BEST Pilates Reformer to Use At-Home

Today we’re gonna discuss what the Pilates Reformer is, how to choose one for yourself and my favorite home reformer that’s out there.

  • Author: lesley.logan
  • August 20, 2023
Home  »  Blog   »   BEST Pilates Reformer to Use At-Home
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Do Pilates Reformer Exercises Benefit Your Body?

All right, the Pilates Reformer can look like a torture device. Let’s be real. And some of these Pilates Reformer exercises can feel that way. However, the Pilates Reformer is a great tool, one of many great tools that Joseph Pilates created for us that can help take our strength to the next level, improve balance, posture, flexibility, and most importantly, help you do the mat practice better. Today we’re gonna discuss what the Pilates Reformer is, how to choose one for yourself and my favorite home reformer that’s out there.

Hi, I’m Lesley Logan, founder of OnlinePilatesClasses.com™. I’ve been doing Pilates since 2005. And teaching it since 2008. In fact, one of the many amazing people I got to train from was one of Joseph Pilates’, clients. And so I really love how the entire method of Pilates works together, and how the Reformer is actually one part of that. And it’s really exciting to share that with you today.

Why Use a Pilates Reformer?

So the Reformer is a tool in our Pilates practice. It is one of the many tools that Joseph Pilates gave us. We have a Cadillac. We have the Wunda chair, the mat is its actual own apparatus. It’s an actual piece of equipment. And so when we use the Reformer, it is here to help us with our mat practice, which then helps us do life better. Speaking of the mat, you actually do not need to have access to a Reformer to be doing Pilates or to get really good at Pilates. You can do only the mat, and it’s one of the most successful pieces of equipment we have out there. And you can check out our beginner-friendly mat class trial.

What is a Pilates Reformer?

All right, so what is a Reformer? Well, this is what it looks like. Or some iteration of this.

breaststroke on the reformer online pilates classes

It has a footbar that can lower and lift. And that is depending on the exercise and what you’re using it for. It has springs, there’s four of them underneath the equipment. Some Reformers will have five springs, and they’ll be different colors. My Reformer is the one that is as close to what Joseph Pilates created, as we can find out there right now. And so I only have four springs and all my springs weigh the same amount. You might come across a Reformer that has five hooks, and they’ll have springs that are lighter and heavier, depending on what they’re doing. So when the springs are attached and you move the carriage out, it creates resistance, and then the springs want to come home, but you have to determine how quickly that happens.

There is the carriage. You lie on the carriage, you can stand on the carriage, you can sit on it, depending on the Pilates Reformer exercise. There are shoulder blocks. Again, another way to close the chain, create connections. It’s called a Reformer for a reason. So it’s helping pull your shoulders on your back and give you some feedback there. Oftentimes your hands are even on these or your feet.

Then we have handles. My handles, the wood spins. I’m telling you all this because these are key things you want to look at when choosing a Reformer, alright? So, I prefer wood handles that spin for your hands, because it does allow the Reformer to do what it does best, which is actually connecting more to yourself. And so with this kind of a handle in my hand, I can connect my shoulder on my back more versus a loop.

Then we have leather loops for some exercises. And then we have extra straps to make the straps even longer. Some Reformers the straps get longer and shortened. And they have loops already attached. However, this one I can make the loops longer, and I can still have access to the handle.

And then we have a headrest that can go up or down depending on the exercise we’re doing. And then we have what’s called a short or a long box. This is a key piece of equipment, because it does give us access to even more exercises that can help us connect more to our bodies. So it lays on the carriage either long ways, or you can put it short ways for its short box. And so both are essential. So you want to make sure that when you’re looking to Reformer, you have access to this box.

What can a Pilates Reformer do for us?

