Best Pilates Reformer – reviews, benefits and exercises

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A Pilates reformer is an invaluable tool when it comes to flexibility, strength, and balance. For the uninitiated, a reformer is a workout tool involving a platform, springs, and handles. Exercisers can do a huge variety of exercises on the reformer, making it suitable for beginners and advanced Pilates exercisers alike.

 Allegro 2 Reformer with Tower, Mat, and Legs

Features

While it is somewhat expensive, this tool is the best Pilates reformer for those looking for an incredibly versatile workout. While this includes a base model like the Allegro 2, this expanded model also includes a tower.

This tower expands the number of exercises you can do on the machine, and it includes a roll-down bar, a push-through bar, springs, and pulleys. The tower is sturdily designed and resists bending. While this reformer will allow you to perform a huge variety of exercises, it is the most expensive on the list at $4,660.

Pros

  • Included tower allows for a wider variety of exercises.
  • Is made very sturdily.
  • Easy adjustability.

Cons

  • Takes up more space.
  • Is expensive.

Balanced Body Studio Reformer

Features

This reformer has a classic maple silhouette for a beautiful look. It is handmade in the United States, and buyers receive a Pilates reformer that is built to last and that also serves as a conversation piece.

If you plan on sharing your reformer with other users, this may be the best Pilates reformer for you. It offers five carriage stop positions, and this allows it to be adjusted to fit virtually every user. The Studio reformer is designed to minimize friction, providing an exceptionally smooth workout experience. While it is well-designed and beautifully made, this reformer is on the expensive side at $3,545.

Pros

  • Made of solid wood.
  • Made in the United States.
  • Excellent adjustability.
  • Very smooth.

Cons

  • May be heavier than some aluminum models.
  • Is on the expensive side.

Allegro 2 Reformer with Legs

Features

This is a relatively simple reformer from a reputable brand. While it may look basic and streamlined, it offers high-end features to make any user’s experience with reformer Pilates a good one. The Allegro 2 can be easily adjusted even as you are using the machine – the foot bar can be adjusted with your hands or feet, and a quick-release lever allows for rope adjustments as you are using the reformer.

This is one of the best Pilates reformer options for those who want something long-lasting. It comes with durable padding that is built to last and to make your workout as comfortable as possible. Additionally, it comes with two DVDs to help new users, and experienced users alike develop the Pilates routine that suits their goals best. This reformer has a higher price tag, as it sells for about $3,290.

Pros

  • Comes with Pilates DVDs exercises and routines.
  • Easy adjustability.
  • Very comfortable.

Cons

  • Somewhat expensive.
  • Does not have additional features, which some users may want.

AeroPilates 5-Cord Reformer

Features

This is the best Pilates reformer for Pilates enthusiasts on a budget. While it is suitable for most Pilates exercises, this option is significantly less expensive than most. It features a wide platform for more space, and it also includes two DVDs to help those new to Pilates understand the best ways to perform the needed exercises.

While this option doesn’t include all the eye-catching features that more expensive models have, it does feature five cords to allow you to do a variety of exercises. This product comes with padded straps and platform for maximum comfort. As far as price, this is the best Pilates reformer – it’s a steal at $399.

Pros

  • Excellent price.
  • Comes with DVDs for guidance.
  • Five cords for exercise variety.

Cons

  • Does not have as many features as higher-end models.
  • May not be as smooth as some other more expensive models.

Putting It All Together

In conclusion, reformer Pilates is an excellent way to build or maintain shape. If you’re serious about doing Pilates long-term, taking the time to invest in the best Pilates reformer for you and your budget is an excellent choice. Share your experience below if you have used any of the reformers mentioned above. Is there another that should have made the list?


To the uninitiated, a Pilates reformer likely looks like some sort of torture device. However, when used correctly, this unique device has incredible benefits for flexibility, strength, endurance, and general health. Below, listed in no particular order, are some of the benefits of Pilates reformer machines.

1. Improved Posture

One of the main benefits of Pilates reformer work is the fact that the reformer can improve your posture. One of the main ways it does this is through improving the alignment of your spine.

Because the reformer requires your body to stabilize itself while working against resistance, it targets your deep back muscles. This strengthens them and makes it easier to stand upright.

