How to get your ideal body shape with Pilates reformer exercises?


Pilates is one of the mainstream exercising forms. It is done in a mat, and the gravitational pull helps you to get your desired result. However, Pilates is picking up the stream in the market these days- pilates reformer exercises. It is a prop-based exercise. 

Pilates reformer is a type of exercise based on the principle of centering, control, concentration, flow, and breath of traditional mat classes but just performed in a reformer machine. First, It was established by the originator of Pilates, Joseph Pilates. He designed this prop around 1920. The reformer is a technology that has springs, pulleys, ropes, and carriages. Till 2021 this equipment has gone through many developments.  

Doing Pilates with the reformer gives you greater strength, mobility, balance, and flexibility. In turn, improves your posture, and movement and even refines your mental health. This equipment gives you a full-body stretch. These workouts are also great for recovering from any injury and for those more of an intermediate-level exercise than on a mat. 

The pilates reformer also has the option of low-impact exercises for beginners and injury rehabilitation. Let’s talk about them in detail so that you can decide if this reformer exercise is a good option for you. 

All About Pilates Reformer Exercises

So are you curious about the workouts you will be performing at the reformer? Here are a few of the basic exercises you will be able to perform at your fitness center. They are similar to the practice that you perform at home but with more resistance and core engagement.


These are the most basic and the first exercise that is performed on the reformer. It also works as a warm-up for the body. The workouts are performed on your back with both feet on the foot bar. “This series of workouts encourages proper alignment of the ankles, knees, pelvis, and hips,” describes Paula Lester. She also explained that “As our feet endure so much assault on the day to day biases just by walking, this footwork series is beneficial as it nourishes the muscles of the legs and strengthens the ankle joint. They can also aid with strain in the feet including plantar fasciitis,” These leg warmers are easy to perform and high in benefits. 

There are many variations of these workouts. 

First, lay down on your reformer board to perform the footwork. If you feel uncomfortable, you can up the headrest. Set your feet on the foot bar and keep their hips distance apart. 

  • For the first footwork exercise, you will put pressure on the heels. Take a heavy breath, and when you blow out, push yourself back from the bar. This way, the stretcher will move backward while your legs become straight from the bent position. And when you inhale, get yourself back in. Take a few breaks if you are new to the reformer. 
  • You will stay in the same position for the second footwork, except you will now put pressure on the toes. Take a deep inhale, and on the exhale, push yourself and then back again. This position is a little challenging for your legs to control. You will feel more resistance than the first footwork, and you shouldn’t lift Your pelvis. Try to ground them. 
  • On the third exercise, stay in your pushed-back position and keep pressing on the toes. Now lower your heels under the footwork and then lift them again. In this workout, you will feel more stretched on the legs, calves, and glutes. 
  • The fourth one is walking in place. Stay on your back with your toes lifted on the foot bar. Now start a laying walking motion there. Lift your right heels and drop the left one simultaneously, then switch. Choose the pace according to your level. 
  • This exercise is almost similar to the others. Here you put each of your feet at both ends of the foot bar. And then press yourself back and then proceed in again. 

Long Stretch 

Long Stretch exercising on pilates reformer bed
Young woman exercising on the pilates reformer bed

“Long Stretch is more like a moving timber just performed footing on the Pilates reformer. You have to grab the foot bar for balance and place both of your feet firmly on the headrest”


— Pilates instructor Lester

It’s a perfect full-body exercise where you engage your whole body, which in turn leads to a strong core. It also builds up the hamstring, abdominals, and glute muscles and aids you to get balance and more excellent stability. It also improves flexibility by supporting the spine and lengthening the hip flexors. In addition, doing this exercise will improve posture regularly. 

Chest Expansion 

Chest Expansion  exercising on pilates reformer bed
Young woman exercising on the pilates reformer bed

This exercise mainly targets the back of the body. It helps to unlock the shoulders and the chest while improving the posture simultaneously.

