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How to use a reformer pilates machine

There are a number of ways to use a reformer pilates machine, and the best way to learn is by taking one of the Vibe Pilates Foundation Classes with a certified instructor. Over the coming weeks we’ll be adding a series of videos to help you on your reformer pilates journey.

In the meantime, here are some tips to help you get started:

  1. Always start with a warm-up. This can be done by using the machine’s pulleys to provide resistance as you move your limbs through a range of motion.
  2. When performing the exercises, focus on controlled movement and good form rather than rushing through the reps.
  3. Remember to breathe! Proper breathing helps improve both your form and your overall results.
  4. Don’t forget to cool down and stretch when you’re finished. This will help your muscles recover and prevent soreness.

Learning the parts of the reformer machine

The reformer machine consists of five main parts: the carriage, the footbar, the pulleys, the springs and the wooden standing platform.

  1. The carriage is the platform on which you perform the exercises. It slides back and forth on rails, and can be adjusted to make the exercises more or less challenging.
  2. The footbar is used for stability during certain exercises, and can be adjusted to different heights to accommodate different users.
  3. The ropes, pulleys & straps are attached to the carriage and provide resistance as you move your limbs through a range of motion.
  4. The springs are attached to the carriage and footbar, and can be used to increase or decrease the amount of resistance during an exercise.
  5. The wooden standing platform is made of thick, solid wood and coated with a non-skid surface for added safety during standing exercises. When doing exercises that involve standing on the reformer, you must use this platform as your first point of contact for stability.

When using a reformer pilates machine, it is important to start slowly and gradually increase the intensity as your body becomes more accustomed to the movement. It is also important to focus on your breathing, as this will help to control the movement of the machine.

Additional tools & terminology used with the reformer pilates machine

There are a few additional tools and pieces of equipment that are often used in reformer pilates classes:

  1. Headrest: The adjustable headrest offers three different positions to improve spine alignment and maximize cervical support.
  2. Shoulder rests: Padded shoulder rests are extra stable for supporting the hands or feet, and can be quickly removed to accommodate accessories or to create a flat mat surface.
  3. Straps: Can be used with hands or feet.
  4. Short straps: Fold your strap handles in half and secure the loose ring to the clip
  5. Foot Straps are sometimes used to help secure the feet or hands during certain exercises. Located at the footbar end of the machine.
  6. Pilates Box: A sturdy box that is often used as a prop during exercises. It can be used for a variety of different movements and provides a great challenge to the core muscles.
  7. Short box: place the box across your carriage (side to side)
  8. Long box: place your box along your carriage (end to end)
  9. Foam Block: A small, lightweight block of foam that is often used to support the head or back during exercises.
  10. Rubber ball: A small, lightweight ball that is often used to support the head or spine, used as a tool in movements or provide resistance during exercises.
  11. The Pilates circle is a small, circular device that can be used for resistance training or stretching.
  12. Hand Weights: Small, weighted objects that are held in the hands to provide resistance during exercises.
  13. Wooden pole: A long, thin pole that is sometimes used to help with balance during exercises. Also can be used by placing through the straps for additional arm and leg exercises.
  14. Resistance bands are sometimes used to provide additional resistance during exercises.

Spring Tension & Colours

The springs on a reformer machine come in different tensions, which is indicated by the colour of the spring. The tension refers to how much resistance the spring provides.

  • White: Light Tension (LT) – 1.0–1.5 kg
  • Blue: Medium Tension (MT) – 1.4–1.8 kg
  • Red: Heavy Tension (HT) – 2.7–3.4 kg

These 5 springs can be used individually or in combination to create different levels of resistance. Your instructor will advise a suitable spring tension before each transition of exercise.

Exercises for your beginner reformer pilates workout

In general, there are three main types of exercises that can be performed on a reformer pilates machine: standing, sitting, and lying down. Each of these exercises has its own benefits, and it is important to experiment with all three to find the one that works best for you.

The correct body positioning for reformer pilates

There are a number of different positions that you can adopt when using a reformer pilates machine, and the best way to learn is by taking a Foundation class with one of our certified instructors. However, here are some general tips to help you get started:

1. When lying on your back, be sure to keep your spine in neutral alignment. This means that there should be a straight line from your ears to your hips.

2. When seated, be sure to keep your shoulders down and back, and your pelvis in a neutral position.

3. When standing, be sure to keep your weight evenly distributed between both feet, and avoid putting all of your weight on one leg.

4. Remember to engage your core muscles throughout the entire workout. This will help to protect your lower back and improve your overall results.

I’ve mastered the beginner exercises, what’s next?

Once you have mastered the basics of using a reformer pilates machine, you can begin to add more challenging exercises to your routine. As you become more confident with the machine, you can also increase the speed and intensity of your workouts.