Another way the Pilates reformer improves posture is through spinal articulation, which means moving through your back’s full range of motion one vertebra at a time. This improves spinal flexibility, which in turn may reduce chronic pain and improve your posture while standing or sitting.

2. Stronger Bones

You may have heard that impact-heavy work can improve your bone density. But what if, due to osteoporosis or other health concerns, you can’t perform high-impact work?

One of the primary benefits of Pilates reformer workouts is the fact that they can strengthen bones and improve bone density without the need for high-impact work.

When your bones have to resist an outside force, this stimulates the production of new bones, which increases your bone density. Due to the fact that the cables of the reformer work against your body, this machine offers a reliable way to build bone strength and reduce your risk of fractures.

3. Better Core Strength

It was noted above that one of the benefits of Pilates reformer machines is their ability to strengthen bones. But these machines also can boost muscular strength. In particular, regular work on a Pilates reformer may help build core strength.

Because your body must work to stabilize itself while working against resistance, the reformer is equipped to improve your functional core strength.

One of the reformer’s main benefits for strengthening the core is its versatility. While most exercise machines only allow for a single movement to be performed, the reformer offers plenty of options. When using it, you can perform exercises standing, sitting, kneeling, or lying down.

When you combine this with the fact that the reformer offers multiple exercise attachments, you have the option of performing hundreds of exercises for your core.

4. A Slender Physique

While Pilates work does not necessarily “lengthen” your muscles, it does create the illusion of a slender physique through improving posture and range of motion. And because this workout can improve strength without adding mass, it is a popular choice for those who want to build strength without building a larger physique.

Of course, in order to achieve a slim physique, it’s necessary to eat healthfully and in moderation. But regular reformer work also may help you work toward the physique you’ve always wanted.

5. Scalable Intensity

Whether you choose to take a Pilates class at a gym or use guided videos at home with your own reformer, a good thing about this type of exercise is the fact that it allows you to scale the intensity.

This means that a Pilates reformer can be adjusted to create a challenging workout for everyone – whether you are new to exercise or are already in shape.

If you are new to Pilates in general or to the use of the reformer, it may be beneficial to take a few classes before striking out on your own. An experienced instructor can show you the best way to adjust the reformer to suit your exercise needs.

6. You Can Exercise Alone or in a Group

The above point brings us to one of the other benefits of Pilates reformer work – the reformer may be used alone or in a group. Group classes are a popular way to build camaraderie while also getting a good workout.

But some individuals may prefer exercising alone. If you prefer, you may purchase your own at-home reformer to use alone or with guided workout videos.

7. A Low-Impact Workout

Whether you have a bad knee, are prone to injury, or are recovering from a fracture, life circumstances sometimes mean that you need to avoid high-impact exercise. Thankfully, one of the main benefits of Pilates reformer workouts is the fact that they don’t involve heavy impact.

As explained above, thanks to the resistance of the reformer, this type of Pilates still can give you a great workout. But if you find yourself needing to avoid heavy impact work temporarily or permanently, the reformer offers a challenging workout that’s easier on your bones and joints.

8. An Improved Range of Motion

Many people say that one of the main benefits of Pilates reformer work is the fact that it “lengthens” your muscles. While this is not actually true, Pilates does create the illusion of longer muscles through improving your range of motion.

You may wonder how this is possible. But because it relies on cables, which apply tension to your arms and legs, the reformer essentially pulls you through a full range of motion. Many people have old patterns of movement that become habitual.

For example, maybe you won’t usually extend your arms all the way over your head. But when you work with a reformer, the machine gently encourages you to perform each movement fully. This can improve your posture, general movement patterns, and flexibility.

Let’s Recap

In conclusion, while it might seem somewhat non-traditional, exercising with a Pilates reformer has the potential to drastically improve your life.

Whether you want to strengthen your bones, stand up a little taller or just achieve full-body strength, the benefits of Pilates reformer exercises offer something for every user. If you haven’t done so already, sign up for a reformer class or one-on-one instruction, and see for yourself!


Top 6 Best Pilates Reformer Exercises for All Levels of Experience

Whether you are new to exercise as a whole, new to Pilates, or just someone who wants to get a great full-body workout, Pilates reformer exercises offer a great way to improve your general health and fitness. Maybe you already are familiar with the benefits of Pilates reformer exercises.