What a Pilates Reformer can do for us is this. Because of the springs, it actually does help us understand how to activate our muscles when we don’t have the springs and the springs can be very supportive. So depending on what your level is, you will use more springs or less springs from certain exercises. And it will really help you find your center. Otherwise, it can be like we’re doing choreography. So when you have these springs, it really helps you understand how to stretch your legs from the right muscles so when you don’t have springs, you know how to do it. It really is a great teaching tool. And yes, an advanced practitioner will use this Reformer. There are some exercises that are from beginner to intermediate to advanced and super advanced. However, what is so great about this Reformer is, it really does help us not use it. We go to do our mat practice!

What is ‘Reformer Pilates’ versus ‘Pilates’?

A lot of people often ask, “What is ‘Reformer Pilates’ versus ‘Pilates’?” So, let me just help you out right there. Reformer Pilates is Pilates. Remember, Joseph Pilates created the mat work first, and then he saw that we needed a lot of support. Our bodies needed to understand how to move from our center better. A lot of us can move from our shoulder and our wrist and our elbow, but not from our center out first. And so not only did he create the Reformer, but he did create other pieces of apparatus as well: the Cadillac, Arm Chair, Wunda Chair, etc. So the Reformer is essentially just one piece of tool in the Pilates method.

If you want to call something Reformer Pilates, it just means that you’re doing a practice on a Reformer, it’s not actually a separate type of Pilates that’s out there. It’s one tool in a bigger method. If you have access to a Reformer and you’d like to do a Reformer class with me or the OPC Teachers, we actually have a weekly and monthly Reformer classes on OPC. And remember, when you’re doing those Reformer classes, make sure that you also try out some mat to see how the Reformer made your mat practice even better.

What to look for in a Pilates Reformer

All right, so now you’ve got to choose your Reformer that works best for you. Here is the deal. Reformers are actually very expensive. And oftentimes I see people trying to find something that’s only a few hundred dollars. I will be very honest with you, the more things you take away from what I discussed as being part of the Reformer, the less abilities you have in a Reformer practice. In fact, that will limit the exercises you can do, it will also create limitations for you.

So let’s just talk about what you should be looking for. Most Reformers are actually going to be over $2,000. I prefer them to be elevated from the ground just because it is easier access for you to get down onto them. Also, some exercises require there to be space between the Reformer and the floor, for example, Pulling Straps exercise. If your Reformer is on the floor, even on top of the box, you will not be able to do that exercise, it will affect your Teaser exercise. So there’s a lot of things that we lose when we get the Reformers closer and closer to the floor.

Also, if you are picking a Reformer that doesn’t use springs, and says it uses cables, it is going to take away the ability for you to resist the equipment coming home. And so you’ll be working on the way out but the equipment is going to work itself home.

And so when you have these limitations, when they take these things away, yes, the price gets lower. But also it affects you getting the full benefits of a Reformer practice. And I do want you to have the full benefit. So if you’re like, “Lesley, I really want a Reformer, I can’t afford it right now.” I do have a free guide – go and check it out – that helps you build a home Pilates studio for the space that you have, and also considering your budget. They get a little bit more expensive if you attach a Tower to the end of them, which can be a great space saver. But you are looking to spending between $2,000 and $5,000, especially with tax and shipping.

Top features you WANT on your Pilates Reformer

I also have an affiliate link to some amazing equipment that you can choose from. There are a variety of Reformers to choose from. But here’s what I want you to look for. You can choose oftentimes between aluminum and wood. The reason I love aluminum, it’s actually lightweight. I move my Reformer with my husband around our house all the time because the frame is extremely light once you take the carriage off.

You want a footbar that does lower and lift. You do not want a footbar that is stationary. You do want springs. And you do need the box to come with it. Oftentimes they’ll go optional – add the box! You are losing out on a good 15 amazing exercises for all levels when you remove that box from the equipment. And ideally, you would have handles as part of the equipment versus loops. However, if you only can get it with loops, I understand. There are ways to add a handle to that and we can talk about that in another blog. You do want a headrest that lowers and lifts because that does change the exercises and supports your neck in different ways.

