A Pilates Reformer is a piece of equipment that can be used in the Pilates exercise method. Pilates moves are designed to increase flexibility and strengthen the body's "powerhouse" of core muscles: the abdomen, lower back, buttocks and hips. The Pilates Reformer can be used when doing Pilates to provide targeted resistance, allowing for more precision.
Reformers come in a number of styles, but the classic design invented by Joseph Pilates — for whom the exercise method is named — consists of a carriage in a rectangular wooden platform. The carriage connects to springs; pulleys and ropes are attached to the frame. A person using the Pilates Reformer uses his or her own resistance in addition to the resistance provided by the machine's springs in order to tone the powerhouse. Essentially, a reformer looks like a platform bed with resistance cords at the ends.
The Pilates Reformer is useful for performing dozens of Pilates exercises in a number of positions: lying flat or on the side, kneeling, or prone. The reformer is especially useful for people who are just starting to practice Pilates because it makes attention to form, an integral part of this exercise method, much easier. Learning the foundations of the practice on the Pilates Reformer also can make mat Pilates, which uses only the body's resistance, easier to master.
There are a number of different types of Pilates Reformers, ranging in cost from a few hundred US Dollars (USD) to several thousand USD. The equipment is available in the traditional wooden frame, but some newer-style versions utilize metal, leather and mesh. The Reformer's cost can be prohibitive for home use, but the equipment can be found in Pilates studios. Many Pilates studios offer Reformer classes in one-on-one or group settings.
Joseph Pilates developed his exercise method to aid soldiers injured during WWI, and the equipment he invented is still used by physical therapists, osteopaths and chiropractors. It's especially useful for hip, knee and spine injuries. Those with injuries should consult a health practitioner before working on a Reformer.