Ready to Reform

Reform is a word that describes itself. To reform is to change into a new form; to correct; to improve. In the world of Pilates, the most widely known and central piece of equipment is the Pilates reformer. The reformer’s function and purpose to a student of Pilates is to facilitate exactly what its name implies.

By Kris Cracknell  ::  Photography by Kelsey Grudle

This smartly designed apparatus commands attention — both in a room and more importantly, from its user. Seeing the Pilates reformer for the first time (and maybe even on the second and third time) can evoke feelings of intimidation as well as intrigue. Joseph Pilates, creator of the Pilates method, first introduced his clients to the reformer over 90 years ago. His original design has changed very little over the years, and for good reason. It lives up to its name.

The Pilates reformer consists of a gliding platform called a carriage, springs of multiple tensions and pulleys and straps for the hands and feet. The carriage is the surface area where most exercises are performed. Exercises can be done lying down, sitting, kneeling and even standing on the carriage. Strength training on the reformer is created by the resistance provided by the spring/pulley system. While adding springs (weight) can increase challenge to some exercises, taking away springs in other exercises is a way to progress stability in the targeted muscles and always in the core. Adding to the dynamics of the spring and pulley system is the carriage itself. Because it glides, it provides an unstable surface (versus Pilates on the mat) creating a unique opportunity to develop core strength, balance and flexibility.

Now that you are informed about reforming, you may be wondering what the differences are between Pilates exercises on the mat and on the equipment, and which is best for you. While exercises on the mat and reformer seek to achieve the same goals, performing exercises on the reformer has some added benefits. The reformer offers attention to form in a very controlled way that the mat cannot provide. Together, the carriage and springs on the reformer give tactile feedback to the body with support and resistance. When the body and the machine work together, movement patterns become more efficient and fluid. In contrast, when the body is not properly engaged, the springs will remind you with a slam and (sometimes loud) bang. The mat has no such alarm system. The reformer also provides a greater range of motion not found on the mat. Arms and legs are loaded with the weight of the springs making it very effective for strengthening targeted muscles and joints and creating space in compressed spines. Overall, the reformer offers more variety for sessions with its infinite number of exercises and variations. Perhaps that’s what makes it a favorite among the reformed Pilates body population.

The Clubs of Cordillera Ranch is now offering opportunities to be REFORMED in group classes! Multiple group reformer classes are offered each week. Please see the group fitness calendar for class times and days. An introduction to the reformer is required for those with little to no Pilates reformer experience. Please contact Kris Cracknell for more information prior to registering for group reformer classes online.

Kris Cracknell is the Pilates Instructor at The Clubs of Cordillera Ranch. She can be reached at or 210.860.7322.

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