“This workout is especially great for people who sit or work at a desk or drive for a long time,”

— pilates studio owner Tianna Stratman


Tianna also explained the exercise as, thus, First firmly plant your butt on the overlong case on top of the reformer. Place your hands gently rested in the loops. And set down both of your feet on the headrest. Keep your knees bent and place your hands at the side of your body, still holding the loops. After that, pull the ropes loops backward. Try to reach as far back as you can. Then return to the starting position. 

Pilates V 

pilates v exercise on pilates reformer

If you are doing Pilates on the mat for a while now, you are already familiar with this term. First, lie on your back on the reformer board, bend your knees and keep them planted on the foot bar. Now bring your heels together but knees apart like a frog. The knees should be shoulder-distance apart. 

Now push yourself back and straighten your leg with the knees touching. Then come back to the starting position. Breath deeply and control your motion. First-timers sometimes might feel nauseous or dizzy going this. Take occasional rest to prevent this. And put your headrest a little higher. 

The exercise increases muscle strength and, over time, gives you lovely legs. 

Beginner Pilates Reformer Workout

Beginner Pilates Reformer Workout

Pilates reformer exercises are great for beginners. It adds another step for the mat workers. At first, beginners should focus on safely doing the activities on the reformer. They can follow the modified version of the workout. Instead of standing, do it kneeling or bent your knees instead of keeping them straight and small, steady movements instead of fast pace. Easy, modified exercises are just as practical as advanced complete ranged exercises. 

You can change up any exercises if a specific movement feels too challenging. Tiny pelvic upward thrusts are just as productive as the entire bridge. The encouraging news is that all the parts of the reformer can readjust to your needs. Depending on your flexibility and strength, you can manipulate the equipment anyway as you like. 

I will write down two of the most usual beginner exercises here.

Backstretch and knee stretch 

pilates reformer exercises for beginners Backstretch and knee stretch 
A happy healthy woman in black sportswear stretching upper body pulling up by hands-on frame of Cadillac reformer during pilates training in gym or studio, looking aside and smiling. Active lifestyle

To perform the backstretch, sit at the edge of the carriage. Use a non-slip pad as a buttock cushion. Rest your legs on the foot bar and place both of your hands on the shoulder blocks. 

For a deeper stretch, you can do some variation of footwork. This exercise gently stretches your arms, back, and chest. Clutch this position for a few seconds and then disclose. Repeat it a few times a day. 

Now, on to the knee stretches. Here you will place the knees on the carriage and hands on the foot bar, and your feet pressed on the shoulder blocks. Keep your spine rounded, and belly tucked in. Now try to push yourself back as much as you can. While doing so, your spine will be straightened. This exercise supports you to stretch your hip flexors and strengthen your joints and spine. 

Arm Stretch 

pilates reformer exercises for beginners arm stretch
Young woman exercising on pilates reformer bed, feet close up

There are two variants of doing these. One is with the strap, and the other one is without. 

For the first, you lie down on your back with your legs on the foot bar. Then hold the straps with your hands and start to lean them back. 

The second variation is when sitting on the stretcher facing against the foot bar. Then put your hands on the foot Handel and start to push the stretcher as much as you possibly can. These exercises will make your hands firm and flexible. 

Intermediate Pilates Reformer Workout

Intermediate Pilates Reformer Workout
Woman performing a pilates yoga mermaid exercise or side stretch to tone the intercostal muscles on a reformer bed in a gym

People who are a little advanced in the form of Pilates can perform this series of workouts. Intermediate exercises are challenging and give your body overall deep stretch, balance, and flexibility. 

Not only do they help to tone up your body, but they enhance your mental capacity. Beginners should gradually work towards achieving the intermediate level by adding difficulty and ranged motion. 

So let’s talk about two of the most mainstream intermediate pilates reformer exercises. 

