1. KEY CONSIDERATIONS
2. PILATES REFORMER FEATURES
3. REFORMER MANUFACTURERS
4. PILATES REFORMER PRICES
5. REFORMER BUYING TIP
Pilates is one of today’s most popular exercise regimens, with ten million Americans regularly attending studios and classes to improve their core strength, balance, and flexibility.
While many Pilates exercises can be performed on a mat, the use of the rather intimidatingly named reformer adds a plethora of movements to improve and enhance your workout. The reformer is also used extensively for physical therapy and rehabilitation.
All Pilates reformers share a basic design, but there are a few important variations. Since it is an expensive addition to your home gym, it’s important to identify your specific needs and know what to look for.
Our PILATES REFORMER BUYING GUIDE is full of tips and information to help you find the right Pilates reformer for your exercise room. If you’re ready to buy, check out our top product recommendations, too.
German-born Joseph Pilates invented the reformer to help rehabilitate patients with injured limbs
WHAT IS PILATES?
Pilates takes its name from Joseph Pilates. A German-born emigré to Britain and then America, he devised the Pilates method as a new approach to exercise and body-conditioning in the early decades of the last century. His method included the use of equipment referred to by him as: apparatus. Perhaps the best-known piece of equipment, is the Pilates reformer.
While many Pilates exercises are performed on a mat, perhaps with the addition of a Pilates ball, resistance bands, and/or “magic ring” (a circular device you squeeze), and give great results, the Pilates reformer adds hundreds of new exercises to the menu – and it can be a lot of fun. In Joe Pilates’ own words, “Of course you can exercise without machines. But it’s not as efficient and would take longer. With them, three or four hours work a week is enough.”
Pilates reformer exercises are a regimen of low-impact exercises that target the core, or “powerhouse,” muscles of the abdomen, hips, and lower back. These exercises are designed to improve flexibility, coordination, strength, and balance.
While elite athletes use Pilates for cross-training, performance improvement, and injury recovery, there are many benefits for daily life, since one result of Pilates is better posture and body alignment. Reformers are also used in physical therapy and rehabilitation to overcome injuries or physical limitations. Many people find relief from back and joint pain by doing Pilates.
WHAT IS A PILATES REFORMER?
Anyone who has walked into a Pilates studio has probably seen some of these daunting-looking machines that look a bit like a medieval torture mechanism. But thanks to their multifunctional nature and ease of use, these devices have become a popular and versatile piece of exercise equipment.
When using a reformer, you are working against your own body weight. There are many unique exercises you can do on a reformer – standing, sitting, lying down, and even upside down if you’re daring and know what you’re doing. It’s a one-stop shop for a total body workout, and the exercises can also be made more difficult as you improve, so you will never outgrow a reformer.
Another bonus is that you’re likely to see results sooner than with mat sessions alone. And with guidance and some exercise modifications, you can also use the machines if you have a physical disability.
REFORMER FRAME: The reformer frame is like a bed, with a carriage that rolls back and forth on wheels within the frame, much like a rowing machine. The carriage is pushed or pulled by the practitioner, using an adjustable foot bar at one end. Frames can be beautiful blonde wood or more industrial looking, durable steel and aluminum. Above all, look for a sturdy and stable frame. You don’t want a flimsy model that tips, creaks, or wobbles. When shopping, also consider the amount of space you have. These machines take up quite a bit of room, though there are some that can be raised or folded to get stored away when not in use.
REFORMER STRAPS: Reformers have straps with hand- and foot loops that are pulled with the legs or arms to move the carriage. These should be adjustable, so they can be customized to work with your size, level of fitness, and any physical limitations.
REFORMER SPRINGS: At higher priced modern reformers, the springs can be adjusted to many different levels, make the carriage more difficult to push or pull as you gain strength. Adjustable springs are also important to do each exercise with the appropriate resistance. Look for good-quality springs. Lower-end models might use bungee-type cords rather than springs, which may not stand up to wear and tear.
OTHER ELEMENTS: High quality modern reformers also include an adjustable headrest and shoulder braces. An adjustable foot bar is a must.
UPGRADES: For an even higher variety of exercises, you can look for a reformer with tower. Some manufacturers offer the tower as an accessory that can be bought separately and attached later. The tower often included its own set of accessories.
REFORMER ACCESSORIES: Some top-quality reformers come as a ready-to-use package with the Pilates box and jump board. The latter is a more recent addition to the reformer that is a lot of fun for cardio exercises. Other Pilates equipment includes Pilates chairs, ladder barrels, wall units, arcs and spine correctors.
WARRANTY: Make sure your investment is covered by a comprehensive manufacturer warranty.
INSTRUCTIONS: Some reformers come with instructional DVDs, which is helpful. However, it is highly recommended that you first take lessons on a reformer at a Pilates studio or with a certified Pilates instructor before using it alone at home.
3. TOP PILATES REFORMER MANUFACTURERS
Commercial Pilates reformer mass manufacturing and customizations is a relatively new field. After Joseph Pilates developed his method during World War I, he worked on his reformer and other equipment from the 1920’s to 1960’s.
This Spanish manufacturer is rapidly gaining momentum on the North American market. Both the well-made reformer rock-maple wood and aluminum frame reformers can hold their own against Balanced Body comparisons. Our favorite is the convertible Cadillac reformer with full trapeze that beats the price of any competitor.
4. PILATES REFORMER PRICES
What costs a quality PIlates reformer? Pilates reformers are not cheap – generally in the same ballpark as treadmills, from $300 to
$8,000 – so make sure you’re committed before buying one and you don’t end up with a very expensive clothes hanger.
BASIC REFORMER PRICES
You can find some very basic reformers for around $300 to 2,000. Some of these are folding models that can be folded or rolled under the bed for storage, but these will be much less stable and therefore less enjoyable to use. They commonly have much less adjustment options for your size, height, and level of ability. Most can’t adjust spring resistance or have bungee cords instead of durable springs.
MID-RANGE REFORMER PRICES
These reformers cost from about $2,000 to $5,000 and have the quality and features you need in a durable and reliable reformer that you enjoy using at your home studio. Some of them even mirror studio-quality reformers.
PROFESSIONAL REFORMER PRICES
For a studio-quality machine or one used for physical therapy, you can expect to pay in the region of $5,000 to $8,000 (the most expensive include a tower). Home users often justify the expense of buying a reformer by noting that Pilates reformer classes are pricier than most exercise classes, as much as $100 an hour. If you use the reformer regularly, the cost may be well worth it.
5. PILATES REFORMER BUYING TIPS
Consider your size and physical abilities. Reformers come in a variety of options, heights, and sizes, so check that it will fit your body type and exercise goals.
Take some Pilates group classes at a qualified Pilates studio before you invest in a reformer. The exercises are very specific, and it’s necessary to have a trained Pilates instructor guide you.
Take a few private sessions to learn the principles as well as help you hone in on your personal fitness goals.
Consider ongoing sessions at home with a personal Pilates instructor.