8 Best Pilates Reformers for Your Home
Enjoy the benefits of Pilates without going into a studio with these expert-recommended Pilates reformer machines for your home.
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Pilates—and Pilates reformers
Developed by German physical trainer Joseph Pilates, this workout that was once considered niche is now everywhere. It’s no longer difficult to find Pilates machines—known as Pilates reformers—whether at gyms, physical therapy clinics, or boutique studios. And to make workouts more convenient, devotees have even begun installing reformers in their own homes.
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If you feel like you’re seeing more about Pilates, it’s not just your imagination. Fitness trainers have noticed an uptick in interest in Pilates.
“The curiosity surrounding Pilates is constantly growing,” says Lynette Pettinicchi, a New York-based certified Pilates instructor and creator of the socially distanced class Pilates in the Park. “I’m often getting inquiries about Pilates in the Park that start off asking if classes are for those who have never tried it before. I also think it’s one of the modalities that has become more popular during the pandemic due to its do-anywhere, no-equipment-needed nature.”
(Hate exercise? Here’s why Pilates is one of the best workouts to try.)
While equipment isn’t necessary for this workout (Pilates-based mat classes are also having a moment), access to a Pilates reformer will raise your exercises to the next level. To take the guesswork out of what Pilates reformer you should buy, we’ve rounded up the best Pilates reformers for your at-home workouts.
First, let’s take a closer look at Pilates and its benefits.
So, what is Pilates?
“It’s a form of low-impact exercises that aim to strengthen muscles while improving postural alignment and flexibility,” says Dana Henneborn, a virtual personal trainer with the training app FlexIt. She explains that Pilates helps adherents build a combination of stability, flexibility, and strength through hundreds of exercises and small movements.
While Pilates often uses machines called reformers (more on that in a minute), special equipment isn’t always necessary.
(Improve your flexibility with this easy stretching routine.)
Joseph Pilates’s original name for the exercise was Contrology, which offers a clue to its method of muscle-building, says Zach Bergfelt, a certified Pilates trainer with the personal training app Onyx. “It uses controlled movements to increase flexibility, strengthen core muscles, and promote overall muscular strength,” he says. (If you’re looking to do Pilates for weight loss, here’s how it can help.)
Breathing is of particular importance in Pilates. The method focuses on strengthening the core and developing breathing techniques. “You’ll sometimes hear it referred to as a modality that lengthens and strengthens,” says Pettinicchi. “Exercises are performed slow and controlled to ensure proper alignment and that the correct muscles are being targeted.”
Potential benefits of Pilates
The benefits of Pilates are numerous, says Bergfelt, and include increased flexibility, better posture, a stronger core and back muscles, and overall muscular strength.
Henneborn points out that “the core-strengthening perks of Pilates may ease pain and improve your overall quality of life—especially for those who suffer from low back pain and other bodily alignment issues.”
According to Pichenetti, Pilates can also help improve your balance, increase your sports performance, reduce your risk of injury, and improve your focus and concentration. It might even promote better sex, thanks to its work on your abdominals, back, and core.
(Start building core strength with these Pilates moves.)
What the science says
Researchers have spent decades studying Pilates, with hundreds of articles revealing how it can help with pain, muscle strength, and overall fitness and health. The workout can even help improve physical functioning for people with diseases like Parkinson’s and help boost mood.
In a 2016 randomized controlled trial published in the journal Medicine, people diagnosed with lower back pain improved their posture and enjoyed reduced pain levels after following a Pilates program three times a week for 14 weeks. A study on the mental benefits published in the Journal of Dance and Somatic Practices found that Pilates enhanced mindfulness, which was linked to less stress and an improved sense of well-being and mood.
(Suffering from back pain? Pilates isn’t the only workout that can help. Check out these back pain exercises.)
What’s a Pilates reformer?
If you’ve ever been into a Pilates studio, you’ve no doubt noticed the large wooden or aluminum machines filling the space—they’re known as Pilates reformers.
