Need Help Choosing The Right Pilates Machine?

Contact us now and talk to one of our Pilates experts to help you find the right equipment for your needs

Is Reformer Pilates Hard? What to Know Before You Workout

Is Reformer Pilates Hard? What to Know Before You Workout

Are you looking for a lean body like a dancer, swimmer, or fit ballerina? Then, pilates might be the perfect workout for you.

Pilates is an excellent workout for strengthening your core, toning your muscles, and providing several wellness benefits similar to Yoga.

However, students and practitioners looking to take their workouts up a notch can gain serious benefits from investing in a Pilates reformer machine.

Unlike mat Pilates, the reformer is designed to engage every muscle of your body using an intricate balance of weight resistance springs, a moving carriage, and several other accessories.

Unfortunately, using a reformer for the first time at home or in the studio can be intimidating. For this reason, many beginners tend to ask us, is reformer Pilates hard?

To answer this question and prepare you to use a Pilates reformer, we’ve developed this brief guide of everything you need to know before your first workout on a reformer.

Is Pilates on a Reformer Harder than a Mat?

Yes, Pilates on a reformer is harder than a mat because it comes with higher resistance levels and a brief learning curve. However, this doesn’t mean that Pilates on a reformer is difficult, especially to learn–but you will feel a deeper burn on a reformer.

For example, when you perform leg circles on a mat, you have very little resistance other than gravity itself. As a result, this exercise will certainly tone your quadriceps and hamstrings, but you won’t develop that much muscle or a deep burn without repeated exercises.

However, with a Pilates reformer, you will perform leg circles with your feet attached to straps that are weighed down by resistance springs. Each leg motion forces you to overcome greater resistance, resulting in a deeper muscle burn. You may even feel like you’re lifting weights.

But that’s not all. Due to the versatility of the reformer, you can also incorporate carriage motion to work your abdominal muscles deeper than normal, achieving a full-body exercise.

So while getting used to a reformer may be a little more difficult and the Pilates ab workouts a little more intense, the benefits of reformer Pilates often outweighs any perceived difficulty. 

Is a Pilates Reformer Good for Beginners?

This leads us to an interesting question: is working out on a reformer ideal for beginners? The answer is yes; however, you may need to start slow on a reformer to avoid overexerting your muscles.

Ideally, a Pilates reformer can be a good balance between traditional Yoga/Pilates and HIIT exercises. As such, you’ll get many of the same Pilates reformer benefits as traditional Yoga/Pilates, including improved posture, mental clarity, and added muscle tone, as well as that nice blend of muscle growth that HIIT workouts can provide.

However, to truly determine whether or not a Pilates reformer is right for you, it’s important to tell you what you should expect before doing a Pilates workout.

5 Things to Know Before Using a Pilates Reformer

You’ll Work Every Muscle

Working out on a reformer will be slightly more complicated than a traditional mat and force you to use more muscles per exercise. Depending on which exercises you do, most reformer workouts incorporate carriage movement, spring resistance, and leg/arm motions using the straps attached to the end.

As a result, maintaining proper balance and posture while moving your arms, legs, and core will force your body to engage deeper muscles across your body that a traditional mat can’t touch.

After your workout, you may even notice some heavy DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) you might not have felt as much during traditional Pilates or Yoga. Fortunately, this will accelerate your training and make you stronger faster, so that muscle recovery times quickly decline.

Practice Breathing

Most Pilates exercises on a reformer incorporate the same slow and purposeful movements as a mat. In order to gain the best results from each exercise, you’ll need to practice your balance, posture, and breathing to engage muscles thoroughly and not blow through exercises like HIIT training.

Ideally, these slow movements should make you calmer over time and give you better posture and balance when all is said and done.

Wear Appropriate Clothing

Since Pilates involves elongated movements of your arms, legs, and spine, it’s essential to wear tight-fitting clothing that won’t weigh you down or feel too loose during exercises.

In addition, grippy shoes and socks are also great for maintaining your balance on that thin footbar and ensuring proper safety.

We also recommend having a towel on hand and some sanitizing rags to maintain cleanliness and wipe up any sweat after exercises.

Follow an Instructor Online

If you’ve never worked out on a Pilates reformer machine before, it’s important to acquire some training or guidance. You can go to an instructor at a class or watch an online tutorial to learn how to use your reformer and perform different exercises on it.

We also have a list of the best Pilates apps that help you coordinate different exercises, track your progress, and follow along with an instructor who explains how to perform each exercise on a reformer.

Learn How Your Machine Works

Understanding the different Pilates reformer parts and how they interact will help you maximize the benefit of each workout. For example, familiarizing yourself with the different spring resistance levels on your reformer will help you find a comfortable setting to start working out with.

In addition, if you are new to Pilates or rehabbing a muscle, it’s beneficial to perform soft movements on your carriage and with your straps to get used to the motions, especially with exercises that require different positions.


It’s important to note that mastering your Pilates reformer is not hard and that the benefits outweigh those of a traditional mat. We offer a wide selection of the best Pilates reformers for any budget or style, ranging from high-end Cadillacs to affordable reformers and towers.

Be sure to browse our selection to see which is right for you, or give us a call to speak to a representative. 

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.

Need Help Choosing The Right Pilates Machine?

Contact us now and talk to one of our Pilates experts to help you find the right equipment for your needs