Reformer Pilates: Everything You Need To Know Before You Take A Class

Categories Wellness

Whether you’re a pilates girl or not, chances are you’ve seen reformer pilates come across your feed in the last few years. The lean toned bodies. The sweaty glow. Also, the promise of a more balanced workout routine that helps lower cortisol and still keep you fit. Pilates has a lot of faces online and within wellness trends.

As a reformer lover, I can assure you it’s worth the hype. There’s a reason it’s become the IT girl trend. But as someone who also loves running, lifting weights and yoga, I think there’s more to the conversation. So today we’re going to dive into everything you need to know before signing up for your first class, the benefits of adding this into your workout routine and how it’s added to my own personal plan.

Reformer Pilates- A Beginner's Guide & Why I'm Obsessed #whatsavvysaid #wellnessblogger #reformerpilates #palmpilates

What Is Reformer Pilates?

If I had to describe reformer to someone who only sees the photo of the machine, think ballet, mixed with barre mix with yoga. However, on a machine that provides resistance to increase the challenge of it. So, here you get the low-impact benefits of yoga with the added bonus of weight lifting resistance.

However, I did ask Keely, my go to instructor & the owner of Palm Pilates Studio how she would describe it and she said, “A Pilates workout on the reformer takes the basic mind-body Pilates method up a notch. Also, resistance with springs on a moveable carriage using a footbar and pulling straps to enhance strength, mobility and flexibility. The Pilates reformer is a low-impact workout that can help transform the whole body.”

What To Expect with Your First Class?

The very first time I tried a reformer class it was a private class. If your studio is bigger, this is a great way to get familiar with a new machine. So, some studios do offer a intro class that helps you get acquainted with the machine. If this isn’t available, I would suggest opting for a SloFlo class or a smaller class size where the instructor can help you understand the weights, what feet in straps means, and so on.

Also, if you’re unsure which class is best to start with, it’s always with sending the studio a DM. Of all the studios of tried, they are always happy to accommodate new students and want you to have the best experience possible.

What’s the difference between reformer & regular (mat) pilates?

Reformer Pilates is a type of pilates performed on a machine/carriage. Each machine is equipped with straps, springs to provide resistance, a moving bed (aka the carriage), a footboard, and a bar. Additionally, you can add a box, pilates ring, a ball as well a few other items into the mix.

Moreover, the elevated option vs doing class on the floor allows you to do things at a different angle. Much like adding plate under your feet while doing RDLs, you get that extra depth of range. Also, I’m someone who finds that mat classes can irritate my hips and wrists. With the reformer, the resistance provides me with more stability. Also, it’s the best core workout I’ve ever done.

Where can you do reformer pilates?

Typically, reformer is done in studios meaning you’re not likely to find it in your traditional gym. I find that instagram and tiktok are great for finding hidden gems as far as studios go. However, I’d also suggest using the MindBody app. 

What Savvy Said blogger Savannah Cyree exercising
Reformer Pilates- A Beginner's Guide & Why I'm Obsessed #whatsavvysaid #wellnessblogger #reformerpilates #palmpilates


Of all the workouts I do (weight lifting, running, peloton, etc), I’ve found that reformer is both the best recovery & core workout in my routine. It’s helped me to increase strength in my ankles & knees. I don’t wear shoes with pilates so my ankles are forced to step it up to stabilize my body.

What Are The Health Benefits Of Reformer Pilates?

Studies have shown an increased V02 and cognitive function, decreased BMI, anxiety and depression for older women. For women 25 to 40 who took class 3x per week for 8 weeks, they found body fat percentage, cortisol and perceived stress were lowered (source) .


You will most likely notice how different you feel before you see a visual difference. I’ve had friends with jobs that are quite demanding on the body due to standing all day find relief because they are able to gently increase their mobility. For those of us who struggle to maintain a consistent stretching routine, the increase flexibility and ease of movement feels transformative.

Other things like toning arms, stomach and thighs or a more lifted butt will be impacted by diet as well as how your body is trained to preform. As I’ve worked with Intuitive Choice PT over the last few years, I’ve learned SO much about how my body works and getting it to do the things I want it to do vs just doing the reps and pushing through the pain.


