Pilates Reformer Training


The Pilates method of exercise dates back to the early 20th century. Its creator, a man named Joseph Pilates, lived in Germany and developed the method as a means of overcoming his many physical limitations. The technique, in its original form, did not use any type of exercise machine, but it eventually evolved into a mat and equipment workout. The Reformer was Pilates first exercise machine.


Pilates was working in England prior to World War I. When the war began, he was sent to a British internment camp. Pilates used this time to practice his exercise technique on injured prisoners of war. He rigged the hospital bed springs to create a form of resistance exercise for his “patients.” The idea of using springs as a form of resistance inspired the creation of the Pilates Reformer.


Pilates Reformers have either metal or wooden frames. The cables, which are attached to either the hands or feet, are made of leather or rope. All of the Pilates Reformers have a series of springs, which are located underneath a gliding carriage. The springs determine the intensity of the exercise. Reformers have a head rest for aligning the neck, and shoulder pads to stabilize the upper torso. Pilates Reformer exercises are performed from a standing, seated, supine or prone position. Instructors are required to pass Pilates Reformer certification exams before they can train clients on this type of equipment.

Types of Reformer Training

Pilates Reformer training can be conducted in a private or group setting. Group exercise Pilates Reformers differ from traditional models in that they are low to the ground and can be folded for storage. Some group classes use a video to demonstrate the exercise, which leaves the instructor free to walk around the room and correct the students. Private Pilates Reformer training usually uses the studio Pilates Reformer, which has an elevated carriage. Instructors design private Pilates Reformer sessions based on their client’s needs, which may include general conditioning, sport-specific training or post-rehabilitation exercise.


Group Pilates Reformer sessions are much less expensive than private sessions, but they are far less personalized. The Pilates Reformer is a complex piece of equipment. Selecting the proper resistance and placement of the shoulder and necks pads often involves trial and error. If the class has more than four people, the instructor may not have enough time to give personalized attention to each student. Since the studio Pilates Reformers are low to the ground, people with knee problems or blood pressure issues may have trouble getting on and off the machine.


The Pilates Reformer training can add assistance, clarification or resistance to the Pilates mat exercises. People with tight hip flexors may find that the seated exercises are more comfortable when performed on the Reformer carriage. The arm pumping movements used in the Pilates exercise known as “the hundred” often seem odd when performed without equipment. Using the Reformer cables helps clarify the sensation of engaging the latissismus dorsi, which are the muscles running down the side of the back, to pump the arms. The cables also add resistance to the side leg raise series.

About this Author

Lisa Marie Mercer has been a professional writer for nearly 10 years. She has authored “Open Your Heart with Winter Fitness,” “Breckenridge: A Guide to the Sights and Slopes of Summit County” and “101 Fitness Tips for Women.” She’s worked as a fitness professional, tour guide and ski resort employee. Her work has appeared in “Aspen Magazine,” “HerSports,” “The Professional Skier,” “Pregnancy Magazine” and “Wired.”