The Hundreds 

Intermediate Pilates Reformer Workout The Hundreds 
One woman in a black outfit lying on her back doing supine arm work on a pilates bed

The hundreds are one of the most famous core exercises in many workout sessions. In Pilates, this is one of the main go-to workouts. In the reformer, you will face more resistance while doing it. 

It mainly targets your midsection and hands to tone them up. In the reformer, you lie on the stretcher with either your legs at a tabletop position or straight forward. Keep your hip’s distance apart in whichever position you choose. Placing the legs on the foot bar is a good option. Now put your hands on the straps and bring in on both sides of your body. 

You can lift your head a bit for more difficulty. No, start to pump your hands as you inhale and exhale. Don’t forget to engage your core. 

 Pull Straps and T Straps

Pull Straps and T Straps Intermediate Pilates Reformer Workout
Overhead view on an individual woman doing pilates stretch on reformer bed above the hardwood floor

Here we use the extended box to engage the upper back muscle. Later a few weeks on the reformer, your instructor might introduce you to it. Lie on it face forward, keeping the face towards the strap. It doesn’t matter if you hold the strap handle or grab onto the strap part. 

Now try to push forward with your hands going in backward. It will make your core and chest stronger while making your hands and shoulders toned. 

Pilates Reformer Advanced Exercises

Pilates Reformer Advanced Exercises
One young woman making short spine yoga pilates exercise in a workout room

Advanced Pilates reformer exercises are for those who have been doing reformer exercises for years now and want a more profound and more challenging experience. Many of the advanced practices largely depend on people’s skill, stamina balance, and control. I would suggest you try any variation of advanced exercises even when you are a beginner. 

Just one or two exercises a week to raise your level gently. 

For an advanced routine, you can start up with a bit of footwork. Then a few stretches with the strap. 


Pilates Reformer Advanced Exercises overhead
Sporty woman in sportswear doing stretching pilates exercise in the gym. Fitness workout in a sports club. Athletic female person, aerobics

Overhead is a pretty advanced exercise because Your legs have to be straight, with a solid core to hold the position and extreme balance. 

For this workout, lie on your back on the stretcher. Put your head on the headrest. Now take hold of the head of the strap and then put your hands on the sides. Now push your legs straight upwards. Maintain the straightness of your legs. Keep your core engaged. Hold this position for a while, then back to the lying place. Repeat this position. 

This workout targets your core and back, and it is excellent for maintaining abs. 


Pilates Reformer Advanced Exercises rowing

Rowing is another high-intensity exercise that targets your whole body, especially the midsection. Sit on the reformer stretcher fronting the straps. Firmly grab the straps, and start to move front and back in a rowing motion. Make sure you don’t your hands don’t go down, and your spine doesn’t sink. Keep it straight while going back. 

Breathe in a while going forward and breathe out while going back. 


Can you lose weight doing Pilates? 

Pilates is mainly suitable for maintaining weight and toning up the muscles. However, it is not an effective way to lose overall body fat like cardio exercises like running, dancing, or swimming. 

Is it worth buying a Pilates reformer? 

The machine indeed costs a few bucks. But you will find it worth it and notice visible changes in your body by practicing Pilates regularly. 


Finally, I would like to say that Pilates reformer exercises are money well spent. It benefits your body in more than one way. How do I know? Because I have been religiously practicing it for two years now. I would encourage you to give it a try and decide for yourself. 

You will find many studios online that support free demo classes. You can experience the magic for yourself there. I am sure you won’t compunction it. 

Mohammad Kaosar
Mohammad Kaosar

It is my first time sharing my bio with the world. As an IT professional, I reside in New Jersey, USA. I enjoy gossiping and being a part of every daily discussion (especially concerning football and health and fitness). Exercise and maintaining a healthy lifestyle are very meaningful to me. As a fitness and exercise enthusiast, I love writing articles and sharing them with people. The subject of fitness and diet has been a focus of my writing since 1999. Sharing my experiences with others is something I enjoy doing.

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