Group Reformer Classes

I always tell this story when someone asks me about Reformer Pilates: I really didn’t want to teach it at first and then a few months later I was the biggest fan of the equipment and teaching group classes with it.


Reformer Pilates Classes

I was a Personal Trainer and Group Exercise Instructor teaching mainly strength and high intensity classes. When the company where I worked at at the time approached me with the idea to teach Reformer. I didn’t really know what it is. Honestly I never heard about it, I never saw a Reformer bed before. Mat Pilates wasn’t my cup of tea so I guess everything linked to it just slipped my attention. But I had to find out that Reformer Pilates has so much more to it than what Mat Pilates or a lot of other concept can offer.

On the first day of our training I was confused. English is not my first language and all the information I received about something I never heard of overwhelmed me. Even though I usually love challenges I’ve told to my manager crying that I don’t want to do this. And I’m forever grateful to her that she convinced me to continue. I think it’s one of if not the greatest thing I ever taught. Of course personally I felt what it does to my body too, how it makes me stronger, how it challenges me but what was even better that only after a few sessions I saw how this type of workout benefit the people on my classes. I started to really fall in love with teaching it. My clients were hooked to it too. The classes were constantly overbooked. I was teaching in studios with 18-23 beds and we had 5 to 8 classes every single day. And now Reformer classes are more and more popular and there are more and more companies where there are 15-20 beds in a studio but 5 years ago not too many companies had such big studios. So it wasn’t just about the trend. It wasn’t just about taking a picture. Everyone felt that Reformer can give something more than other classes. The machine is so versatile. If the teacher uses it the right way it can improve your posture, co-ordination, strength, mobility, flexibility, stability, stamina and most importantly a unique way to focus the mind. It helps to get to know your body, to connect to your body. 

And when 5, 10, 15 or even 20 people are working out and focusing together that creates something magical. It’s not just me who says that, but very often my clients too. The feedback that I continuously got and get is the same. 

 Pilates Apparatus 

So after this long personal storytelling let’s see what is actually Reformer Pilates. It was founded by Joseph Pilates, father of Contrology, during World War I while he spent his internment in England with his fellow German nationals. As part of his internment he was working as a nurse in a hospital where a lot of the patients were bed-bound. He attached springs and other small parts on the hospital beds so the patients were able to activate their muscles even though they couldn’t leave their beds. This way their recovery was much faster and more effective. If you look at old photos on Google first they looked similar to what we know as the Tower and later to what we know as the Cadillac. It’s very fascinating to see how something so great was born from an idea in the middle of a World War. He didn’t have too many resources, he just wanted to help.


After the war he returned to Germany and he was keep working on his method and his equipments which he called apparatus. In 1923 he moved to New York with his partner in crime, Clara and they opened their first studio which was most popular amongst professional dancers. Alongside other equipment there was the “Universal Reformer” which we now know as Reformer Pilates (bed) as it “universally reforms the body”. What a descriptive wording. Because really, that’s what it does. That’s why people are going crazy about it. 

And if you look back how it started, that it helped injured people in their rehabilitation and then super strong, fit and flexible dancers and athletes used it it clearly shows how much variety this one piece of equipment can give. You can reach any target group with it. You can make a leg exercise feel easy to perform and you can make a plank feel even harder than on the floor. You can reach the elderly community or the victims of sedentary lifestyle to make them move easier and better. You can help athletes to lift heavier, to run faster and you can help them in their fast recovery if they get injured. But even in a mixed ability class where there are a lot of beginners you can use so many options so that everyone can find a movement that works for them. 

Within 45/60 mins with only a Reformer bed you can design a class that does everything for them. Physically and mentally. Next to a classically built Pilates class you can also create a strength focused class, you can do a higher intensity class, you can teach a stretching class, you can train a football team to improve their performance. I personally believe in a newer way to use the Reformer beds. It can offer so much. So much more than the original Pilates concept, which is by the way was amazing in his time, 100 years ago (and it still is) but since then sport science evolved so much and using that knowledge we can honor Joseph’s work by using his equipments the best way possible to reach more people. Did you know that at the start in Pilates’s first studio 60% of his clients were men? Do you see that now? Rarely. It became a “women thing” and in a lot of cases people think about the method as a tool for rehabilitation only, an easy class. 

Think about it, Pilates’s method was revolutionary in his time. Due his background he brought a lot of inspiration from other sports into his method and I think that’s what we need to do to continue his work. The name “Contrology” (the original name for his method) came from focusing the mind through the movement of the body. One way to focus the mind is to challenge the body. Today people find different things challenging than people a hundred years ago. And their bodies and minds need different things too. We function differently, we work differently, we think differently, we receive differently. Different things excite us. And people need to feel excited about something to try it and then to continue it. Building on Pilates’s amazing method, involving new and current ways of working out we can create a fun, effective and challenging programme using reformers. 


Group Reformer Classes

In my classes I had all the genders, all the ages from 18 to 70 and all the abilities, people from complete beginners to professional dancers and athletes, anyone basically. Reformer allowed me to create programmes where I can improve everyone’s health and fitness on a challenging but gentle way. Still today I believe that the Reformer Pilates machine is one of the greatest and most versatile tool in the fitness industry and using it in a group set up can be very rewarding for studios. With more people, with a bigger team you can move more energy and you can create a unique experience to your clients. Think about even a small concert where the people who are there can connect and have an unforgettable evening. Next to getting stronger, fitter, having more balance and becoming more flexible etc. people want an experience, something that can take them away from their outside life, they want to belong somewhere, they want to be part of a community. With group Reformer classes you can give all that to your clients.

And when you decide to start Group Reformer I strongly recommend to go for Basi beds. I was working with Basi beds for almost five years. Of course next to that they are beautiful and look amazing, their carriage slides very quietly, the footbar is comfortable, very stable and has a setting where it can come up to even 90 degrees angle, which not all the other beds can provide. My favorite part about the Basi beds is that the carriages are long and wide and the bed itself is very long too which creates much more range of motion for the exercises. I was teaching on beds where my torso didn’t have enough space for the required movements in my routine, so I kept feeling that I would fall off therefore I was restricted with my exercise choice. On Basi beds even my tallest clients felt comfortable. These beds are very durable. They need care and cleaning like every other equipment but we rarely had maintenance problems with them. Because of their expanded gear system I had much more options for creating the right resistance for every body. The headrest and shoulder pads have more set up options than any other bed. I was teaching on many other beds but Basi beds gave me and my clients the most comfort and variety with their workouts, while also reducing the risk of injuries from less impact.


Author Bio

“ My name is Zsuzsa Vinczeller and I’m mainly a Group Fitness Coach. I lived in London for almost 8 years and I was a Master Trainer for 4 years teaching around 30 classes a week. My specialty is group Reformer classes, I was teaching around 20 classes a week with 10 to 26 beds (Basi beds). But I don’t teach classical Pilates. Instead I teach functional training on the Reformer, a more contemporary style, we can say. Next to Reformer I’m a Personal Trainer and I was teaching Strength & Conditioning, Boxing, HIIT, Bootcamp, Barre and Spinning classes too and I became a Yoga teacher not long ago. Right now I'm recovering from an injury, away from London, but my plan is to open my own studio and to create my own Reformer Teacher Training one day".

Instagram @zsuzsavinczeller @reformerbyzsuzsa

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