I avoided reformer Pilates for a long time because the reformers intimidated me. With their large, metal frames, straps, pulleys and moving platforms, they looked like medieval torture beds – and the exercises looked impossibly hard.

However, curiosity got the better of me, and I’m glad it did, as it turned out to be the most fun and rewarding workout I’d ever done. And I still love every class today.

With that said, here’s the lowdown on the reformer – the different parts and what they do.

THE CARRIAGE is a flat, cushioned board, which you lie, kneel, sit, lunge or stand on to perform the exercises. It glides up and down on rails as you move against resistance. To stay balanced, you have to engage your core and perform the exercises with control.

Many Pilates Reformer exercises are done lying supine (on your back) with your head on the HEADREST. It can be raised or lowered to accommodate the requirements of the exercises.

THE SHOULDER RESTS sit on either side of the headrest. They keep you stable on the Reformer as you push or pull the carriage. Most commonly used to rest the shoulders against, there are also exercises that use the shoulder blocks as props for the feet, knees and hands.

THE STRAPS are connected to ROPES & PULLEYS at the top end of the reformer. The straps have handles that you grab, to pull or push the reformer. Some exercises require you to put your feet in the straps.

THE POLE is used for some reformer exercises to assist with alignment. It also makes a great prop for shoulder mobilisation exercises.

THE BOX is another fabulous prop. The additional height allows for a greater range of motion for the torso, arms and legs, and a whole new bunch of challenging exercises. It’s used both lengthwise and side-ways, known as “long box” and “short box” respectively.

THE PLATFORM EXTENDER does what it says on the tin. It transofrms the reformer into a mat station so you can perform lying exercises and standing exercises such as Standing Splits.

THE FOOT BAR provides a perch for the feet or hands as a launchpad to propel the carriage out. The height of the foot-bar is adjustable.

THE SPRINGS bring resistance to Pilates exercises. The different colours represent different resistance levels, from very light (white) and light (blue) to heavy (red). The teacher will advise on the spring set up when demoing the exercises.

THE REBOUNDER/JUMPBPOARD is essentially a mini trampoline/padded platform that you attach to the end of the reformer. You jump hoprizontally off it, adding a cardiovascular element to your Pilates class. I will do a separate post on Pilates and cardio.

A true full-body workout, reformer Pilates lengthens and strengthens the feet, legs, glutes, hips, shoulders, back and arms — all while engaging the core to remain stable and balanced.

All I can say when it comes to reformer pilates is, put your fears and preconceptions aside. It’s the most versatile and effective piece of exercise equipment ever made … plus it’s great fun!

The next reformer Pilates post will look at what to expect in your first reformer class.

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