1. Key Considerations:
What is Pilates?
2. Pilates Reformer Features
3. Reformer Manufacturers
4. Pilates Reformer Prices
5. Reformer Buying Tip
6. Top 10 Pilates Reformers
Pilates is one of today’s most popular exercise regimens, with ten million Americans regularly attending studios and classes to improve their core strength, balance, and flexibility.
While many Pilates exercises can be performed on a mat, the use of the rather intimidatingly named reformer adds a plethora of movements to improve and enhance your workout. The reformer is also used extensively for physical therapy and rehabilitation.
All Pilates reformers share a basic design, but there are a few important variations. Since it is an expensive addition to your home gym, it’s important to identify your specific needs and know what to look for.
Our 2021 PILATES REFORMER BUYING GUIDE is full of tips and information to help you find the right Pilates reformer for your exercise room. If you’re ready to buy, check out our top product recommendations, too.
German-born Joseph Pilates invented the reformer to help rehabilitate patients with injured limbs
1. WHAT IS PILATES?
Pilates takes its name from Joseph Pilates. A German-born emigré to Britain and then America, he devised the Pilates method as a new approach to exercise and body-conditioning in the early decades of the last century. His method included the use of equipment referred to by him as: apparatus. Perhaps the best-known piece of equipment, is the Pilates reformer.
While many Pilates exercises are performed on a mat, perhaps with the addition of a Pilates ball, resistance bands, and/or “magic ring” (a circular device you squeeze), and give great results, the Pilates reformer adds hundreds of new exercises to the menu – and it can be a lot of fun. In Joe Pilates’ own words, “Of course you can exercise without machines. But it’s not as efficient and would take longer. With them, three or four hours work a week is enough.”
Pilates reformer exercises are a regimen of low-impact exercises that target the core, or “powerhouse,” muscles of the abdomen, hips, and lower back. These exercises are designed to improve flexibility, coordination, strength, and balance.
While elite athletes use Pilates for cross-training, performance improvement, and injury recovery, there are many benefits for daily life, since one result of Pilates is better posture and body alignment. Reformers are also used in physical therapy and rehabilitation to overcome injuries or physical limitations. Many people find relief from back and joint pain by doing Pilates.
2. WHAT IS A PILATES REFORMER?
Anyone who has walked into a Pilates studio has probably seen some of these daunting-looking machines that look a bit like a medieval torture mechanism. But thanks to their multifunctional nature and ease of use, these devices have become a popular and versatile piece of exercise equipment.
When using a reformer, you are working against your own body weight. There are many unique exercises you can do on a reformer – standing, sitting, lying down, and even upside down if you’re daring and know what you’re doing. It’s a one-stop shop for a total body workout, and the exercises can also be made more difficult as you improve, so you will never outgrow a reformer.
Another bonus is that you’re likely to see results sooner than with mat sessions alone. And with guidance and some exercise modifications, you can also use the machines if you have a physical disability.
3. PILATES REFORMER FEATURES
REFORMER FRAME: The reformer frame is like a bed, with a carriage that rolls back and forth on wheels within the frame, much like a rowing machine. The carriage is pushed or pulled by the practitioner, using an adjustable foot bar at one end. Frames can be beautiful blonde wood or more industrial looking, durable steel and aluminum. Above all, look for a sturdy and stable frame. You don’t want a flimsy model that tips, creaks, or wobbles. When shopping, also consider the amount of space you have. These machines take up quite a bit of room, though there are some that can be raised or folded to get stored away when not in use.
REFORMER STRAPS: Reformers have straps with hand- and foot loops that are pulled with the legs or arms to move the carriage. These should be adjustable, so they can be customized to work with your size, level of fitness, and any physical limitations.
REFORMER SPRINGS: At higher priced modern reformers, the springs can be adjusted to many different levels, make the carriage more difficult to push or pull as you gain strength. Adjustable springs are also important to do each exercise with the appropriate resistance. Look for good-quality springs. Lower-end models might use bungee-type cords rather than springs, which may not stand up to wear and tear.
OTHER ELEMENTS: High quality modern reformers also include an adjustable headrest and shoulder braces. An adjustable foot bar is a must.
UPGRADES: For an even higher variety of exercises, you can look for a reformer with tower. Some manufacturers offer the tower as an accessory that can be bought separately and attached later. The tower often included its own set of accessories.
REFORMER ACCESSORIES: Some top-quality reformers come as a ready-to-use package with the Pilates box and jump board. The latter is a more recent addition to the reformer that is a lot of fun for cardio exercises. Other Pilates equipment includes Pilates chairs, ladder barrels, wall units, arcs and spine correctors.
WARRANTY: Make sure your investment is covered by a comprehensive manufacturer warranty.
