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Reformer Pilates Movements

Beth Feigl, national reformer pilates program manager, takes you through 14 Reformer Pilates exercises that might look easy but will really concentrate your balance, core strength and flexibility to deliver a full-body, leg-shaking workout that can test the fittest among us.

Reformer Pilates Movement - Windmills

Windmills

Suffering tight shoulders or a stiff neck after being hunched over a computer of desk all day? This move is for you.

Benefits:

  • Reduced back and neck tightness/stiffness and pain
  • Stronger back and shoulders, trapezius and rhomboids
  • Improved posture
  • Increased flexibility

Trainer Tips:

Keep spine lengthened and shoulders drawn down. Abdominals stay engaged throughout the movement
Try to squeeze your shoulder blades together, keeping the shoulders down from your ears and relaxed
Try lifting your legs to boat pose (as pictured) to increase balance challenge and core strength

Lunge

This move will have you feeling that famous Reformer Pilates burn in no time. Want stronger, more defined legs? This move is for you!

Benefits:

  • Strengthened biceps, shoulder and abdominal muscles
  • Improved balance

Trainer Tips:

Move slow and steady, maintaining tension on the loops throughout the movement
Imagine the back of each arm is resting on a shelf
Keep the chin tucked as your complete each bicep curl
Try a heavier spring for a bigger challenge!

Reformer Pilates Movement - Lunge
Reformer Pilates Movement - Single leg knee tuck

Single leg knee tuck

Starting in a full plank position, this move is great for challenging balance, stability and coordination.

Benefits:

  • Improved core strength and stability
  • Improved shoulder stability

Trainer Tips:

Point all your fingers and thumbs extended forwards over the foot bar to reduce any stiffness or pain within the wrists
Revert to double leg knee tucks for less of a challenge

Swan stretch

Feeling tight or stiff? This stretch is the cure your back, neck and shoulders has been searching for

Benefits:

  • Stretches the abdominals and hip flexors while opening the chest
  • Increases back and hip mobility
  • Reduces back pain

Trainer Tips:

Don’t raise your torso up too high, stay working within your own range
Hips stay pressed down maintaining contact with the long box

Reformer Pilates Movement - Swan stretch
Reformer Pilates Movement - Skater

Skater

Squats – but fancy!

Benefits:

  • Stronger glutes
  • Stronger quads
  • Improved balance

Trainer Tips:

Keep weight in the heel of the supporting leg, and hinge forward from the hips
Foot on the carriage remains light as it pushes the springs in and out

Kneeling inner thighs

Are you ready for a challenge, or maybe just feel like an extra deep stretch? This seemingly innocent move targets and strengthens those tricky inner thighs.

Benefits:

  • Strengthened adductors
  • Increased hip mobility
  • Improved flexibility and stability

Trainer Tips:

Keep the tailbone tucked under, keeping your centre of gravity held in the middle
Try not to arch your back or stick out your bum
Keep lifting through the crown of the head, lengthened through the spine

Reformer Pilates Movement - Kneeling inner thighs
Reformer Pilates Movement - Star side plank

Star side plank

A more advanced move, not for the faint hearted! Challenge your core control with this version of a side plank.

Benefits:

  • Improved core strength
  • Strong shoulders

Trainer Tips:

For an easier option, try a side plank on your knees, or without lifting the top leg
Don’t forget to keep breathing as your hold this pose!

Mermaid stretch

This dynamic stretch helps to lengthen and open up the side body; and feels great at the end of a challenging Reformer Pilates workout.

Benefits:

  • Stretches obliques, shoulders and inner thighs
  • Lengthens and opens the side body
  • Suitable for pre- and post-natal women

Trainer Tips:

Keep your shoulders down and away from your ears
Only stretch as far as you can go without discomfort
Make sure to do both sides

Reformer Pilates Movement - Mermaid stretch
Reformer Pilates Movement - Legs in straps hamstring press

Legs in straps hamstring press

Everybody’s favourite (and arguably the most famous) Reformer Pilates exercise – legs in straps! The options of different movements here are endless.

Benefits:

  • Increased flexibility, especially hamstrings
  • Strong hips and good hip mobility
  • Developed core control

Trainer Tips:

Try adding a Pilates Ring between the ankles to take the challenge for your inner thighs up a notch!
Keep the tailbone heavy on the carriage throughout the movement

Frontal pull downs

Don’t let the fact we’re laying down fool you - this exercise does it all and will leave you feeling sweaty and stronger in no time.

Benefits:

  • Stronger core
  • Reduced back pain
  • Strengthened upper body (shoulders and lats)

Trainer Tips:

Keep your eyes looking forward and chin tucked as you curl up and find an abdominal crunch position
For an extra challenge try extending one – or both! – feet long over the foot bar as you complete the pull-down movement

Reformer Pilates Movement - Frontal pull downs
Reformer Pilates Movement - Seated bicep curls

Seated bicep curls

Want toned arms and strong abs? This move is for you!

Benefits:

  • Strengthened biceps, shoulder and abdominal muscles
  • Improved balance

Trainer Tips:

Move slow and steady, maintaining tension on the loops throughout the movement
Imagine the back of each arm is resting on a shelf
Keep the chin tucked as your complete each bicep curl
Try a heavier spring for a bigger challenge!

High plank

Want abs of steel? This is the move for you.

Benefits:

  • Improve core strength
  • Increase lower back strength
  • Improved shoulder stability

Trainer Tips:

Start in a half plank on your knees or forearms until you feel comfortable to attempt a high plank
Draw your belly button in towards your spine and keep your neck long while holding the position

Reformer Pilates Movement - High plank
Reformer Pilates Movement - Squats

Squats

Everyone’s favourite leg exercise!

Benefits:

  • Strengthened quads, hamstrings and glutes
  • Increased athletic performance
  • Improved leg tone and definition
  • Improved posture
  • Decreased back pain

Trainer Tips:

Make sure weight remains in the heels; a great way to check is to see if you can wiggle your toes while completing the squat
Flex at the hips to lower down into the squat
Squeeze glutes as you return to standing
Try a heavier spring for a greater challenge for the glutes and outer hips

Glute kickbacks

This move has it all – challenging your core, glutes and balance all in the one exercise!

Benefits:

  • Strengthened glutes and hamstrings
  • Stabilises spine and shoulders
  • Develops core strength

Trainer Tips:

Start with a lighter spring option as you work up to becoming more comfortable in this 3-point kneeling position
Aim to keep your hips square and avoid leaning to the side as you complete each kick back
Squeeze the glutes and slowly return to the starting position, keeping the working knee off the box throughout the movement

Reformer Pilates Movement - Glute kickbacks

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