There’s a difference in Reformer straps

One more thing, let’s talk about these straps. So you will see different Reformers that have risers and ropes or no risers, but just ropes. The reality is that this leather is actually an organic material and it’s going to help connect you more with yourself. So the leather on mine really does work with me. It does not recoil itself which means I am the one who has to work my body. If the equipment does recoil itself, it does take away the opportunity for you to resist the actual springs and so again, you end up working one direction but not the other direction. Plus is different from other forms of fitness because we are working in both directions, not just one, right? It’s not like you work really hard and you release. So having these leather straps, and again, because they don’t have risers, it makes it really easy for me to put my box on top of it, I can take up as little space as possible, I can slide it against a wall.

A Pilates Reformer is an investment

So when you’re looking for a Reformer know that it is an investment. Oftentimes some companies will have payment plans. I love the payment plan option. As I mentioned, I do have affiliate links that can save you some money, I have to say that it will also mean I make a little bit of money, but I believe in having as much access as possible.

My particular Reformer is actually only 80 inches. Most people just need an 80 inch Reformer. If you’re over 6’4″, then you’re probably going to look at a 86 in Reformer. I do not love 89″ and 90″ ones, they just get too big and they’re not really accessible for home. But this is an 80 inch. It lives in a guest bedroom that I have, most of the time, just only a 10′ by 12′ room and I have plenty of room for this and all my other pieces of equipment. So I know this seems like a weird thing to say, as a Reformer for the house. But it is an essential one. I think it’s really, really great and there a many benefits of a Pilates Reformer. If you were looking at wood Reformers, you want to make sure that you understand the type of living climate you’re in. Wood warps over time. It is also a heavier piece of equipment. So while it does look really pretty, if you like that aesthetic, and maybe less of a torture device than mine. It can warp over time.

So if you are still interested, you still have questions, please put in the comments below. I love chatting about Reformers that are right for you. Even about your height and things like that. Again, mine is an 80 inch so for my people who are under 5’6″, you’ll definitely love this, but I’m almost 5’10” And I’m on an 80″. Alright, and again, check out my free guide. It’s going to help you figure out what pieces of equipment are great for your home studio, it may be that you love the Reformer, but you’re better off having a window chair or spine correct in your home. So check out that guide. It really does explain like different pieces of equipment that can fit a small space to a big space.

Can I resell my Pilates Reformer?

Here’s the thing. If you’re reading this and you have a Reformer that doesn’t have the things I’m talking about right now, there are amazing places where you can resell your equipment for probably what you paid for. Pilates equipment actually does hold its value really, really well. And then you can buy the one that you want. So that’s really fun too.

Try a Pilates Reformer before you buy

Some other ways to pick a Reformer that works best for you is oftentimes we like what we’re used to. So if you’re going to a studio that has a Reformer and you really do love it, get that one. If you don’t love that, or you’re like, “Oh, but Lesley, I really like what yours is.” and you want to try out something like this, there are often people around the world who have this, who have Reformers that you can take a session with, you’ll have to buy the session, but you can take the session, try out their equipment before you buy it. It’s very rare that there’s not like a place, a store that you can go to and try all the Reformers out. However, if you can just take a tour of studios in your area, try they come and they have, find out the one you love. And then that way you can search from there without making a purchase that you don’t love. Also look at online marketplaces. Again, there used equipment everywhere. Sometimes people inherit a Reformer, they don’t even know what it is, and they sell it for nothing. So you might even get an amazing one really inexpensively.

The best at-home Pilates Reformer

Okay, let’s talk about the best at-home Pilates Reformer out there. In my opinion, it’s just one. This is the Contrology® Reformer by Balanced Body®. Contrology is what Joseph Pilates used to call his method. He didn’t call it Pilates, he called it Contrology, which is the study of control of our bodies, which is so amazing. And this Reformer really does mean you are studying your control. Its springs are what we call a long neck spring, which means when the actual spring is closed, the carriage is not closed. And so you can see that in mine. With long neck springs, you have to actually close it yourself, which is amazing, in my opinion. The way the shoulder blocks are designed and the way the carriage is designed so that your heels can actually reach down here is awesome.