Reformers were invented by Joseph Pilates in the 1920s. “Reformers look like a bed with a moving carriage, ropes, springs, and a pulley system to provide a deeper Pilates practice with tension,” says Bergfelt.
The carriage (the flat, padded platform users sit or lay on) moves on wheels over the frame, propelled by your body weight and muscle strength. Springs at the end of the reformer let you change the resistance, making an exercise easier or harder. You can use the apparatus’ straps in a variety of ways to work out muscles.
(Interested in more at-home workouts? Check out the best health and fitness apps for getting fit at home.)
Criteria for choosing a Pilates reformer
When researching Pilates reformers, you might experience sticker shock: They’re typically expensive, often running in the thousands thanks to their craftsmanship and attention to detail. However, a high-quality Pilates reformer, when properly taken care of, can last you a lifetime.
Because Pilates reformers are large pieces of equipment, it’s important to choose a reformer that comfortably fits into your space. If you live in an apartment or someplace cramped, a small model—or perhaps even a Pilates chair—could be your best bet.
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Your first decision will be the type of Pilates reformer you prefer. “My biggest piece of advice is to decide if you want more of the traditional reformers, with leather straps and heavier spring tensions, or if you want the contemporary models with rope straps that use an array of spring changes to pick from and have more accessories to use,” Bergfelt says.
Equally critical: Make sure you’re buying a customizable reformer. Look, for instance, for multiple gear settings on the spring bar.
And be sure you’ll fit on the machine you pick, advises Bergfelt, who at six foot one pays close attention to length. “Some reformers accommodate height and carriage width better to make it more comfortable while using,” he says.
(All about the abs? These at-home workouts will help you achieve a stronger core.)
Home reformers vs. studio reformers: Is there a difference?
“When purchasing reformers for at home, you have the option to buy the same machine you would use at your studio,” says Bergfelt. “They have also created at-home reformers that sit on the floor and can be stored underneath your bed.”
Of course, it’s important to check with your doctor before starting any new workout, particularly one that you’ll be doing by yourself at home and not under the supervision of a licensed trainer or physical therapist.
Here are seven top Pilates reformers to help keep you in shape at home.
(And while you’re at it, check out these 10 leggings to help with your at-home workouts.)
Weider Ultimate Body Works
A solid option for those seeking a budget-friendly Pilates reformer, this is technically less of a reformer and more of a bench that can be used to practice Pilates maneuvers. The Weider Ultimate Body Works is a sturdy piece of machinery, with thick, comfortable padding and an easily adjustable incline. It features four bungee-style cords for resistance work and strength training. A boon for home gyms that are short on space: It’s a snap to collapse and store.
GRATZ 80″ Designer Universal Reformer
Trainer Denise Posnak Gaffney calls the Gratz the grandfather of Pilates equipment. “A piece of Gratz equipment is the real deal. The base is solid, the springs are heavy, the leather is high quality,” she says. “The workout you get on a Gratz is one of the best you’ll get. The only drawback is production time—it took about three to four months to get a reformer before the pandemic.”
Also a fan of the reformer is Erica Walters, owner of Pilates Fit Studio in Louisville, Kentucky, and creator of Change30 Movement, which provides online workout classes taught by local trainers.
The Gratz reformer comes in 80-, 86-, and 89-inch lengths, as well as either aluminum or sustainably grown and harvested wood. Features include natural leather straps, a padded foot bar, four springs, three gears, and the option to add a standing platform and sheepskin covers. There are dozens of upholstery color options available.
(Get an even stronger core with these best core exercises.)
Peak Pilates Casa Reformer
Specifically designed for an at-home Pilates practice, this lightweight reformer includes a locking footbar, a four-position one-hand gear bar, and one-touch rope adjusters. Bergfelt is a fan of the Peak Pilates brand. “The carriage is the smoothest I have been on, and the spring tensions are perfect for me,” he says, adding that the ropes are more comfortable for his hands and feet versus leather.
Another plus: Numerous accessories are available, including platform extenders and jump boards. And if you’re on the taller side, you’ll be well-served. “Peak’s accessories are amazing and function the best for taller people,” Bergfelt says.
