The Reformer is the first apparatus, or Pilates machine Joseph Pilates invented as well as the most well-known. The somewhat intimidating contraption consists of an elevated wood or metal frame that supports a gliding upholstered platform (known as “the carriage”). This carriage is affixed to a set of metal springs at one end of the frame that delivers resistance as the carriage moves. The springs are what set the Reformer apart from other fitness equipment, creating a distinct feel as well as the opportunity to simultaneously stretch and strengthen the body.
The Reformer repertoire includes exercises that are performed lying down, sitting, kneeling, or standing, offering tremendous versatility from a single apparatus. Unlike most strength training equipment that is designed to train one or two muscles at a time, the Reformer works the muscles of the body in concert with one another, resulting in a balanced physique and leaving no muscle over or under-trained. Depending upon the exercise, the spring-based resistance either supports the body as it moves through space or adds challenge.
The places where the body is in contact with the Reformer provide information that helps your brain orient your body in space. It’s one of the reasons Pilates is known for improving body awareness and the mind-body connection. Joe Pilates created the Reformer (as well as his other apparatuses) to enable his clients to gain the strength and control necessary for his signature Mat work. On the Mat, however, you use only your own body weight as resistance. On the Reformer, the straps provide additional resistance while the visual and tactile landmarks of the Reformer help you maintain good form.