As a physical therapist, I at times feel the need to try out different forms of exercise that my patients participate in. I have tried the Pilates mat classes with the hallmark one hundred pulsed repetitions of modified abdominal crunches. Meh.
My fit fifty-something neighbor finally convinced me last month to try “back to back” Pilates classes with her. The first class was to be the “reformer” class, and if I could scrape myself off the ceiling after the first installment, we would continue with the dreaded “tower” class.
I can be a bit of a coward when it comes to trying new things. I have an irrational fear of running out of gas and looking like a fool in front of others in the group. Two classes in a row? Am I man enough?
It turns out the classes are entirely doable. The machines are fun, easy enough to use (with proper instruction), and safe. The reformer machine is likened to a large moveable surfboard with springs, ropes, and cords attached to it. I was informed by a patient that the prototypical versions of the reformer were cleverly devised from bed frames and bed springs decades ago in military hospitals. Apparently during times of war, you have to make do with what is available to you.
Below is YouTube video demonstrating the Pilates Reformer exercises.
Various pulling and pushing motions are done with the arms and legs while the body is balanced on the board. Resistances are variable. The reformer can challenge the very strong and fit as well as the sedentary neophyte. Some of the exercises do require a base amount of balance, so I would recommend that those of us who are equilibrium challenged seek some modification and guidance from the instructor.
By the end of the reformer class, I had worked up a sweat, and I did feel some healthy muscle fatigue in the legs and core. There were a few exercises that involved kneeling on the board, which I consider a healthy challenge to maintain position while pulling through resistance.
After a five-minute rest, it was time for the tower.
Behind the movable board of the reformer was an upright metal rack with a movable horizontal bar with yet more resistance cords attached. With the tower, most of our movements were performed in the upright position. With some exercises we were moving our arms and legs through motions with our bodies in a fixed position on the horizontal board. With other exercises we were using our arms and legs to push our bodies back and forth on the movable horizontal board.
Below is YouTube video demonstrating the Pilates Tower exercises.
All in all I am a fan of both the reformer and the tower. These classes are appropriate both for high-level training as well as for beginner work. The movements in these classes were fluid, not abrupt. The ranges of motion that the joints go through are entirely doable for just about anybody. I would even recommend this form of exercise to patients with knee or hip replacements. A good Pilates instructor can easily modify certain exercises as needed to account for any restrictions that these post-operative patients might have.
Try a class at your local studio. You might get hooked.