Pilates Power Gym Pro
If you have limited space or are seeking a more compact reformer, the Pilates Power Gym Pro mini reformer may be your best bet. Even better than its compact size (55.75 by 17.75 by 12.75 inches) is its weight—only 60 pounds. The machine requires no assembly, so setup is a breeze. It holds up to 300 pounds and features three different incline levels, with four power cords resulting in 48 different resistance settings.
It also comes with three DVDs for at-home workouts, including a beginner’s session, one devoted to toning and lengthening, and a cardio-focused workout.
Elina Pilates Wood Reformer
Walters cites the Elina Pilates Wood Reformer as a good midrange option that’s not too eye-poppingly expensive (relatively speaking) while still providing all the bells and whistles. The reformer is 90 inches long and 23 inches wide, and made from durable wood. At a little over 154 pounds, it’s on the heavier side.
Features include a three-position padded headrest, adjustable shoulder rests, and foam handles. The machine comes with the jump board and box.
Balanced Body Studio Reformer
Starting at $3,395
Gaffney recommends the Balanced Body Studio Reformer, pointing to its solid base (made from rock maple) that doesn’t slide and the smooth, sophisticated spring system with five options. It has multiple footbar options, all padded with a nonskid surface, including one that’s nearly 31 inches wide with six different adjustable positions. The reformer’s customizable, so you can get the right frame for your height and pick among 35 upholstery colors.
There are also accessories available, including padded jumpboards, standing platform pads, a sitting box, Pilates poles, and a single-rope pulley system.
Worth mentioning: It’ll look nice in your home studio. “It’s beautiful and not a gym-like eyesore,” says Gaffney.
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Stamina AeroPilates Reformer
Offering bang for your buck, according to Walters, the Stamina AeroPilates is cheaper than many others on this list (though it can be hard to find in stock). The steel-frame reformer has a 300-pound limit and features four resistance cords with 11 different intensities. It’s a great basic reformer for beginners who might be intimidated by flashier, more feature-heavy models.
Included with the Stamina AeroPilates Reformer are a head and neck pillow and a firm padded cushion. Other added goodies include four workout DVDs, a wall chart of Pilates exercises, and a healthy-eating guide. And at 86 by 21 by 26 inches, it’s also not as large as other reformers, making it a good option for rooms where space might be at a premium.
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Allegro Standard Reformer
According to Pilates.com, there are more than 43,000 Allegro Reformers in the world, making it the most popular option. Bergfelt agrees, saying, “I have noticed the more contemporary studios use Allegros as they function better than the traditional reformers.”
Allegro reformers are known for their quality construction and modern ease of use, and are equally popular for home use and in fitness studios. At 113 pounds, the Standard reformer is light, easy to set up, and can be stored vertically. It’s also customizable, with four horizontal and four vertical positions, plus a 36-inch-wide footbar.
Meanwhile, the Stretch version has a frame 18 inches longer than the Standard—with a carriage that’s 2 inches wider and 6 inches longer, making it ideal for people over six foot four. (Opting for the Stretch will raise the cost, however.) And for people who like their equipment stylized, each reformer (whether Standard or Stretch) comes in one of nine different colors.
Next, here are some yoga quotes to inspire your inner yogi.
- Lynette Pettinicchi, certified Pilates instructor, creator of Pilates in the Park and Pilates and PR
- Dana Henneborn, virtual personal trainer with training app FlexIt
- Zach Bergfelt, Pilates- and Lagree-certified trainer with personal training app Onyx
- Pilates Foundation: "The History of Pilates"
- Medicine: "Pain Perception and Stabilometric Parameters in People With Chronic Low Back Pain After a Pilates Exercise Program"
- Journal of Dance and Somatic Practices: "Pilates, Mindfulness and Somatic Education"
- Denise Posnak Gaffney, certified Romana's Pilates teacher and founder of MyBOD Wellness
- Erica Walters, owner of Pilates Fit Studio in Louisville, Kentucky, and creator of the Change30 Movement