A Pilates reformer is a bed-like frame with a flat platform on it called the carriage. The carriage rolls back and forth on wheels within the frame. The carriage is attached to one end of the reformer by a set of springs. The springs provide different levels of resistance as the carriage is pushed or pulled along the frame. The carriage also has shoulder blocks on it that keep practitioners from sliding off the end of the reformer as they push or pull the carriage during exercise.
Benefits of Pilates for everyone from beginner to the advanced:
- Improved flexibility
- Increased muscle strength particularly the abdominal muscles, lower back, hips and buttocks (the Internal Support System or ‘power house muscle group)
- Increased muscular endurance
- Enhanced muscular control and awareness of the back and limbs
- Improved stabilisation of the spine
- Improved physical coordination and balance
- Improved posture
- Helps prevent musculoskeletal injuries
- Relaxation of the shoulders, neck and upper back.
- Promotion of a toned, lean and long physique
At the spring end of the reformer, there is an adjustable bar called a footbar. The footbar can be used by the feet or hands as a practitioner moves the carriage. The reformer also has long straps with handles on them that are attached to the top end of the frame. The intensity of the resistance is determined by body weight and resistance of the springs. Reformers and their parts are all fully adjustable for all body sizes and all levels of skill.
The founding father of this method of exercise Joseph Pilates was born in Dusseldorf, Germany in 1880. He was passionately committed to studying and practicing physical fitness in many forms including yoga, gymnastics, boxing, martial arts, and eastern and western philosophies. Joseph Pilates moved to America and developed over 600 exercises performed on the mat or using the equipment he invented. He is widely recognised as a genius in the creation of exercises that enhanced the bodies strength, stability and flexibility.
Pilates can be broadly defined as a series of over 600 mat or equipment based exercises that improve a persons flexibility, strength, balance, alignment and body awareness. Pilates is partly inspired by Yoga, but Yoga is a series of statically held postures, whereas Pilates is a series of controlled movements that require focused attention to keep you in balance during the movement. While performing these movements you must focus on tightening the deep abdominal muscles and coordinating the movement with controlled breathing.
The Pilates movement is gaining more and more popularity in the wider exercise community with the recognition of functional movement exercise principles to increase balance and stability. Clinicians and exercise professionals recognise the pivotal role core strength, muscular stability and flexibility plays in improving the bodies movement and the way we perform our daily lives. Part of all Pilates exercises are the principles of balance, control, concentrated focus, and breathing. Movements are focused on the “Power House” muscles of the core, this results in the promotion of flat abs, strong back, toned buttocks and thighs. These deep internal muscles of the abdomen and back include transverse abdominals, pelvic floor, diaphragm and multifidus, also termed the ISS or Internal Support System.
By advancing from mat exercises to using the specially designed Pilates equipment, the user then incorporates body weight, gravity and spring resistance. This allows the Pilates exponent to improve posture, flexibility, muscular endurance, core strength and achieve a stunning long and lean physique.
The specialised Pilates equipment range includes the Universal Reformer, Wunda/Combo chair, Ladder Barrel, Cadillac (Trapeze), Reformer with half and full trapeze, the wall unit , and arc barrel. This range of Pilates equipment allows the user to form an almost limitless range of movements starting from basic to advanced. As most Pilates exercises are done with a focus on lengthening and stretching the muscle in eccentric and concentric movements athletes and dancers use Pilates to improve their performance and reduce the risk of injury.