How are the Pilates reform classes?

SStarting a new form of exercise is always stressful—especially when it involves seemingly complicated equipment like the Pilates reformer. But as Pilates becomes more and more popular for its many benefits (better posture, flexibility, balance, etc.), you may be wondering what all that fuss is about. That’s why we asked New York-based instructor Jennifer Kreichman to share what you need to know to take your first class with confidence.

First, some background

Pilates was developed by German bodybuilder Joseph Pilates during World War I. According to Pilates lore, while being held captive by the British as German alien enemies, Pilates used his time to discover new forms of exercise and teach real friends your set. Near the end of the war, it is said that he worked as a paramedic in a hospital and experimented with bed springs, using their resistance to strengthen his patients’ muscles. Thus, reformation was born.

Today, the device looks like a bed, with a pedestal (chariot) in the center that can be rolled back and forth. Participants push and pull their bodies along this track using various bars and straps. An adjustable spring at the bottom allows the user to increase or decrease drag.

“It’s a form of exercise that combines the mind and the body,” says Kreichman. “It balances exercises that build strength, flexibility, range of motion, and aerobics as individuals become more advanced.”

Difference between reformer and mat Pilates

Pilates can be done on an exercise mat or on a reformer, and each type presents a different challenge. “When you’re on the mat, you’re using your own body to fight gravity,” says Kreichman. “On the improved machine, the springs take the resistance created by gravity and add to that resistance so you can perform a greater range of motion.”

Although both follow a flow progression (there is a standard way to take class from exercise to exercise, such as a ballet class), the two flows are not the same. “They are related,” Kreichman said. “Any exercise we do on the reformer has similarities to the exercises we do on the mat, but they’re not the same.”

When asked if one is better than the other, Kreichman says it’s best to do both, if possible: “They have different benefits, and if you can expose all of them, There (improvement machines, mats and other devices like Cadillacs and chairs) you experience Pilates as it was originally developed.

Common misconceptions

“Some people think Pilates is just for women, the elderly, the traumatized, or the dancers,” says Kreichman. “At any age, anyone can benefit from increased strength, flexibility, and range of motion. If you exercise when you are young, it will protect your spine and the rest of your body as you age. You will be able to stay upright and prevent injury. Those benefits don’t discriminate by gender or age.”

Some also claim that the low rep count makes Pilates a less effective exercise than other options. “My daughter’s boyfriend just joined my class for the first time and he was so interested in why we only did a certain exercise four times,” she said. “He didn’t want to stop until he did the right move, and when he finished, his back really hurt. Yes, that’s one of the reasons we do a limited number of iterations.” Many training modalities use specific muscle groups until they are exhausted or fatigued. “Pilates takes a more holistic approach,” says Kreichman. “You do fewer reps, but you target more muscle groups. The idea is that you don’t need all those reps to get stronger, especially if you do each exercise carefully.

How to reach your first class

The Pilates Reform has a steep learning curve. The slide of a wagon is a new sensation for many people and there are quite a few technical/safety rules to be grasped. (For example, you should always put your head down before doing short spine exercises.) Kreichman says: “These are things you can only learn by taking a class. “Ultimately, the only real mistake you can make on the first day is throwing yourself into the exercises without carefully observing and listening to the teacher’s instructions.”

Kreichman recommends novice reformed Pilates practitioners tell their instructors about any current or previous injuries or health problems. She also wants you to be open-minded. “Remember that it takes time to learn something new, so don’t be discouraged if the physics vocabulary doesn’t come naturally at first,” she says.

Know that the goal of this class is not to leave you sore the next day. “You really shouldn’t be too sore after the Pilates reform,” says Kreichman. “The goal is for you to improve your structural alignment and feel stronger.”

Want to try a reform-like workout at home without reform? Try this series with the foam roller:

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