What I love the most about it as a teacher. And as a practitioner, as a teacher, my clients actually need less cueing from me because the carriage and the equipment is designed in such a way that you set yourself up in the best way. So you don’t have to have someone hands on you on you all the time, which is the point of having something at home, you don’t want to have someone on you all the time. Also, it as the practitioner, you can really feel you can feel the feedback of the equipment you can understand when you’re cheating when you’re connecting and when you’re disconnecting, right? So it’s really amazing. And you can use my Pilates Reformer Flashcards to create a workout or understand an exercise more.

It is an 80 inch, which means it does not take up a lot of space. Mine actually lives in a bedroom in our house, again, it is a 10′ by 12′ room, we can move it in and out because this frame is super light. The heavy part is the carriage but we can actually move this around. No, it doesn’t slide under a bed. But remember, if you have a Reformer that’s on the floor, you are losing out on several exercises because there’s not enough space between the floor and the reformer.

It is not cheap, which means that it is an expense. It’s an investment in your practice. But if you’re gonna do Pilates for life, this Reformer is gonna last me forever, forever and ever and ever. So what you also want to consider is that if the Reformer has cables, and it’s on the floor, and it has ropes, and the footbar only has to set like only has like a locked position and not, you’re going to be giving up a lot of things that it comes to this practice. And that’s fine. If your price point is what it is, I understand. You can see in my perks page there’s equipment for balance body. And Contrology® has a variety of Reformers at a variety of prices. So please, you’re in good hands of great quality equipment with them. However, you do give things up every time your Reformer changes height or changes length… the springs change to cables, the footbar gets wider, longer and higher up. It does affect the practice that you’ll have. So it’s just something you want to consider when you’re choosing a Reformer that works for you.

Reformer classes at OPC

At OnlinePilatesClasses.com™ we actually have classes on all different types of equipment. So the Reformer is one of them. In fact, we have a Reformer and Mat membership. And then we have a all-studio access membership. So if you do have access to a Reformer, I want you to check out our classes. What’s super fun is we have a variety of teachers who have different Reformers at their homes. And then we have a ton of members with different Reformers at their homes.

So whatever Reformer you choose for you, you’ll be able to take classes OPC. And we can support you in making sure that your straps are the right length, that you’re using the right springs. When you’re a member, you can send in a video of yourself on your Reformer doing an exercise and we can actually help provide feedback and let you know if your placement is correct, or if your spring setting is correct for you. Because here’s the deal. This is a tool in our Pilates practice. And every single one of us has different bodies that is on a different Reformer. And so each exercise can be slightly different. So you do want someone who can provide feedback for you and your practice so that you can connect to a Reformer in the best way and help hold you accountable to that practice.

If you’re wondering if OPC is the right place for you and how it works, everything is explained here. And we really do hope to see you in OPC. In the meantime, let me know in the comments what Reformer you have. If you have questions about it, I can answer that live on Sunday at 9am Pacific Time on our YouTube channel. Have an amazing day. Thank you so much.

By lesley.logan

Lesley Logan, NCPT, is the founder of OnlinePilatesClasses.com, the first free online catalogue of Pilates exercise tutorial videos, where you can also find weekly online mat classes and workshops. When not teaching from her studio in Los Angeles, Lesley can be found traveling the world leading Pilates retreats, or offering Pilates business coaching to studio owners and other instructors through her private mastermind group. Connect with Lesley on instagram @lesley.logan or through the contact page on this site.

Loving this Pilates exercise tutorial? Take weekly online Pilates mat classes with OPC Teachers.
Enjoying Lesley's teaching style? Willing to travel? Explore the world while maintaining your practice by joining Lesley on a Pilates retreat.

