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People are using skateboards and rowing machines to mimic expensive reformer pilates classes…

This article is taken from Strong Women and it an interesting 5min read.. enjoy 🦴

'An affordable alternative, but how do these ‘reformer dupes’ stack up against the original workout?

Three years ago, after a stint of intense strength and endurance training, my body started to resist my go-to workouts. I became fatigued, irritable and altogether disillusioned with the high-intensity training that had previously brought me so much fulfilment. I slogged through circuits and found that my appetite, energy and willpower were sporadic and frenzied. My body was displaying signs of burnout and forcing me to slow down.

So, I turned to low-impact workouts like barre and pilates. Sessions that worked deep muscular strength and control but didn’t leave me panting, puffing or overexerted. Workouts that didn’t require outsized stress but left me feeling calmer and with more headspace than before.

Several years later, I haven’t looked back. Now, low-impact exercise forms the basis of my entire workout routine, including at-home mat pilates workouts and in-person reformer and tower pilates classes.

But, pilates can be an expensive way to move your body. While virtual and online platforms can cost anywhere between £14 and £60 a month, group in-person classes (using machines such as reformers) tend to start at £20 each and skyrocket from there.

Generally, pilates studios price the classes to reflect the stringent training teachers and instructors must undergo to qualify. Others rely on the current zest for low-impact workouts like reformer pilates and price their workouts accordingly. Either way, you’re likely shelling out £40 (or more) per week for two group reformer sessions. For most budgets, this isn’t a reality.

So, it makes sense that resourceful people will find alternatives. On TikTok, for example, videos showing ‘reformer pilates dupes’ are shared regularly, with skateboards and rowing machines used to mimic the sliding movements you might perform in a reformer pilates class.

Creative, yes. Safe? I’m not so sure. And do these alternatives work your muscles in a similar, if not identical way, to actually being on a reformer or in a class? Let’s find out.

What is reformer pilates?

A form of exercise performed on a reformer pilates machine, it’s a system of equipment-based movement.

“The reformer machine was originally designed by Joseph Pilates (the founder and creator of pilates) using rudimentary materials such as bed springs to help add a level of resistance to exercises, but also support those who needed help during certain exercises,” describes personal trainer and pilates instructor Hollie Grant.

“Many of the reformer exercises are simply mat pilates exercises that use the machine to either make the exercise more challenging or make it easier. This is the beauty of the reformer machine – it can help make exercises more challenging (by increasing resistance) but it can also make exercises easier (by providing support through resistance).

It’s great for those who are injured as the machine can feel supportive and helps ensure you’re in the correct position. I also find it can be more engaging than simply mat pilates. Reformer machines offer so many options and alternatives to exercises that a mat simply wouldn’t allow.”

What are the benefits of reformer pilates?

Better mobility and posture

From improved core strength and posture, to low-impact strength-building, improved mobility, muscle control and focus, there are myriad benefits to practising reformer pilates.

Muscle strengthening

Plus, the springs, pulleys, ropes, jump board and other pieces of kit add instability and challenge, forcing your body to counteract and strengthen as a result.

Low-impact workout

“Pilates is an incredible, low-impact method of boosting musculoskeletal fitness that is kind on the body, and I think that is why it’s gained popularity recently,” explains Grant. “Reformer pilates also offers a bit of excitement, a bit of interest that I think keeps people hooked.”

Are reformer pilates ‘dupes’ or alternatives safe?

The majority of reformer dupes on the internet are using pieces of equipment to mimic the sliding nature of the reformer. While not unsafe, per se, the lack of springs or ‘final point’, means overstretching or injury is more likely. Where the reformer will prevent you from slipping or overextending, a skateboard could roll away, causing you to slip or fall over and a rowing machine has a much greater distance to travel along the body.

The carriage, the part of the reformer that slides back and forth, is controlled by springs of varying strengths. Depending on how you’re instructed to apply them, these springs can make an exercise easier or harder but ultimately help you to remain stable on the machine.

You’ll understand very quickly when using a reformer how things can go wrong within a short space of time. It’s important to understand your own personal physical limitations. The reformer will help you find these, whereas an uncontrolled source or environment can have bad consequences,” cautions Neil Dimmock, co-founder of London Reformer Pilates.

Instead of using a skateboard or other wheeled object to mimic the movements, sliders (which are relatively inexpensive and brilliant to travel with) are likely a better and safer option. Small discs that ‘slide’ along the floor, sliders can be used for leg, arm and core work, creating instability and helping to build strength.

What alternatives are there to expensive reformer pilates classes?

Mat pilates provides the same benefits of strength, control and balance, without such a steep price tag or kit requirement. Mat classes are offered at a variety of studios and can range from classical to contemporary, dynamic and rehabilitative.

If you’re brand new to the practice, an in-person class will help teach the fundamentals of correct positioning that you can then mimic at home. After that, online classes are available in the thousands, with varying price tags and styles. After testing a wide span, the ones I return to time and time again are Pilates Anytime, B The Method and The Pilates Class.

And just because it’s performed on the mat, equipment is still used, albeit on a smaller scale. A small inflatable ball, The Magic Circle, hand weights, ankle weights and resistance bands are all recruited to help stabilise and challenge your body.

Remember ... March members get a free 30 minute Pilates Reformer workout.

To book your place message me on 07590 442954


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