What is Reformer Pilates?

Authored by Pelin Adlan


Undoubtedly, the most prominent piece among Pilates equipment is the Reformer. To an untrained eye, the looks can be intimidating but this versatile machine has to potential to transform any body. After all, it was designed to improve flexibility, balance and strength.

What Is Reformer?

Pilates has gained so much popularity in the last decade that it is now cliché to start by saying that Reformer was invented by Joseph Pilates (but we’ll just do that!). The machine consists of a rectangular frame with a sliding bed called the “carriage”. The carriage moves on the rails inside the frame, thanks to wheels attached under the carriage. There are several springs that connect the carriage to the end of the frame. These springs come in different resistance and they are color coded. Depending on the level of the user and the exercise being executed, different springs can be used to manipulate the difficulty of the carriage movement.

At the same end of the frame where the springs are attached, there is an adjustable bar which can be set to different angles. The angle depends on the exercise and a bit on the length of the user. On the other side of the frame there is a piece called the “tower”, which ranges from “half” to “full”, supporting various equipment on the size of the tower. Traditionally, the straps that are connected to the carriage go through pulleys on the tower, allowing the user to pull the carriage while the springs provide resistance from the opposite end. There are many different Pilates exercises that utilize the straps in various ways.

In fact, the Reformer can be used in many positions (lying, sitting, kneeling) and supports many accessories (Sitting Box, Jump Board, foot platform), which makes it a truly versatile machine. (BASI Systems takes this a step further by combining Reformer and Trapeze Table in a single equipment called Reformer Combo – a real space saver especially loved by Home Studio owners!)

BASI Systems Reformer Combo

BASI Systems Reformer Combo

What is a Group Reformer Class?

Traditional equipment Pilates classes utilize the Reformer with other equipment (Wunda Chair, Trapeze Table, Spine Corrector, Ladder Barrel, etc.), whereas group reformer classes are focused on high intensity and dynamic work out in a group setting using Reformers only (usually between 8 – 20 reformers in a group).

Group Reformer classes are great opportunity to combine strength and stretch based Pilates with the group feeling depending on their level, mobility and consistency. My teaching style for group sessions is aimed to create a friendly ambiance to focus on every part of the body with great music, fun dynamic with maximum team work, minimum competition. It is always satisfying to know that I can build consistency and diversity with groups by modifying each session enough to build excitement without making it intimidating.

BASI Systems Reformers at Virgin Active Group Reformer Studio
BASISystems Reformers in Virgin Active Islington Group Reformer Studio


I try to modify my sessions regularly to create variety for clients as well as allowing to work with different parts of the body. The breath adjustment also is a very important part of Reformer Pilates. Breath control while applying force, resistance and flexibility to the body is one of the key focus points.

 BASI Systems at Virgin Active Group Reformer Studio
BASI Systems Reformers in Virgin Active Kensington Group Reformer Studio

Pelin Adlan is an experienced Pilates and Yoga instructor, teaching private and group classes across London. For more information about her classes and her contact details, please visit her website.

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