Strengthen and tone with the Pilates Reformer

The machine in front of me looks like some form of medieval torture device, with its rather terrifying and mind boggling assortment of springs, sliding platforms, pulleys and boards. It is, in fact, the Pilates Reformer, a nifty piece of equipment, which with regular use promises a long, lean and toned body with increased muscle strength.  

I’m at ENERGY Essential Fitness, a Pilates-focused fitness studio based in Cricket Square, George Town, where I’m about to hop on the Pilates Reformer for the very first time.  

The device was originally invented by Joseph Pilates, a physical-culturist from Germany, in the 1900s to help hospital patients strengthen their muscles during the First World War. He argued that stretching and breathing techniques were the most efficient way to help heal injured servicemen.  

He later moved to New York, teaching his Pilates method of exercise and strength training, which started to gain a strong following amongst the dance community. Today the decades-old exercise system is making a comeback, with many people incorporating it into their weekly fitness regime.  

The Reformer consists of a low, bedlike platform, which moves smoothly back and forth along a carriage. On it, you do a series of leg presses, arm pulls and core exercises, many from a lying down position. Resistance is provided by the exerciser’s body weight and by adjustable springs attached to both the carriage and platform. 

Colleen Brummer, fitness instructor and manager at ENERGY, explained that exercise on the Reformer helps create greater core strength, increases flexibility, helps to manage back pain, improves posture and relieves stress, all while creating a beautiful lean body.  

“The Reformer provides such an amazing workout,” Brummer said. “It offers hundreds of exercise variations, is no-impact and easy on the joints. It also allows for easy modifications for those recuperating from injury as well as adjusting for those of a wide variety of abilities and levels – from the beginner to the elite athlete. It is focused on three dimensional movements, taking the body though full ranges of motion, developing total strength and postural conditioning, creating a strong, balanced and healthy core.” 

Class sizes at ENERGY are kept small – there are just five Reformers – which means instructors can keep a close eye on each student to ensure exercises are being done correctly, an important aspect to avoid injury. While the machine looks somewhat scary and complicated at first, getting into position and doing the various exercises is actually easy to achieve. And, since the resistance – and therefore the difficulty – of the various movements can be changed by altering the various springs attached to the carriage, even the most woefully unfit can manage a workout.  

Don’t be fooled into thinking this is an easy class though. With the springs adjusted to your individual ability, you will pump up your heart rate and feel your muscles really working, especially your core.  

“There are hundreds of exercise variations with the Reformer, which is just one of the many reasons this piece of equipment is so unique,” Brummer explained. “Its use of a movable carriage, spring resistance and additional props, allows for a variety of interesting class formats, from great strength conditioning classes to stretch and even prenatal.” 

This class was focused on cardio, so a Jumpboard – a trampoline-like board – was incorporated at the end of the Reformer, which allowed us to “jump” as we moved up and down the reformer – the pulleys offering that all-important resistance. 

Brummer explained that the Jumpboard offers a great cardiovascular workout, while maintaining the integrity of the hips and knees, especially for those recuperating from injury. 

The Jumpboard added a fun element to the class, getting the heart rate up and legs and core working to their absolute max.  

As the class came to the end, I collapsed off the Reformer to finish off with some gentle stretches. The following day, my muscles, especially those in my core and legs, really ached, but in a good way. This is one class I’ll definitely be incorporating into my fitness regime. 

The Reformer consists of a low, bedlike platform, which moves smoothly back and forth along a carriage. On it, you do a series of leg presses, arm pulls and core exercises, many from a lying down position. Resistance is provided by the exerciser’s body weight and by adjustable springs attached to both the carriage and platform. 

“There are hundreds of exercise variations with the Reformer, which is just one of the many reasons this piece of equipment is so unique,”
Colleen Brummer, ENERGY Essential Fitness 

Pilates-CL-Story

ENERGY Essential Fitness offers Pilates classes on the Reformer.

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