Pilates Reformer

The Pilates reformer & mat workout information resource

Pilates Reformer Exercises

Since its heightened popularity beginning in the 1990s Pilates followers and instructors have made good use of Pilates Reformer machines. Because core strength, coordination, balance and toning are at the heart of any exercise in a Pilates regimen, a Pilates Reformer can take your traditional Pilates exercises to a whole new level while ensuring that you are getting the best workout possible and not leaving out any one muscle group. There are virtually thousands of Pilates Reformer exercises that can be done, which adds to the beauty of owning the machine in the first place. Here are some of the most popular and beneficial exercises that both novices and intermediate Pilates enthusiasts can do.


It is essential for anyone who makes the decision to begin a workout regimen of any kind to start at the beginning and to do so at a steady pace. If you are new to Pilates, be aware that you are about to introduce your body and mind to a whole new world that is demanding but beneficial.

Muscles and limbs that have been sedentary for long periods of time have gotten used to being under-used and therefore need time to adjust to the fact that you will be engaging them in repetitive movements to which they are not used to. In order to protect your body and not push it too far, be careful as you embark on your Pilates journey to not push too hard at first so your body can get used to the idea of resistance and working out in general. Below are some great beginner Pilates Reformer exercises one can do.

Remember that during any Pilates exercises that you concentrate on your breathing and concentration, taking equal amounts of inhaled breaths, and then exhaling completely. This will help pump oxygen throughout the body and through the muscle groups.

Foot Work

Set your resistance to a level that challenges you but that you think you can comfortably do 10 repetitions of each exercise on.

Footwork pilates exercise

Lie flat back on the Pilates machine and gently place your feet in a V shape at the foot with the balls of the feet against the foot bar. The heels of your feet should be elevated and your knees bent. You headrest should be in an upright position and it is essential that you hold your abdominals in and keep it engaged throughout the duration of reps. Be sure that the knees are only shoulder width apart for this to be done correctly and to prevent injury.  Push the foot bar as far out and forward as you can while elongating your body. Hold at maximum length for 2 seconds and pull back to your starting position. The key here is to do each movement slowing, as if fighting the resistance both forward and on your return.

As with most Pilates reformer exercises, you can vary this one. Do the same movements but instead of the balls of the feet against the foot bar, place the pads of your feet just below the toes on the bar and extend the legs as you did above. Some instructors do it with heels on the bar.

The Hundred

This is one of the most popular Pilates exercises whether doing it with or without a machine as it engages most of the core groups, but really targets the abs.

Hundred Pilates Reformer Exercises

Place your head rest in the upright position and grab a hold of your Pilates straps. Your back should be flat against the carriage and you knees bent in a tabletop position. Do not use the foot bar for this. Part of this exercising working well is that your abs are holding your form throughout.  Keeping your arms at their sides and straight, curl your spine and bring your knees to your chest. Remember to inhale and exhale with each movement! Once your knees are to your chest, extend them  up into a 90 degree angle (or lower depending on how advanced you are) and then lower until they are straight in front of you while keeping them elevated at least 6 inches from the carriage. Lift and lower 5 times each and then return to your starting position.


Parallel Heels

This exercise will work the hamstrings, abs and quadriceps.

Your body should be in the supine position with your heels shoulder width apart and placed comfortably on the foot bar. While engaging your abdominals keep your arms rested at your sides. Next, extend your legs through the hips and knee and at the same time keep your body stabilized.  Return to your starting position and repeat 10 times.

The Elephant

This Pilates Reformer exercise will work the abs, shoulders and back. It is quite challenging so don’t be discouraged if you need to work up the balance and coordination to complete full repetitions.

Elephant reformer exercise


Done in a standing position, do so with good posture and place your feet hip width apart. Your heels should be straight back against the shoulder rest. Grab hold of the foot bar with your hands so your grip is tight but not clenching. Keeping your legs straight and your body in a 45 degree angle lift your weight onto your toes and hold for 3 seconds. Be sure to keep your abs tight and your legs completely straightened. Push in a backward motion on the carriage and then bring it forward again. This is one rep.

These are only a few Pilates reformer exercises of the many that can be performed. There are hundreds of exercises at all different levels available. There are also fun tutorials as well as printable charts that will show in detail how to perform the various exercises. Pilates DVD’s are also sold in most retail stores and online and are a great tool to use at home and in between Pilates machine workouts.

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