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What Is a Pilates Tower?

C. Mitchell
C. Mitchell

A Pilates tower is an exercise apparatus that is designed to bring added challenge to a Pilates reformer workout. Most of the time, the tower is sold as an optional accessory. It is typically a flat rectangular structure, often made from narrow boards or metal tubing, that stands anywhere from 3 to 5 feet (about 1 to 1.5 m) off the ground. The tower can include a range of straps, rings, and pulleys that create tension and up the intensity of a number of different stretches and muscle movements.

Joseph Pilates developed the workout system that now bears his name in the mid-1900s as a way of joining the mind and the body in the pursuit of better health. The system is focused on the body’s core, particularly the muscles of the abdomen. Original Pilates work was done exclusively on a mat, but over time, it evolved to include some apparatus work, as well. The Pilates tower is one means of combining mat and apparatus work, and can be used inside a studio or at home.

Woman exercising
Woman exercising

In nearly all cases, a Pilates tower attaches to a reformer, another type of apparatus. Pilates reformers are simple machines that practitioners can use to guide their Pilates movements, especially advanced techniques learned on the mat. Reformers often resemble small box springs, on top of which practitioners must lie or sit. The bottom support panel typically moves on a backward and forwards track, and different straps and bars allow for a range of targeted movements not always possible when on a mat. Towers are usually designed to snap in to either the head or foot of a reformer, adding still more exercise options.

A Pilates tower may also be mounted on a wall, though this approach is generally much more permanent. Mounted towers are rarely seen outside of professional studios. More portable towers are very popular in home gyms or more multipurpose spaces, where they can be folded and stored out of sight when not needed.

Specifics vary my manufacturer. Some towers are universal, and will attach to nearly any brand or style of reformer. More specialized models must usually be purchased with specific reformers in mind. There is usually also some difference when it comes to what a Pilates tower actually includes. The most basic models have only straps, while more intense versions have weighted bars, pulleys, and rings.

Towers tend to be most popular among the most advanced Pilates aficionados. While mat work and some reformer exercises are designed for beginners, most of the sequences done on a tower are considered advanced. The height of the straps, rings, and other features adds a resistance that is hard to modify. More intermediate practitioners will usually start with fewer repetitions, but often have a hard time actually softening the exercises.

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