“You are only as young as your spine is flexible” – Joseph Pilates
When it comes to physique-sculpting workouts, Pilates is by no means ‘breaking news’. It was in the early 20th century that its namesake creator Joseph Pilates combined controlled movements with a focus on breathing and alignment; developing an exercise technique that built strength and flexibility, whilst improving balance, coordination and endurance. A century on, traditional ‘mat-based’ Pilates classes are still performed worldwide. While some simply utilise bodyweight, the majority make use of equipment such as a Pilates ring or foam block. Few pieces of workout apparatus, however, can rival the Reformer. This genius exercise invention has become a workout category of its own, with Reformer Pilates classes and studios popping up all over London to satisfy the ever-growing fitness crowd that dwells within our fair capital.
So what actually is a Reformer? It consists of two ‘platforms’ – one beneath the footbar at the front of the machine, and a larger platform in the middle, connected to two straps (one on either side) and a number of springs. Pulling the straps or pushing away from the footbar enables the larger platform to move back and forth, with the resistance to the movement dependent on the springs that are ‘hooked on’. At any given time, you could have your back, feet, hands or knees balanced on (or hovering above) this central platform.
The number of moves that can be performed on the Reformer is seemingly endless; from plank-to-pikes and lateral arm raises to shoulder stands and clam leg lifts. The resistance and dynamic movements challenge your balance while working to target and tone every muscle in the body – even those you didn’t know existed; making it one of the most effective and sweat-inducing low-impact workouts out there.
Which studios to try?
Heartcore – For a challenging total body workout, there’s no better place than Heartcore. With studios dotted across London, their attentive, experienced instructors, gorgeous studios, mood-enhancing playlists and Cowshed shower products are just some of the reasons why we go back again and again.
Frame – Whether you’re a complete beginner or a seasoned reformer pro, Frame is a great choice due to the variety of class choices to suit your level. Uniquely, they offer lower body classes and upper body classes so you can really hone in on a particular area, making the burn even more real the next day!
Ten Health & Fitness – If you’re recovering from injury and want to incorporate some reformer pilates into your prehab routine, Ten Health & Fitness is the place to go. They offer physio-led pilates which is taken by a qualified, clinically trained Physiotherapist, meaning you’ll have a tailored approach to your session which can help support recovery, rather than hinder it.
The Pilates PT – For focused one-on-one reformer pilates, there really is no one better than Hollie Grant, founder of The Pilates PT. With a Fulham and Knightsbridge studio as well as offering at-home sessions, she’s a perfect person to turn to if you’re pregnant or if you simply want to master the skill of the reformer.