These include increased bone and muscular strength, improved posture, and better range of motion. But one of the best things about Pilates reformer work is that exercises can be scaled to any experience level. Here are the six best exercises for anyone, arranged in no particular order.

1. Leg Circles

Though they are sometimes called a beginner exercise, leg circles offer an easily scalable exercise. Through reducing or increasing the resistance, this is an exercise that can challenge every fitness level.

To perform leg circles, you will need to lie on your back on the reformer. You will be using the leg cables. However, if you are very new to exercise, you can always practice this exercise on the ground without resistance.

Because the concept of progressive overload (or gradually and systematically increasing the challenge of an exercise) is vital to progress, it is important to challenge yourself further each time the exercise begins to feel too easy. So, for this exercise, you may want to start on the ground and then move to the reformer with a low-tension spring.

First, you will need to bring your legs up, so they are perpendicular to your body. Then, you will need to sweep them open and around, pause, and return to starting position. While this exercise involves leg motion, it does an excellent job of engaging and working your core.

2. The Short Box Series – Flat Back

This exercise is also a great abdominal builder, and it is helpful for people of all fitness levels. To perform this exercise – which is basically an elevated abdominal crunch – you will need to sit on a short box that is placed on the reformer. Then, you will need to flex your feet beneath the strap. This will help hold you in place.

Thinking about engaging and pulling from your abdomen, you will then need to lean backward, come up, and return to the starting position. When doing this exercise, it is important to think about engaging to the core and moving slowly.

3. The Hundred

This classic is one of the most popular Pilates reformer exercises, and by adjusting the resistance as needed, you can make it as easy or as challenging as you please. To perform the hundred, start by lying on your back on the reformer.

Bend your legs so your thighs are at a 90-degree angle with the rest of your body, and so your calves are at a 90-degree angle with your thighs.

Then, you will need to pull the straps to the level of your abdomen, curl your head and shoulders up off the headrest, and move your arms up and down in a pulse-like motion. As the exercise name suggests, you want to repeat the pulse motion 100 times. However, if you are new to Pilates, you can pause and rest if needed.

4. Pulling Straps with Long Box

This exercise works to build the muscles of the upper back, which in turn will improve your posture. This exercise, like the short box abdominal exercises above, makes use of a Pilates accessory called the long box.

To start, place the long box on the reformer and lie on top, with your chest just over the edge. You will then need to extend your arms above your head to grab the straps. In a smooth motion, pull the straps down to your hips. This motion will move your body forward.

5. The Pike

Most Pilates reformer exercises have a handful of variations that practitioners can use to make the exercise easier or more difficult, and the pike is no exception. This full-body exercise is an excellent choice for beginners and experienced exercisers alike who want to build core strength and full-body flexibility.

To start, hold a plank position with your feet on the frame and your hands on the reformer carriage. Then, pull your weight back to your feet. This will move the carriage toward you and raise your hips into the air. Return to the starting position and repeat the motion as needed.

This may be a challenging motion even for those who are in good shape. Because of this, it may be a good idea to start without using any springs, as this exercise is challenging enough as-is. If the pike becomes too easy, you can always add springs.

6. Reverse Knee Stretch with Alternating Leg Lift

Reformer Pilates instructor John Garey advocates this eye-catching exercise that promotes full-body strength and stability. As with many Pilates reformer exercises, it may be helpful to start with little to no resistance and then add resistance if it becomes necessary. Start by kneeling on the carriage with your hands grasping the sides of the frame.

Then, you will pull one knee forward while extending the other out behind you. Garey says that it helps to think of taking “giant kneeling steps.” While this exercise is called a “knee stretch,” it actually has several great benefits for the hip flexors. As you become more skilled at performing this exercise, you may want to add higher-tension springs to continue progressively overloading your body.

Bottom Line

While the benefits of Pilates reformer exercises are excellent, the variety of exercises to choose from is seemingly endless. For beginners and experienced Pilates practitioners alike, it can be challenging to choose which exercises will make up each workout.

While the above list is only a sampling of exercises, it offers a selection of reformer exercises that work equally well for all experience levels. After all, one of the greatest benefits of Pilates reformer exercises is the fact that each can be scaled to the user’s ability. If you haven’t yet added reformer Pilates to your exercise routine, start today!

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