of the reformer is that it helps you to get more out of your workout and target particular areas of the body," he explains.

Margot Robbie attends the 96th Annual Academy Awards on March 10, 2024 in Hollywood, California© Getty Images
Margot Robbie swears by Reformer Pilates

The hottest Pilates studio in Hollywood is arguably Forma Pilates, dubbed "Los Angeles and New York’s most exclusive exercise class" by Vogue – so exclusive, in fact, that you need a referral to get in. It's where all the biggest supermodels go to maintain their catwalk-ready physiques, with Bella Hadid being a huge fan.

As more affordable studios open in the UK, here's everything you need to know about whether Reformer Pilates is right for you – from the benefits to weight loss potential. 

What is Reformer Pilates?

The reformer apparatus was designed by Joseph Pilates and consists of a rectangular, bed-like frame with a padded platform on runners known as a carriage (think a rowing machine mixed with a bed). At one end of the bed are the foot bar and springs which can be tightened to increase the resistance of the exercise. At the opposite end are two ropes with handles attached to pulleys which can be used by either hands or feet.

The moving bed and springs help the Pilates 'flow' to be achieved seamlessly - it is more like a dance than exercise.

This might all sound like a Medieval torture device, but using reformer equipment has countless benefits.

A female pilates trainer is working out on a pilates machine in a pilates studio.© Getty/recep-bg

Who is it for? 

Reformer Pilates is for everyone! You don’t need to have a model's physique or be a Pilates pro to benefit from it.

The springs are perfect to help users in recovery from an injury as they absorb some of the muscle strain while still allowing the muscles to be worked. It is also good for pregnant people, helping expectant mothers with better alignment and decreasing hip, shoulder, and back pain.

Despite it typically being catered towards women, people of all genders enjoy Reformer Pilates, such as singer Justin Bieber and social media creator Jake Shane who shares his Pilates classes on TikTok.

What's the difference between Reformer and mat Pilates? 

"While all you need for matwork Pilates is a mat and a space to put it, for reformer Pilates you need to find someone with all the gear," explains Pilates teacher Katie Kelly. This makes Reformer Pilates less accessible, however, mat exercises are derived from equipment like the reformer. "Originally, Pilates would have trained all his clients on equipment so to some extent, the matwork is his adaptation of what he would teach in his studio to make his work accessible to anyone," Katie further details.

Sportspeople doing short spine pilates exercises on a reformer bed in a gym during a workout to align and balance her core muscles in a health and fitness concept.© Getty/Chanin Nont

Matwork Pilates uses one's bodyweight for resistance and to build stamina and involves lots of floorwork as well as standing.

Reformer Pilates is based around the reformer equipment and relies on springs rather than body weight and is fantastic for improving posture as well as those suffering with joint issues. Katie says that the reformer is a great option for clients who struggle to get up and down from the floor.

"You have to concentrate a little harder on the reformer or you might end up in a tangled heap,"she explains.

Abbey McLachlan, Founder of the Pilates studio East of Eden, adds that Reformer Pilates is actually better for beginners than the mat version, explaining that you can get creative on a reformer whereas on a mat it’s just you versus gravity.

Will Reformer Pilates help me lose weight? 

The father of Pilates, Joseph Pilates, famously said: "In 10 sessions you’ll feel the difference, in 20 sessions you’ll see the difference, and in 30 sessions you’ll have a whole new body."

 woman touching toes while doing pilates exercise on reformer.© Getty/FreshSplash
Pilates is a way of life rather than simply an exercise class

Pilates is a way of life rather than simply an exercise class, with the benefits extending past physical wellbeing, inspiring people to eat healthily and get more active.

Pilates guru Abbey admits that classes alone won’t help with weight loss, but they often influence people to make healthier choices in other areas of their lives. "Improving posture, mobility and strength will very likely improve your self-esteem so you are more likely to make healthier food choices," she says.

The benefits of Reformer Pilates 

"Part of the joy and horror of Pilates is that you have to concentrate – it is mindful movement," states Pilates pro Katie. It helps people become aware of their movements and exercise lots of different muscles, "even ones you didn’t know you had."

Meanwhile, Abbey states that Pilates can help rectify a lifetime of poor posture and misalignment of the body. "Pilates concentrates on strengthening the deep postural muscles, raising awareness of how one stands and the general alignment of hips, spine and head," she continues, explaining how practicing Pilates regularly reduces the risk of injuries when taking part in other sports.

Pilates has benefits outside the world of exercise. "It can improve your sex life at any age through the pelvic floor, plus increased fitness and endurance!," she adds. No wonder it’s rising in popularity!

Happy female reformer doing stretching exercises on a Pilates machine in a health club© Getty/skynesher

The Pilates studio founder also highlighted the mental benefits of the exercise, saying it has been proven to have a positive impact on self-esteem.

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If so many celebs and fitness influencers swear by it, Reformer Pilates must work, and with it becoming easier for anyone to give it a go, it looks like it’s here to stay.

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