INSTRUCTIONS: Some reformers come with instructional DVDs, which is helpful. However, it is highly recommended that you first take lessons on a reformer at a Pilates studio or with a certified Pilates instructor before using it alone at home.
4. TOP PILATES REFORMER MANUFACTURERS
Commercial Pilates reformer mass manufacturing and customizations is a relatively new field. After Joseph Pilates developed his method during World War I, he worked on his reformer and other equipment from the 1920’s to 1960’s.
As the first manufacturer of the Pilates apparatus regarded as the industry's established source for classical reformers. The collaboration with famous Pilates’ pupil Romana Kryzanowska in the late 1960's resulted in the preservation of the dimensions and proportions critical to the correct functions of the Pilates apparatus. Gratz has maintained a fidelity to Joseph Pilates original vision by fabricating reformers with unerring craftsmanship and exacting specifications. Due to this commitment, some modern features might be missing from Gratz reformers.
Balanced Body started in the 1980’s to substantially update Joseph Pilates’ equipment by combining state-of-the-art engineering, materials and technology with a modern understanding of human biomechanics. Founder and CEO Ken Endelman designed hundreds of improvements to Pilates’ original equipment, many of which have since become industry standards. Balanced Body equipment is often used by Pilates studios and franchises.
BASI Systems® uses the highest quality, environmentally friendly materials to build Pilates equipment with biomechanical and aesthetic integrity. Each piece is handcrafted with care and state-of-the art engineering methodologies. The Finely Crafted Pilates Equipment uses beech wood for sturdiness, aerospace-grade aluminum for durability and smooth transitions, antibacterial vinyl to resist wear-and-tear, and orthopedic cushioning for extraordinary comfort. Only the exclusive BASI Systems® equipment offers longevity with ergonomic functionality and an expandable design system that can seamlessly fit your needs.
As a contemporary approach to the original Pilates method based on modern principles of exercise science and rehabilitation, Stott Pilates was developed by Moira and Lindsay Merrithew, starting in 1988. STOTT is highly dedicated to Pilates education and offers a rigorous trainer certification. Designed and produced in Canada, STOTT Pilates reformers ensure high quality and many customization options from a reputable manufacturer, suitable for those seeking long-term serious use at home.
Established U.S. brand with a narrow product line that includes a competitively priced lightweight aluminum reformer for home-use.
This Spanish manufacturer is rapidly gaining momentum on the North American market. Both the well-made reformer rock-maple wood and aluminum frame reformers can hold their own against Balanced Body comparisons. Our favorite is the convertible Cadillac reformer with full trapeze that beats the price of any competitor.
5. PILATES REFORMER PRICES
What costs a quality PIlates reformer? Pilates reformers are not cheap – generally in the same ballpark as treadmills, from $300 to
$8,000 – so make sure you’re committed before buying one and you don’t end up with a very expensive clothes hanger.
BASIC REFORMER PRICES
You can find some very basic reformers for around $300 to 2,000. Some of these are folding models that can be folded or rolled under the bed for storage, but these will be much less stable and therefore less enjoyable to use. They commonly have much less adjustment options for your size, height, and level of ability. Most can’t adjust spring resistance or have bungee cords instead of durable springs.
MID-RANGE REFORMER PRICES
These reformers cost from about $2,000 to $5,000 and have the quality and features you need in a durable and reliable reformer that you enjoy using at your home studio. Some of them even mirror studio-quality reformers.
PROFESSIONAL REFORMER PRICES
For a studio-quality machine or one used for physical therapy, you can expect to pay in the region of $5,000 to $8,000 (the most expensive include a tower). Home users often justify the expense of buying a reformer by noting that Pilates reformer classes are pricier than most exercise classes, as much as $100 an hour. If you use the reformer regularly, the cost may be well worth it.
6. PILATES REFORMER BUYING TIPS
Consider your size and physical abilities. Reformers come in a variety of options, heights, and sizes, so check that it will fit your body type and exercise goals.
Take some Pilates group classes at a qualified Pilates studio before you invest in a reformer. The exercises are very specific, and it’s necessary to have a trained Pilates instructor guide you.
Take a few private sessions to learn the principles as well as help you hone in on your personal fitness goals.
Consider ongoing sessions at home with a personal Pilates instructor.
7. TOP 10 PILATES REFORMERS
According to a 2016 study, after just eight weeks of Pilates, users have improved balance, flexibility, abdominal endurance, and strength.
There are lots of reformer makes and models to choose from, and we found others in addition to our TOP 10 PILATES REFORMERS.
Generally, reformers come in two options today: with either hardwood frames or sturdy steel and aluminum frames.
Our TOP 10 PILATES REFORMERS all feature aesthetically pleasing designs that include rock maple wood or aluminum frames, stainless-steel interior frames and rollers, frame, and nautical cleats, which make them suitable for the trendiest studio.
All of them have the features you would be looking for in a high-quality reformer for your home studio. And they can even complement your interior decorating style and colors.
