The Benefits of Reformer Pilates

From its introduction in the 1920s to the packed out studios of the 21st century, the philosophy of Joseph Pilates has become a worldwide phenomenon and a household name in well-being. Traditional mat Pilates classes offer an effective workout, however, there is now an even more challenging form to try on your next luxury Pilates holiday in the form of Reformer Pilates.Reformer Pilates consists of performing a combination of movements on a Reformer machine. Specially designed to challenge and strengthen the body, the ‘reformer’ is so named because it was created to reform the body of the participant. Consisting of a large frame, topped with a flat, cushioned platform; this platform (or carriage) is attached to the frame by springs and moves as you push or pull with your legs and arms. The reformer also has long straps with handles on them which can be pulled to move the carriage. Through a variety of carefully choreographed movement, Reformer Pilates provides a full body workout. Here, we present the benefits of this low impact exercise that will increase flexibility, improve posture and boost your overall health.

1. A full body workout

Pilates on a mat is famed for its results on your core, and Reformer Pilates is just as effective for getting those abs of steel. However, unlike its mat-based sibling, Reformer Pilates works just as hard on the rest of your body. Ideal for full body toning on a fitness holiday, the range of movements engage compound groups of muscles in the legs, arms and shoulders.

2. High intensity, low impact

The use of springs, straps and the carriage in a Pilates Reformer class makes it a low impact fitness option, perfect for treating an injury on a healing holiday. Lying on the carriage keeps the range of movements on a horizontal plane, taking any pressure off weak or damaged knees and ankles. The low impact nature also means you can do it multiple times a week, and this consistency is key to seeing long-lasting health benefits.


Tone up on a Pilates reformer bootcamp at Absolute Sanctuary in Thailand


 3. Great for athletes

Not only is Reformer Pilates a popular option for those who want to improve their fitness for health reasons, but sports fans can also enjoy performance-enhancing benefits. This dynamic form of Pilates improves muscle endurance, promotes better co-ordination and balance – essential to giving you that competitive edge. Runners can use Pilates to switch up and benefit their routine too; better body awareness improves technique while stronger muscles help you to move more efficiently.

4. Increases muscle strength

The tough springs on the Reformer frame provide resistance as you perform Pilates movements, strengthening your muscles and toning your body. Unlike the more static, mat based version, in a Reformer class you will lift, push and stretch; working deep into your muscles without a trip to the free weights area. Furthermore, the springs can be adjusted to provide different levels of resistance, so you can vary your workout and constantly set yourself new strength challenges.

Enjoy expert reformer Pilates instruction at Chiva Som in Thailand


5. Gives your brain a boost

Breathing well is essential to mastering Reformer Pilates, just as with meditation and yoga, where the focused practice of inhaling and exhaling calms the mind and helps you get into a more rhythmic flow. Concentrating on trickier movements also strengthens your mental muscles, keeping both your body and mind active as you improve their performance and efficiency.

6. Ideal for pregnancy

It can be difficult to know how to keep up your fitness when pregnant, but Reformer Pilates provides a safe option for staying healthy and active on a pregnancy wellness holiday. The low impact nature is perfect for swollen joints, the pelvic floor exercises will help during childbirth and core work will help ease back pain. Exercising during your pregnancy will maintain a base level of tone and fitness, helping your body to snap back more easily after pregnancy.

7. Perfect for posture

Engaging your core during Reformer Pilates isn’t just about getting great abs; it does wonders for your posture too. Your muscles contract to keep you balanced throughout the movements, thus improving your stability and creating better posture and alignment. Joseph Pilates believed posture was at the root of good health, and fitness experts agree. From better breathing and increased circulation, to more confidence and injury prevention, posture is a powerful tool for improved well-being.

Learn the ropes of reformer Pilates at Sianji Wellbeing Resort in Turkey


8. Small classes

Due to the size of each reformer machine, most Pilates Reformer classes tend to be no larger than around 10 participants. Offering a focused group for a learning Pilates holiday, you’ll get much more attention from the instructor, guiding your technique and motivating you to stretch that little bit further. Exercising within a small group will also introduce you to likeminded health fans, providing you with an essential support network when on an active singles holiday.

9. Improves flexibility

Providing a deep stretch for your major muscles groups, Pilates movements are all about quality, not quantity. Reformer Pilates will work your body hard – slowly transitioning between controlled movements engages and stretches your muscles as you try to maintain your balance. As your muscles strengthen and your posture improves, so your flexibility will increase. From office workers to athletes, flexibility is vital for overall fitness levels and an injury-free active lifestyle.

10. A great addition to your weight loss regime

Reformer Pilates is not going to see you shed the pounds on its own but when combined with a healthy diet and cardio-based fitness, it can be a valuable addition on a weight loss holiday as you hone your Pilates body. As you perform the movements your heart rate will increase and stronger muscles will give your metabolism a boost. With hundreds of possible movement combinations, Reformer Pilates will continually challenge your body and keep you from getting stuck in a fitness rut.


Pilates isn’t always thought of as the most muscle-shaking, ab-quaking workout ever, but there are some moves that seriously challenge this notion. If you haven’t already, meet the Pilates 100, one of the method’s classic core exercises. And there’s a reason it’s been a mainstay for so long: This abs move seriously puts your muscles to the test.

