So you want to get the skinny on Pilates Reformers?
I’ve got you covered.
I’m going to list 8 of the best pilates reformers of 2021 and then explain a bit more about what they are, how to use them and how to choose the best model for your home set up.
- TOP 8 Best Pilates Reformer Machines of 2021
- What is Pilates and What is Pilates Good For?
- Effective at Home Pilates Reformer Workouts
- Important Things to Look for When Seeking the Best Pilates Reformer
TOP 8 Best Pilates Reformer Machines of 2021
What is Pilates and What is Pilates Good For?
Pilates is focused on 9 principles:
- Breathing: Respiration is a central theme in Pilates. Joseph Pilates, creator of Pilates, recommends exhaling when exerting effort, and inhale while returning, or relaxing.
- Concentration: Pilates calls for concentration and focus on how the exercise is performed.
- Control: All exercises are performed slowly and deliberately with control over the muscle movements.
- Centering: The center is composed of the abs, back, hips, inner thighs and glutes. In Pilates it is sometimes called the “powerhouse”. All exercises in Pilates move from the center out to the limbs.
- Flow: Once Pilates exercises have been perfected, one exercise should flow into another, building not only strength, but stamina.
- Postural Alignment: Using correct posture and body alignment are foundational themes of Pilates.
- Precision: Performing movements perfectly, an idea similar to having “good form”.
- Relaxation: The idea is relaxation, and a relaxed state facilitates better, more perfect movement.
- Stamina: Stamina in Pilates occurs once the precision is achieved and exercises are more easily performed, so the practitioner can easily move from one exercise to the next.
What is a Pilates Reformer?
The creator of Pilates used what he called “apparatus”. Today we might call these apparatus exercise machines or exercise equipment, if you want to think of it that way.
The most popular apparatus Mr. Pilates used was the Pilates Reformer.
A Pilates Reformer is perhaps the most popular Pilates apparatus available. It is a manual machine used to perform Pilates exercises using resistance springs or bands.
Benefits of Pilates Reformers
For Mobility Impaired or Injured
The main reason people are drawn to Pilates Reformers is that they allow for all of the benefits of Pilates to be experienced but in a more supported way that is less dependent on having a baseline fitness and flexibility.
Pilates reformers are excellent for people with mobility issues if getting down onto a mat and performing regular Pilates exercises is too challenging.
Pilates reformers are also particularly good for those with injuries or pain in the lower back or neck.
Since it focuses on the center, or powerhouse, as the starting point for each exercise; the exercises naturally focus on the abs and other core muscles.
Easy on Joints
Reformer Pilates is slow and focused with controlled, low impact movements. No jarring jumps or heavy weights.
The tenants of Pilates call for mindfulness of the breath and of muscle movement at all times, resulting in a calming effect.
Many believe that you need to be flexible to do Pilates well. This is not the case. If practiced regularly, Pilates will actually increase your flexibility.
What You Need to Know About Pilates Reformers
- The Frame: The reformer consists of a rectangle frame that sits on the floor or can be raised up on legs and is either made of wood or metal.
- The Carriage: The frame holds a gliding platform, usually called a carriage, which is padded and has a headrest.
- The Resistance End: One end of the reformer has a foot bar, and resistance springs.
- The Pulley End: The other end has hand straps in pulleys for arm movements. Some models have a platform extension and box you can place on the platform for an endless variety of exercises.
Here, you can watch John from Free Range Pilates Studio introduce us to the features and function of a Pilates reformer to get a better idea.
Effective at Home Pilates Reformer Workouts
Kathi Ross Nash gives an informative beginner workout where she gives many tips on how to perform moves correctly and shows how to adjust the machine.
Robin gives us a 30 minute intermediate level workout that addresses all areas and muscle groups. Robin is great at explaining each exercise and demonstrating the move.
This fun and lively workout by John Garey is a mix of traditional Pilates moves and fitness-based moves.
This workout uses the box and platform extender with the reformer.
So, is it worth it?
Consider what you pay for reformers classes. Private Classes can be between $50 and $125 and group classes may be from $40 to $75 dollars per class. (resource)
Pilates Math Class:
$40 per session, minimum x 2 days per week = $80 dollars per week.
That’s $320 per month, and $4,160 per year!
So, most people find their Pilates Reformer pays itself off pretty quickly and saves a lot of money in the long run.
Important Things to Look for When Seeking the Best Pilates Reformer
You get what you pay for. Inexpensive reformers have been known to glide improperly or stick. The gliding carriage is the centerpiece of all Pilates movements.
It MUST glide well, and be well designed.
A full-size commercial Pilates machine is over 8 feet long, so measure your exercise space before buying and decide whether you want a machine that can fold away.
Pilates reformers also vary slightly in length so if you’re tall, you’ll want to make sure that the model you choose is long enough for you.
Wood versus Metal Frame
The wood-framed Pilates machines are beautiful. But, they are also heavy, so they will probably need to be parked in a permanent place. The metal ones are more likely to be easy to stow out of the way if need be.
Springs versus Bungee Cords
Whether your machine uses springs or bungee cords, how strong the tension is and how many options there are for different resistance levels are all things to consider.
Some Pilates reformers come with extras like the Bundle from Merrithew above. These extras can help make your workout harder or just give you more variety.
But, remember you don’t have to get Pilates specific extras! You can use your own props and customize your workouts to get even more variety.
If you were previously using a reformer in a group class then you’ll probably be looking for some kind of class to follow along with for guidance and motivation.
Most reformers come with DVDs but there are also lots of options online, including the YouTube videos linked above.
On the other hand, if you’ve decided after all that you might stick to your local gym, have a read of our list of the best group fitness classes to see if your perfect class is something you haven’t tried yet.
What is the Best Home Pilates Reformer to Buy?
This depends on your budget and whether you want a reformer that you can fold up or whether you want a permanent set up. All of the reformers on the list above that are $1000 and upwards are reliable options.
Does Pilates Reformer Really Work?
Definitely! Pilates reformers are really popular and a lot of people have had excellent results from using them.
There’s also the added benefit of working out on a reformer being fun, with plenty of options for variation so you won’t get bored.
Can Beginners do Reformer Pilates?
Yes. Reformer Pilates is perfect for beginners. There are plenty of classes available online for beginners.
How Often can You do Reformer Pilates?
You can do Reformer Pilates as often as you like but it’s best to start out doing an easy work out every second day (or three times per week) and gradually increasing the intensity.
If you have to wait more than a couple of days for your muscles to recover before you can do another workout then you went too hard!
Is Mat or Reformer Pilates better?
If you have mobility issues or an injury that prevents you from exercising effectively on a mat, then a reformer is a better option. But, it’s a personal choice and both are excellent workouts.
Is 20 minutes of Pilates a Day Enough?
This depends on how hard you’re working out. But yes, for most people, 10-20 minutes of Pilates a good place to start and then you can gradually increase the time as you get fitter.
Can You Lose Weight doing Pilates Reformer?
Of course! Anything that burns calories and builds muscle is going to help you lose weight provided you don’t over-compensate with entire chocolate cakes!
If weight loss is your priority and you’re not sure whether Pilates is your thing yet, have a browse through some other machines that are great for weight loss to give you some more ideas.
Alternatively, if you’re not sold on a reformer and are still on the hunt for your perfect machine, have a read of our guide to the best cardio machines for home use. There’s sure to be something there that will work for you.
That brings us to the end of this guide to the best Pilates reformers of 2021.
Do you plan to purchase a reformer? Let us know what you think in the comments below.