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pop up summer tour | online pilates classes

SUCH A TEASE

ONLINE MAT & REFORMER PILATES CLASS DESCRIPTIONS:

Teaser is probably one of the most photographed exercises in Pilates. Which makes people think it's a "peak pose." But, it's anything but! It's simply another layer to your Pilates practice. This week we will acknowledge how each exercise contributes to your ability to do Teaser (someday) and then how Teaser teaches you where to get curious in your practice.

On the Mat we will use light weights for one round of Teaser as they can be helpful for those still adding into their practice.
No props on the Reformer.

See you in class,

xx~LL

MAT EQUIPMENT NEEDED: Your awesome self, light weights and a Mat!

>> Wondering what mat I’m using? You can find out more here.

REFORMER EQUIPMENT NEEDED: Your awesome self and a Reformer!

>> Wondering what reformer I’m using? You can find out more here.

UP, UP, & AWAY

ONLINE MAT, REFORMER, CADILLAC & WUNDA CHAIR PILATES CLASS DESCRIPTIONS:

We are all going to feel like Super Humans after this month!!

Whenever I’m in a hard exercise (for me) where I’m holding myself up with my arms and reaching my legs away I picture myself with super human strength!!! I can do ANYTHING! It makes me smile and helps me stay STRONG.

This month our exercise is Up Stretch and when you think about it - reaching your legs away and staying strong over the carriage may feel a lot like flying!

We’ll be focusing on stabilizing our strong cores while staying equally balanced in our arms and legs. We are giving you some amazing building blocks by merging strength and stretch in all directions. You are going to get a little bit of everything that you can use to connect to your Up Stretch (and even your Roll Up and Knee Stretches Off).

Chair: Please have a foam roller and a balance pad available. We are going to challenge your balance safely.

xx-LL

BACK IN THE SADDLE AGAIN

Online Mat & Reformer Pilates Class Descriptions:

Yes, we are focusing on Horseback in this week's workout. But, we are also giving a celebration to all of us who might be back in our Pilates saddle again. Or, maybe you've been in the Saddle but stuck in the mud. This week's workout it's designed to be a positive play time with an exercise many of us avoid and one that we may never get. But, hey, it's always fun to be out where a friend is a friend - get it? If you know the song you do!

Mat: Theraband and light weights
Reformer: no props needed

See ya in class,
xx~LL 💋

    MAT EQUIPMENT NEEDED: Your awesome self, Theraband, light weights and a mat!

    >> Wondering what mat I’m using? You can find out more here.

    REFORMER EQUIPMENT NEEDED: Your awesome self and a reformer!

    >> Wondering what reformer I’m using? You can find out more here.

    99 PROBLEMS BUT BRIDGE AIN'T ONE

    Online Mat & Reformer Pilates Class Descriptions:

    Shoulder Bridge has multiple phases. It's a phenomenal replacement exercise and also can be a huge challenge. You can balance your asymmetries while also revealing them. It's an exercise that can warm you up and can be part of an advanced series. This week we'll focus on exercises that benefit from Shoulder Bridge and what Shoulder Bridge is telling us about our practice that day.

    Mat: magic circle for the warm up. If you don't have a circle a ball and a theraband.
    Reformer: no prop needed but can use a theraband or circle for short box

    See ya in class,
    xx-LL 💋

    MAT EQUIPMENT NEEDED: Your awesome self, magic circle, a ball, a theraband and a mat!

    >> Wondering what mat I’m using? You can find out more here.

    REFORMER EQUIPMENT NEEDED: Your awesome self, a theraband or circle for short box and a reformer!

    >> Wondering what reformer I’m using? You can find out more here.

    AIN'T NO PARTY LIKE A 100 PARTY

    Online Mat & Reformer Pilates Class Descriptions:

    So many people don't love the 100. But the 100 is an incredible exercise that when you know all its capabilities can be something you might look forward to...maybe even like a little bit. Or a lot!