If you are searching for the perfect Pilates reformer for your home studio, look no further than our TOP 10 PILATES REFORMERS FOR HOME AND STUDIO USE.
1. BEST ALL-AROUND REFORMER
For the very best all-around reformer, look no further than the stunningly beautiful Elite model from Elina Pilates. A tower, also referred to as a half-trapeze, adds a whole new dimension to your reformer practice. This reformer converts from a more than generously sized 30-inch-wide reformer to a comfortable half trapeze with the help of the included drop-in mat. Included are also a jump board and box for a complete package with endless exercise options.
2. BEST VALUE REFORMER
Want the perfect home-gym reformer with full features? Look no further than the Peak Pilates Casa reformer. While lightweight and affordable, with 16 inches off the ground, it is a studio height reformer. A jump board is not included, but can get added for more cardio fun.
3. BEST ENTRY-LEVEL WOOD REFORMER
This is the reformer for you if you are new to Pilates and want a great machine that’s also going to complement your décor. Its aesthetically pleasing design includes a hardwood frame with chrome and stainless-steel hardware, making it a real showpiece in your home. Even better, it comes standard as a bundle with the cardio jump board and sitting box.
4. BEST ENTRY-LEVEL ALUMINUM REFORMER
MSRP from $2,990
5. BEST HEAVY-DUTY REFORMER
Built to withstand extra-heavy use(rs), the IM=X® Xercizer, is an updated version of the original Pilates Reformer in an extra-durable design. IM=X® has been manufacturing the Xercizer in the USA for over 20 years, using industrial-strength materials that deliver results.
This is the most essential, top of the line, commercial-grade reformer for studio or home use. It provides for a total body workout that includes core stabilization, muscle toning and strengthening, range of motion stretching and cardiovascular benefits.
6. BEST REFORMER FOR ATHLETES
MSRP from $6,690
The V2 Max Plus Reformer from Merrithew is a favorite among health and fitness professionals. This reformer is designed for athletes, rehab patients, the active aging, and the dedicated fitness enthusiasts. Merrithew offers a several of upgrade options, including a bundle options, that make this apparatus even more customizable for your individual needs.
The standard-height reformer brings the carriage a comfortable 16 inches off the floor. We like that it is very versatile and allows for easier transition between exercises for efficient group and one-on-one training sessions
This large and heavy reformer is ideal for Pilates studios, clubs, fitness facilities and homes with a dedicated Pilates space.
7. BEST CLASSICAL REFORMER
8. BEST CONVERTIBLE CADILLAC-REFORMER
A Pilates Cadillac by itself is a showstopper. And with the convertible Cadillac Reformer from BASI Systems, you get two Pilates apparatus in one – a full-scale reformer that converts into a full trapeze table or “Cadillac.” Use it as a Reformer with the innovative BASI Enhanced Pulley System (EPS) for fine-tuning control of the pulley angle and the expanded gear system for precision in spring resistance settings.
With the largest carriage cushion and the longest track in the industry, the BASI Systems' Combo apparatus offers unprecedented comfort and range of motion. Extension legs offer the height option to best suit your space and training style.
9. BEST PHYSICAL THERAPY REFORMER
For those who seek an exercise “apparatus” that doesn’t compromise on quality and durability, the Merrithew Rehab V2 Max Plus reformer delivers everything you need.
It’s easy to see why this is an ultimate wish list item for many people. Adds a tower system to the reformer setup. Positioned higher off the ground for easier access by those with mobility challenges. This reformer is designed for many years of continuous use in a studio or practice environment.
10. BEST CUSTOMIZABLE REFORMER
STOTT Pilates reformers are customizable with an impressive kaleidoscope of upholstery colors. In addition to 10 “standard colors,” you can also select from at least 75 custom color to match, say your car or your wall color. Standard colors are:
Very tall people will appreciate the Reformer Extension Upgrade that’s available for the V2 Max™. This upgrade option extends the carriage and overall length of your V2 Max™ Reformer by 6 in (15 cm) to accommodate taller people or those with longer torsos.
BONUS: BEST PILATES HOME STUDIO EQUIPMENT PACKAGE
If you are ready to take your Pilates practice to the next level and only the best is good enough, then this One-On-One Pilates Studio Bundle from Merrithew makes outfitting your home-studio a no brainer. You will get the V2 Max Plus Reformer with Half-Trapeze Tower, Reformer Box, Mat Converter, Platform Extender, Split-Pedal Stability Chair™, Ladder Barrel, Cadillac Trapeze Table, Arc Barrel, Maple Pole, and 3 DVDs with Pilates exercises.
Did you enjoy learning about the best Pilates reformers on the market? Like our Facebook or Instagram page and sign up for our email newsletter on our website for more Pilates info. You can also email us your questions.