Far from just an eighties throwback, and despite its notoriously demanding nature, Pilates Reformer (or Reformer Pilates – same thing) has made a comeback.
Though things settled for a few decades, letting the spandex memories fade, an influx of chi-chi, minimalist studios and some high-rate celebrity backing, from the likes of Elle Macpherson, Beyoncé, Emma Stone, Adele and Gisele, has put it back on the map.
And it’s reputation precedes it; a UK survey by HFE found 70% of people would choose Pilates over yoga; most citing its potential with weight loss and muscle toning, as well as strength and flexibility training. In short, a ‘real workout’.
So, what are the benefits of Pilates Reformer?
Have you SEEN Elle Macpherson? Though the results speak for themselves, the benefits of Pilates aren’t just celebrity fluff.
‘It’s brilliant for everyone as it’s an inclusive workout method’, says James Shaw, pilates instructor at Frame. ‘Whether you’re a pro athlete, office worker or new to working out, reformer pilates will help develop your whole body’.
Like mat pilates, Reformer improves strength — particularly around the core, back, glutes and thighs — flexibility and balance, as well as focus, coordination, posture and body alignment.
Despite the internet leading you to believe that Pilates creates long, lean muscles it does not – y0u can not lengthen your muscles. Think what you’d look like if you did and your muscles were longer than your bones. What it does do, is strengthen your muscles through ‘eccentric muscle contractions’, which is the name given to the motion of an active muscle lengthening as it resists a force or load. Eccentric training, which Reformer Pilates comes under, involves doing this repeatedly.
As well as lowered blood pressure and improved cardiovascular health, it’s particularly popular for those suffering lower back pain as it focuses on stabilising the muscles around the spine.
And does Reformer have mindful benefits too?
Though, unlike yoga, it wasn’t invented as a spiritual activity, it’s undoubtedly mindful. The proven mental benefits include improving memory; training the brain; the good old endorphin kick; and relieving anxiety and depression.
There are also specific workouts designed to flush the body of stress hormones, as well as releasing tension in the face that isn’t targeted during a normal stretch session.
With breathwork being the latest buzzword in wellbeing, it’s noteworthy that it’s one of the six fundamental Pilates principles, with Pilates himself saying: ‘Above all, learn to breathe properly’.
‘The main thing beginners do wrong is hold their breath!’, says Shaw. ‘We encourage breathing with the movement to help engage deeper abdominal muscles, lower blood pressure and help bring focus from the mind to the body.’