    We often wonder why the 100 is the first exercise. I mean, it's got a lot going on for a warm up. To me it's a survey, a feedback, a mirror to how our body is doing that day. And, how cool it is to know how your body is feeling as you go into your practice. This way you can explore what your body needs in other exercises.

    Let's explore what the 100 is telling us and how to make it our own each day!

    No props needed.

    See ya in class,
    xx-LL 💋

      MAT EQUIPMENT NEEDED: Your awesome self and a mat!

      >> Wondering what mat I’m using? You can find out more here.

      REFORMER EQUIPMENT NEEDED: Your awesome self and a reformer!

      >> Wondering what reformer I’m using? You can find out more here.

      STAND BY ME

      Online Mat & Reformer Pilates Class Descriptions:

      The key to longevity is being able to get down to the ground and up again with as little assistance as possible. In this weeks class we are going to focus on how to stand in your feet no matter where they are in space.

      On the Mat we will have a playful ending that Joseph Pilates would do!

      The Reformer we’ll end challenging ourselves standing on our carriage. (Options to do the exercises off the Reformer too!)

      No props needed.

      See ya in class,

      xx~LL 💋

      MAT EQUIPMENT NEEDED: Your awesome self and a mat!

      >> Wondering what mat I’m using? You can find out more here.

      REFORMER EQUIPMENT NEEDED: Your awesome self and a reformer!

      >> Wondering what reformer I’m using? You can find out more here.

      FRENEMIES

      Online Mat, Reformer, Cadillac & Wunda Chair Pilates Class Descriptions:

      Hello, it's OPC Teacher Christine here! I used to get commended for my form and flexibility in any type of movement class I went to, even if it was my very first class. But what I struggled with was always hitting a plateau where I couldn't make progress or improvement. For me, that changed when I discovered the strength and control I found in practicing Pilates.

      Getting on the apparatuses puts your body in a position where you find strength, stretch, and control through your center. I was unable to fold my body like origami anymore. One of the mat exercises - double leg stretch - is great for finding a strong center regardless of what the arms and legs are doing.

      For this month, we'll explore using the concept of finding an inner lift of the belly away from the thighs to find a strength in our center, the two-way stretch of the limbs, while controlling the movement of the arms and legs whether they move away from center, or come back to center.

      Mat class: Magic Circle and squishy ball

      See you in class,

      Christine

      HANG 10

      ONLINE MAT, REFORMER, CADILLAC & WUNDA CHAIR PILATES CLASS DESCRIPTIONS:

      Grip strength as well as upper body strength plays an important role in so many different exercises throughout the mat and all apparatus. Our grip can influence the connection from our wrists - to our arms - to our back. And building strength in our chest and upper back can help us connect more to our center in every exercise.

      All month long we’ll explore the feeling, the strength, and the position of our hands and upper body to see how our exercises change with a little extra focus. We’ll also play with ways to gain more strength and awareness in our chest and upper back to create even more connections to the exercises.

      Props:
      Chair - short pole* and a foam roller for balance
      *A thicker pole or roll down bar size might feel nice, but no worries you’ll find your connections no matter what you have on hand!
      Mat: a pole
      Reformer: No props needed
      Cadillac: No props needed

      See ya in class,
      xx-LL 💋

      I LOVE ROCK & ROLL UP

      Online Mat & Reformer Pilates Class Descriptions:

      Finding some love for Roll Up and Open Leg Rocker isn't easy! But, these two exercises unlock the potential for so many other exercises. And what we don't like we often need. So, let's dive into what we need to rock our Roll Ups and Open leg Rockers and see how that changes the rest of our practice in the meantime.

      Mat: Magic Circle, Pole or Theraband
      Reformer: have your shortbox pole near by

      xx~LL

      MAT EQUIPMENT NEEDED: Your awesome self, Magic Circle, Pole or Theraband and a mat!

      >> Wondering what mat I’m using? You can find out more here.

      REFORMER EQUIPMENT NEEDED: Your awesome self, short box and a reformer!

      >> Wondering what reformer I’m using? You can find out more here.