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Weights vs Reformer Pilates

Is reformer pilates better than weight training?

If you have been thinking of starting reformer pilates because you are allergic to the gym environment or you are a gym-goer and wander if you are missing out by not practicing reformer, my suggestion is: ‘Go for it.’ While there is no need to compare reformer pilates vs weight training, as one is not a substitute for the other, in this article I will aim to do exactly that.


What does a reformer offer that gym doesn’t?

1 Unstable base: useful for core strength and coordination

No matter how many equipment a gym may have the moving carriage of the reformer is not one. This provides a unique challenge for the body, as all the postural muscles have to compensate for the instability by firing continuously in a coordinated way.

Long Spine long sequence Reformer Pilates


2 Incremental adjustments of resistance: necessary for rehabilitation

The resistance reformer machines provide is small, in comparison to that of the machines in a gym. At the same time they can be adjusted incrementally which helps a progressive load of the relevant muscle groups.

plank sideplank sequence pilates reformer


3 Versatility in exercises targeting small muscle groups: perfect for joint health & injury prevention

It is no secrete that Pilates offers some phenomenal exercises to improve strength in stabilisation muscles. The combination of straps, moving carriage and the adjustable resistance allows us to challenge these muscles in ways not possible on the mat or the gym.

pull the sword reformer pilates


What does a gym offer, that the reformer doesn’t?

1 Cardio workout

If you want to challenge your cardiovascular system it would make no sense to do that on an unstable surface. Gyms offer numerous options for cardio and while unfit individuals may get their heart rate elevated on the reformer the potential for a cardio workout is limited there.

2 feet hops reformer pilates


2 Strengthen the big muscle groups

If hypertrophy or strength is your goal, over time you need to increase the resistance against which your muscle work. Both free weights and machines in gyms can help you achieve that. If you are not keen on visiting a gym, you can use small dumbbells to compliment your reformer workouts.


The verdict

One thing that cannot be overlooked when it comes to training is you enjoying the workout. The vibe in the gym and a reformer studio are different but this doesn’t make one better than the other. Instead the 2, compliment each other nicely.


Reformer for Core

Is Reformer Pilates good for core?

A common reason many start mat Pilates is to improve their core strength. Reformer Pilates takes this to the next level, through the use of the springs, straps and a moving carriage.

While there is no room for doubt in regards to whether reformer pilates can do wanders for core strength in this article I will cover how this is achieved.


Does Pilates build core?

Even if we were to narrow down core into abdominal only strength, Pilates builds core in 2 ways:

• the strengthening of the inner unit muscles and

• the outer unit ones.

Inner unit consists of the: diaphragm, rectus abdominis, multifidis and pelvic floor, while the outer unit are the muscles we see in the mirror.

Neutral spine exercises will target the inner part of the abdomen

neutral spine double leg extensions reformer pilates

while exercises performed in imprinted position, as well as those that involve spine articulation will recruit more the outer unit.

imprinted leg extensions variation reformer pilates

If you include in our definition of core, the back and glutes again Pilates offers numerous exercises, to access those muscles.

hip extensions reformer pilates


Can you get abs from Reformer Pilates?

Abs are made in the kitchen, but without training your abdominals, there are slim chances you will look toned.
The reformer, especially through the use of exercises that involved spine flexion (such as role-ups, roll-like-a-ball, chest-lift with rotation) can help your abs look strong and defined. For this to be achieved, repetitions should be in the range of 14-20 and minimal rest should be kept between sets. As a pre-requisite for this type of workout one needs to have a strong lower back.
long spine reformer pilates

How do you engage core in Reformer Pilates?

In Reformer Pilates we can engage the core through the breath or posture. Staccato breathing often suggested in the 100s and spine twists, will increase abdominal engagement. Bracing and the Abdominal Drawing-In Manoeuvre (ADIM) will also increase the recruitment of the rectus and transversus abdominis respectively.

100s reformer pilates


Does Pilates Reformer change your body?

By practicing the Abdominal Drawing-In Manoeuvre throughout the core exercises, targeting the gluteus minimus, medius and maximus, as well as the inner thighs; women can get the hourglass body.
cross-legged superman plank reformer pilates

Does Pilates Reformer burn fat?

A fast paced, challenging reformer workout will contribute to calorie expenditure and thus contribute to fat burn. Pilates Reformer on each own however, might be be sufficient for fat burn and thus a more comprehensive approach might be appropriate depending also on the individual’s starting point.
2 feet hops reformer pilates

Does Reformer Pilates burn more calories than mat Pilates?

The use of resistance (from the springs), the multidirectional use of the straps and the additional challenge the unstable surface of the carriage offers, will contribute to more calories being spent in a reformer class compared to a mat one.
High lunge reformer pilates