“The Pilates 100 helps to strengthen and sculpt the abs because it helps engage the transverse abdominals, which basically means the deepest set of muscles you have in your lower belly,” says Kit Rich, an L.A.-based trainer, Pilates instructor, and Lucy Activewear pro. Plus, it definitely brings the Pilates vibe to whatever workout you’re doing. “This one move encompasses all Pilates principles: concentration, centering, control, breathing, precision, and flow,” adds Rich.

To make the most of this move, do it before your other core-focused exercises (just like you would in a Pilates class), says Rich. “It’s a warm up for the abs and a great connection for mind and body,” says Rich. Plus,”the pumping of the arms helps get the blood moving in the body.” Ready to kick off your abs workout with this simple but challenging move? Here’s how to do it.

Pilates 100

Whitney Thielman

  • To get into position, lie on your back with your knees bent, then lift your feet off the floor into table top position (your knees should be stacked above your hips and bent at a 90-degree angle, your lower legs parallel to the floor). Point your toes, squeeze your heels together, and extend your legs straight and forward to about a 65-degree angle—for more of a challenge, you bring your legs a bit lower to the ground.Lift your head and shoulders off the mat and extend your arms by your side. Hold this position throughout the exercise.
  • With your arms straight out by your sides, begin pumping your arms up and down using your triceps, inhaling through the nose for five pumps and exhaling out of the mouth for five pumps for a total of 10 times. “This is why it’s called the hundreds,” says Rich. How fast your arms move will depend on how fast you’re breathing, and every individual (and instructor) is different, says Rich. (If you’re just starting out, she recommends a medium to fast pace, as shown.)
  • Now for a few form notes: With every inhale, imagine the belly button is pulling in towards the floor (this is called the Pilates scoop), and with your exhale try to pull in even deeper, says Rich.Keep your shoulders wide and slide your shoulder blades down your back.
  • You can modify if you need to, too: “If you have a sensitive back, keep knees bent in table top position,” says Rich. “If you have a sensitive neck, feel free to keep your head down.”

Chances are, you’ll start feeling the burn way before you hit 100.

By Markham Heid | Article Featured on Time Magazine

People who dance are easy to spot, even offstage. “They’re very aware of their body’s position in space, and they move almost like cats,” says Marie-Louise Bird, a Pilates researcher and post-doctoral research fellow at the University of British Columbia. “But most of us are more like puppy dogs, moving without much attention paid to our posture.”

Luckily, the puppy dogs among us don’t have to go to dance school to get better body awareness. They can just do Pilates.

Ever since Joseph Pilates founded his studio in New York City about a century ago, the training method has focused on strengthening abdominal and trunk muscles—called the “core”—through hundreds of very specific movements. The first Pilates clients were ballet dancers looking for a way to improve their posture and control their movements.

Pilates looks deceptively easy. But the often-tiny movements improve balance and core strength, Bird’s research suggests. Pilates does this in part by reinforcing the bond between mind and muscles, helping people engage the right muscles in the core. This leads to better posture and control over the body’s movements, says Cherie Wells, a senior lecturer in physical therapy at Australia’s Griffith University. Wells’s research has found that the core-strengthening perks of Pilates may also ease pain and improve daily life for people suffering from chronic low-back pain.

Some research has also linked Pilates to better flexibility, trunk stability, injury prevention and athletic performance. (Some former and current NFL players, including Antonio Brown and Martellus Bennett, are fans.)

But it’s easy to do Pilates incorrectly, so if you want to experience all these advantages, good form is essential, Bird says. That requires a good teacher, at least in the beginning. “Results come from a structured class taught by a certified instructor,” says Ann Gibson, an associate professor of exercise science at the University of New Mexico, who warns newbies not to assume they can pick up Pilates by looking at a few online pictures or guides. “There needs to be a lot of focus on rolling down or up from the ground, one vertebrae at a time.”

The other unique part of Pilates isn’t physical, but mental. One of the key concepts of Pilates is called “centering,” or understanding that all movements originate in your core. “Like yoga, it’s about breathing and focus and being mindful of your body’s movements,” Gibson says. At least one study has linked Pilates to enhanced mindfulness and something called sensory awareness, which may induce relaxation, mood improvements and stress reduction.

It won’t surprise anyone familiar with the classic “hundred” exercise—a grueling Pilates pose performed for 100 beats—that the practice also does something special to the stomach. “Pilates seems to activate the deeper abdominal muscles more than conventional gym exercises,” says Duncan Critchley, a lecturer and exercise researcher at King’s College London. Research from Spain shows Pilates also eliminates “asymmetries” in the abdominal muscles the line the sides of your torso.

It’s probably not the best workout for those looking for a vigorous sweat, says Wells. Newer forms of the practice use machines to increase resistance and even aerobic intensity—reformer Pilates and jumpboard Pilates are two examples—but they’re less studied than the traditional forms of the exercise.

Look around online and you’ll find plenty of anecdotal evidence that Pilates can help people lose weight or, even more likely, lose inches, but Gibson says her findings were mixed when it came to Pilates’s ability to reduce waist circumference.

But if you’re searching for a mind-body practice that strengthens the body and has a few pleasant side benefits—like great abs and more poise—Pilates is certainly worth a try.