Pilates Reformer

On the complete other end of the fitness spectrum is the Pilates Reformer. The underlying principles of Pilates include breathing, centering, concentration, control, precision and flowing movement. Less explicitly stated is the reliance on higher reps and lower weight with resistance provided primarily by the person’s body weight and the Reformer machine. Proponents of this school of thought include the ubiquitous Tracey Anderson (trainer of Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow and author of last year’s Ballerina Fitness Experiment). Anderson recommends never lifting any weight more than 3 pounds, doing lots of dance cardio and the Pilates Reformer at least twice a week.

Being leery of celebrity trainer types, I was excited to see what our Y Pilates Reformer instructor would have to say on the subject. Long, lean & toned – the quintessential Pilates bod – she made a good argument in favor of Pilates without even saying a word. When I asked her what her personal workout routine looked like she answered that, like Anderson, she advocates at least two days a week on the Reformer all though she did accede that for some of us that might be cost prohibitive. In addition she does a couple of mat Pilates classes and occasionally mixes it up with Free Motion machines (strength machines that focus on weight training without limiting your range of motion like traditional weight machines do) and some cardio on the elliptical.

The workout was quiet and relaxed compared to the Kettlebell class we had just completed and yet my muscles, especially my core, still quaked with each exertion. Rather than motion, there was a lot of emphasis on control and synchronizing the movements with our breathing. My favorite move was a sliding plank that hit everything from my core to my butt to my shoulders. We only had to do six reps and I grateful for that as I was quite sure I could not have eked out even one more. It doesn’t help that the Reformer even looks like a medieval torture device.

After the workout, I hit the teacher with the question I’d been waiting all day to ask – one that I get from you guys with some frequency – “Do you think that Pilates and yoga on their own are enough strength training?” Her answer? “Yes.” While she didn’t specifically speak against traditional weight lifting, like Anderson does, she did say that she has gotten great results for herself and her clients with just Pilates. It made me think Experiment Time! (Anyone have a free Reformer they want to lend me for a month?? I’ll take really good care of it and promise to never ever hang my clothing on it or make jokes about the Bowflex in its presence!)

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  1. Great read. I’m kettle enthusiast so there’s not much I can say bad about it. Pilates I must try now. but, I have always found a way to incorporate pilates like exercises into my daily routine

  2. What a great article! I do both…I started kettlebell training a couple months back and I’m amazed at the changes I’ve seen in my body. Pilates is equally fantastic.

    I’m seeing more black and brown girls at the studio I go to which is fantastic!

  3. tight lipped mary

    i love pilates.

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