The national average is between $25-$35 per class. However, that’s not considering monthly studio packages or initial class discounts. I know Palm Pilates Studio offers the first-class discount bringing the cost to $18. Some studios will offer week-long trials for $1. So the cost varies quite a bit.


The internet has gotten very creative with at home options. And while you can do variations of things, unless you have a reformer machine in your house, it’s going to be regular pilates not reformer.

sign at a pilates studio


It’s amazing if you’re recovering from an injury, looking to increase flexibility, or want a more low-impact workout. I love the community where I go. And it’s also just lots of fun. Keely (@palmpilatesstudio) will often share videos from our workouts on stories. We had a jump board day Friday morning and I’m still sore two days later. Lots of laughs. A great workout. It’s just a great vibe.


Depending on your budget, it’s not necessarily in everyone’s price range.


Everyone. I LOVE a good push yourself workout but sometimes I just need to reconnect & recenter with my body. And I always find I do that with reformer. Whether it’s noticing tension in my hips because I’ve slacked on stretching with runs or ankle weakness that I’m working on, there’s something that everyone can benefit from.


This is an important question to ask before blinding signing up to class because not all reformer classes are created the same. Additionally, not every studio clarifies this ahead of time. If you need something more gentle, it’s worth asking which instructor will fit your preferred class type to get the best experience possible.

There are also boutique studios that offer a Barrys style pilates and tread combo. Treadformer30a has become a favorite in my rotation over the last six months. They offer both a slow flow and more intense reformer class. I’m a big fan of the long run treadformer classes where you spend half on the tread and half on the reformer. 


What Savvy Said blogger Savannah Cyree doing a pilates pose


Typically, I’ll add reformer into my workout routine once a week. It’s one of my two active recovery days.

WHAT Don’t People tell you about your first REFORMER PILATES CLASS?

Just like any other workout, listen to your body. New angles and movements provide the opportunity for you to get stronger but also to identify weaknesses you may not have previously paid attention to. When I first started pilates, I was running more. As that slowed down, I began to feel my hip flexors strongly in class. With help from my PT, I was able to understand that I really needed to focus on activating by glutes and focus on training my lower abs outside of class. 

If you find yourself struggling with something, don’t be afraid to modify or ask for clarification on where you should be feeling it. One of my favorite instructors is incredible about helping to build classes for her students knowing their pain points. If you struggle with a certain thing, are coming back postpartum or just need a bit of extra help, speak up. The best studios will want to help you.


If you don’t follow Kim K on insta, then you may have no idea what I’m talking about. But she’s been sharing her two a day workouts for the last few months. And one of those is pilates. However, it’s not your traditional reformer. So of course, I went to the expert and her answer was Pilates Cadillac. 

Which is “The Cadillac is a specialized piece of Pilates equipment. It consists of a trapeze table that allows you to work against gravity, a flat table for lying poses and spring loaded attachments for strengthening. There are also ‘fuzzy loops’ and tall bars that a user can hang onto for more gravity based exercise,” according to Keely.

Ps. If you want to see what I’m talking about, I shared my Cadillac experience here.

What To Wear To Reformer Pilates?

Every studio is different when it comes to their policy for what to wear to class. But as far as comfort and feeling safe in class, I’ll offer a few tips. And a note that this will probably be a longer blog post in the future so make sure you’re signed up to the newsletter.

Nothing is worse than having a sweaty carriage and not being able to grip during class. I wear leggings for this reason. This way if you’re kneeling you don’t have to worry about sliding from your sweat. I tend to opt for a longer sports bra or a tank top as well. When you don’t know what you’re doing ahead of time in class, it’s not fun to fight for your life trying to stay on the platform because you don’t have an extra layer to keep the sweat contained.

Not every studio requires socks but those that do will sell them in case you don’t know ahead of time. There are loads of options – some SUPER cute and some basic budget choices via Amazon. They all get the job done.

What Savvy Said blogger Savannah Cyree smiling at the camera
Reformer Pilates- A Beginner's Guide & Why I'm Obsessed #whatsavvysaid #wellnessblogger #reformerpilates #palmpilates

If you’re in the Panhandle area, be sure to check out Palm Pilates Studio or Treadformer30a and tell them I sent you. Also, make sure your subscribe to the newsletter – there’s a full what to wear to pilates guide coming soon! I love chatting with you guys in DMs so come join us on instagram.  Until next time friends. Xoxo, Savvy

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