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Reformer workouts are suitable for all fitness levels.
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LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Oprah Winfrey have something in common -- they all exercise on the Pilates reformer. The popular device is a favorite amongst dancers, athletes and fitness enthusiasts alike. Joseph H. Pilates created the reformer to help rehabilitate wounded soldiers during World War I. Upon first glance, the apparatus resembles a medieval torture device with its pulleys, straps and springs. After a few sessions with a Pilates professional, most people can see and feel the difference in their core strength, posture and flexibility. Invest in at least two to three private sessions with a certified Pilates instructor before attending a group session.
Down stretch is performed kneeling on the carriage of the reformer. It strengthens the transverse abdominals, rectus abdominus, internal and external obliques, pectorals and anterior deltoids. Begin kneeling on the carriage with the hands on the footbar spaced shoulder-width apart and the feet in line with the shoulder blocks. Visualize a wheelbarrow as you shift your weight forward into the armpits, bringing the pelvis forward. The body should be straight with no sagging in the midsection. Push the carriage back with the upper body, keeping the arms straight and the lower body still, and then slowly return to the starting position. Complete 10 to 15 repetitions. Two medium springs, or one medium and one light spring, create more tension for the upper body, while one light or medium spring is more challenging for the core.
Yes, I Can Do the Splits
Side split dynamically stretches and strengthens the adductor muscle group. Begin with one heavy spring, progressing to one medium or light. Stand laterally on the reformer, placing the left foot on the lid of the spring box and the right foot on the carriage shoulder-width apart. Inhale as you slowly push the carriage to the right, feeling a slight stretch in the inner thigh muscles. Hold and then exhale as you engage the abdominals and pull the carriage back to the starting position. The legs should be straight without locking the knees. Complete 15 to 20 repetitions on the right and left side.
Expand Your Horizons
Chest expansion on the reformer strengthens the middle back and rear deltoids. Add one or two medium-weight springs and kneel on the carriage with the thighs up against the shoulder blocks, facing the back of the reformer. Cross the cords and hold on to the short loop of the strap with the palms facing away. Retract the shoulder blades and brace with the abdominals as you slowly pull the arms straight in back of you. Hold the contraction as you turn your head to look left. Slowly return to the start, repeat and look right. Complete 10 to 12 repetitions. To make the exercise more challenging, move away from the shoulder blocks.
Use the Short Box for Big Results
More advanced exercisers can strengthen the transverse abdominals, rectus abdominus and the internal and external obliques with a core control and plank combination. Detach all of the springs and push the carriage back. Place the short box on the frame at the top of the reformer. Kneel on the carriage and place the forearms on the box. Slowly push the carriage back with the knees, taking care not to let the torso sag in the middle. Complete eight to 10 repetitions, holding the last one. Lift the knees off the carriage into a plank position for 20 seconds. Repeat the combination three to five times.