I arrived limping, I left walking.
Tom, Maidenhead

Why And How Reformer Pilates Can Contribute To Your Training


The Pilates Reformer is a machine designed to incorporate the original principles of exercises developed by Joseph Pilates including many of the classical positions. The reformer itself is a machine that is designed to challenge the body in different ways through a gliding board, pulleys and springs for assistance/resistance. The reformer allows for precise controlled engagement & movement through the limbs creating stimulus and feedback to your body that other forms of traditional training do not. The reformer helps build awareness of correct positioning and posture whilst moving to activate the correct muscles to provide stability, balance, control and ultimate core strength and power through the body. These benefits are directly transferable to other training, sports or activities that we do, and are a must for anyone taking part in sport and exercise.

Having been about for a good number of years, the pilates reformer has taken a bit of a step forward in the public eye from the more traditional (and very popular) ‘mat’ based pilates classes. In its application of spring resistance it is often seen as a progression on from mat pilates, but it is here where we need to start to think that less is more.  By taking away high spring resistance loads, we can make what seem like very basic exercises more difficult by creating a control stimulus through to the centre powerhouse of the body that stabilises the body through movement.  It is at this end of the spectrum of ability that we focus on with a lot of clinical conditions and sports conditioning clients that we encounter at Drummond.

When we study someones movement, walking, running, jumping or any skilled movement pattern the joint movement, stability, balance, control, flow and timing can be significantly masked by the sheer speed of how all of these factors occur.  A poorly controlled movement can result in an overriding occurrence of compensation that allows for completion of the task but over long term a dysfunctional movement pattern that can result in problems further down the line.  If we were to then either slow the movement down or indeed break the movement down to individual phases we would/may change someones ability to effectively control that same movement.

This is the premise of reformer pilates.  There are rules for progression when we either look to change or create a new habit, particularly through our sports training.  Skill acquisition, stability, balance and control must be the leader in these rules followed by strength, endurance and then strength & power.  Many times we see the beginning of the road being one of building endurance without the skill, whilst this will create some progression, the true foundation of stability will not be established.

So now the introductions are out of the way, how would this type of training benefit the athletic/active population and not just be reserved for the hardline pilates follower.  Well here goes.

All activity needs a good foundation from which to work from.

In basic terms the body has two muscular systems.  

  • Deep Stability
  • Global Mobility

Deep Stability System – Is in essence this system is what we often refer to as ‘core stability’.  When operating to its true potential it ensures that the global mobility system can truly perform and create quality movement for what ever task is asked of it. An athlete cannot develop efficient and effective powerful movements from a base of instability. The reformer through its repetitive stimulus and varied positions allows athletes to generate power through the weaker deep stabilising muscles, creating control and enabling the athlete to maximally generate power and efficiency through their sporting movements.

Global Mobility System – This system is devised to move us.  If the stability system is underperforming, the global mobility system will try and re-task some of its resources to try to mimic a stability role.  We call this compensation and therefore may limit our performance and may well lead to injury. The reformer repetitive practice will allow athletes to generate more power through the global mover muscles as they function truly in their movement patterns without the compensation movement if the stabilisers are dysfunctional.

Let’s put this concept now on the Pilates Reformer.  

If your core stability is disengaged or in compensation then we must get it back and functioning.  In the early stages of change, SKILL is what is needed, hence my comment earlier of ‘less is more’.  Engagement of the deep abdominals, deep back muscles, pelvic floor, diaphragm and shoulder girdle stabilisers (to name a few) is what we endeavour to engage here.  We stay at this stage for longer than we think we should as Skill is the foundation for the stages that follow.  Once Skill is aquired, then Endurance and eventually Strength can follow.  If you are compromised within your core you will bypass the skill and most stages of endurance and go straight to the strength endurance element of this system.  However this will not be tolerated for long and may then lead to aches, pain, injury and under performance. This makes it even more important for athletes, whether recreational or elite to include Pilates based training into their everyday training routines to optimise performance and prevent injury. 

Interested in a bespoke 6 session course of 1 – 1 Reformer Pilates? Call us on 01628639532 for more information!

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