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7 Tips to Use Your Pilates Reformer Like a Pro

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This handy guide will keep you moving like a seasoned Pilates professional.

Even the most seasoned Pilates practitioner and knowledgeable among us can make mistakes. Often, mistakes happen towards the end of a class or workout when we're feeling tired or blissed-out or a bit over-confident. In those moments, we forget our "safeties."

Here are 7 tips to stay safe on your Pilates Reformer (and other spring-loaded Pilates equipment). You'll be moving like a pro in no time.

1. Set up is everything.

Your equipment manufacturer likely included an owner's manual, and they probably have some videos online. It's a good idea to watch those videos before getting onto your Reformer and then refer back to them as often as needed.

2. Step onto stable surfaces first.

If you're standing on the Reformer carriage for Side Splits or Front Splits - or splits of any kind for that matter - first, place your foot (or hands, respectively) on the stable part of the Reformer that is required for the exercise. For example, if you're getting into Side Splits, move one foot onto the edge of the Reformer before moving the foot on the carriage into position. That carriage moves, and you don't want to move with it until your ready, and then, only with control and stability.
Always place feet and/or hands on to a stable surface first before moving or stepping off your Reformer.

3. Beware of loaded springs.

Many parts of Pilates equipment, including the Reformer, are attached to springs. When loaded with tension, springs can assist your body into movements that might not be possible without them. Springs also provide feedback and resistance to help you find your body in space or give your muscles a solid workout. But loaded springs are no joke; ensure the springs are slack and have no tension before letting go, changing position, or stepping off.

4. Use non-slip grip.

If you tend to get sweaty during your workout, use the grip pad or wear grip socks. The grip pad can add extra comfort and security on Short Box Series, under your thighs during Horseback, and on the headrest during Long Stretch, to name a few.

Courtney Miller wears grip socks to prevent slippage.

Pro Tip: If your hands tend to slip off the Footbar, wrap your Footbar tightly with a Theraband to keep your hands from slipping.

5. Follow the progressions.

As the "Sound of Music" says, the very beginning is a very good place to start, especially with your Pilates practice. Even if you have been working out and exercising your entire life, using a Reformer requires a whole new skill set. Pilates is a complete system, so starting with the Beginner series of Reformer exercises will provide a solid foundation for more advanced work.

Once you feel comfortable with Beginner exercises, you can then progress to Intermediate and Advanced exercises.

6. If you're trying something new, get a friend to spot.

At every level from Beginner to Advanced, Pilates tests your balance, control, and stability. Being deliberate and focused on the transition and the movement will help you get into start position. And if you’re uncomfortable or even a bit shaky standing on the Carriage (e.g., Elephant) or standing with one foot on the Footbar and one foot on the Carriage (e.g., Front Splits), ask a friend to spot you. There’s no shame in asking for help as you build strength and stability. Plus, Pilates is often more fun with a friend!
When trying new exercises, ask a knowledgeable friend or teacher to spot you.

7. If it doesn't feel good, stop.

Pilates will challenge you, it will work every muscle, and if done correctly and consistently will help you move through life with more ease. What Pilates shouldn't do is hurt. If you feel discomfort or pain at any point in your Pilates practice. Stop. Either skip the exercise or stop for the day.

It's always a good idea to check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program, and it's a good idea to work with a Pilates professional the first time you use any Pilates equipment.

About the Author

Kathy Schader

Kathy currently teaches Pilates in Manhattan Beach, CA, and she loves sharing the transformative power of Pilates. When not in the studio, she enjoys spending time with her family and being active outdoors in Southern California.


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