Feedback From the Field: My Pilates Reformer

Aug 14, 2008

In a previous issue of Inner IDEA Body-Mind-Spirit Review,we asked: "What is your favorite and least favorite thing about working with the Pilates reformer? How would you describe your relationship with this piece of equipment?"

“I like the way you posed the question as ‘working with’ the reformer. I was always told that the equipment should be looked at as a partner and is something you were to work with. It is a difficult concept to grasp for clients new to Pilates when the perception of working with a machine is to conquer it and to move on to another that poses a greater challenge. Treating a machine as a ‘partner’ is not easy to teach.

“My approach to Pilates equipment is based on the intended purpose of that machine. For example, I use the magic circle to strengthen the muscles of respiration, hip flexors and arms. I use the wunda chair to strengthen the functions of sitting, standing and walking. The trap table is great for strengthening the upper body and recalibrating the muscular balance of the legs, back and arms. I use the foot corrector to strengthen and realign the feet and the spine corrector to extend the upper and lower parts of the spine. I use the reformer to strengthen and correct the posture of the legs, realign the torso and increase strength in the upper body.

“When I first introduce a client to Pilates it is with the understanding that the equipment is needed as part of the process to ‘fix’ overall posture. The mat exercises are a great maintenance program once the posture is restored to the proper balance and muscular alignment, but in order to get it there you need the support of the machines and the resistance of the springs. Since each machine is specific in what it contributes, I encourage equal time on all pieces of equipment in order to physically complete the body. The mat exercises then become the advanced stage of the work and the equipment is used to continue to develop, maintain and challenge the client.

“Let’s be honest: the machines are cool, but as much as my clients love the tower class they know it doesn’t replace the reformer, chair or even the mat. I think where most people make a mistake is by picking which machine is their favorite and sticking only to that machine. By doing that they limit themselves to one dimension of movement and their physical wellness becomes based on their personal likes and dislikes when it should be based on the needs of the body.

“I find the reformer to be the most challenging of the pieces Joe invented and usually the last piece of equipment that I introduce to a client. It is intensive work for the body and most clients need some strengthening in their upper bodies first in order to support the weight of the carriage. In my studio, the reformer represents a love/ hate relationship for the client. They love how the reformer makes them look and feel and they hate every minute they are on the machine. Legs are burning through leg and footwork, abs are on fire through hundreds and arms are dying through rowing. The reformer is hard, there is no question about it, but it certainly delivers in terms of strength and flexibility. It is the one machine where I can see muscle definition and measure a person’s strength more easily than on the other pieces of equipment. As for how my clients feel about the reformer, one hour a week of hard work in exchange for a lifetime of feeling fabulous isn’t a sacrifice for them, it’s a necessity.”

-- Stacey Dreisbach, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania


“I train on a STOTT PILATES® Rehab Reformer out of my home studio. I love the flexibility it allows me to be home with my children yet earn an income on the side. My clients love the reformer and the results they achieve with the challenging workout it offers. The reformer is a great piece of equipment where you can offer your client a different workout every time. No two workouts are the same and this is wonderful as it will slow down boredom. I love the one-on-one training because I am able to share my knowledge with clients on a more personalized level than when I teach a mat class at a club. I am able to push my clients more with one-on-one training and have them understand the benefits of their hard work. The reformer is a versatile piece of equipment that allows clients to achieve their personal goals in the most effective and efficient way.

“The only thing I could say that I do not like about the reformer is how much I have to charge for a private session in order to recoup our operating costs. This can prohibit a lot of clients from continuing their reformer training. I know once a client sees results they will be hooked. but with the economy the way it is now, luxury items are the first to go when cutting down expenses.”

-- Michele Cohen

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