Ever since coming to Sydney, I've traded my weight lifting program for more low impact mat work, cardio, barre and pilates workouts (mainly because I've been excited to try out all the cool studios and their different styles around town).
I'd always been rather skeptical, especially of Reformer Pilates because it seemed like you're not working out hard enough. If you're not breaking a sweat, it's not a real workout, right? But after having done many similar-type classes in the recent past, I can assure you that this is absolutely not the case. In fact, you're in for a killer workout.
A reformer class sits perfectly in the middle of the "hard core" versus "minimal pain" exercise spectrum, leaving you with just the right amount of achiness the next day. And since it's not a bootcamp-like atmosphere, it especially appeals to us gals who might be intimated by grungy looking crossfit boxes filled with sweaty grunting men. I'm not saying I don't enjoy those workouts, but I can understand how some girls might be intimated by that.
Because of the versatility of the machines you can literally work out every single body parts in ways you never have before. All the bars, cables, handles and sliding platforms end up offering an endless amount of different exercises. As the machines are quite big, studios tend to be rather small (around 8-10 people), so you get full attention of the instructor (damn it, no chance to cheat!)
So what is it about this workout that makes it so amazing?
- Rather than large compound movements like squats, you are performing tiny, one-inch increments called isometric movements. Looking at the workout it might not seem tough, but you'll start shaking within minutes, I promise. You might be tempted to pop out of the hold when it starts hurting, but that's when the magic truly happens, so hold in there and embrace the shake shake.
- You can do more reps with smaller movements like these, which tires your muscles in a different manner. Higher-rep exercises target the slow-twitch muscles, which help increase endurance compared to compound movements which target fast-twitch muscles instead.
- Isometric movements don't strain the tendons and ligaments as much, so there's less risk of injury compared to traditional weight lifting.
- One thing I personally love about Reformer is the focus on core strength. I'm not a major fan of floor ab exercises because they tend to strain the back (and I have a really weak back), but during Reformer Pilates you do heaps of planks and other slow movements that train your upper and lower abs.
- Compared to a HIIT workout you don't necessarily need a shower after Reformer (don't tell anyone I told you this...), so it's the perfect workout to squeeze in midday or when you don't have a lot of time after the class.
If you visit any Reformer Pilates studio's website you'll find plenty of slogans promising that you will develop long and lean muscles without bulk and that you will especially conquer those hard-to-target muscles in your legs and thighs. I've only been doing these classes for a month or so, and even though I have definitely lost some muscle mass, I like the new lean definition that I have gained instead. I'll never give up my weight lifting completely (and I recommend it to every single girl!), but I will definitely recommend fitting in a Pilates sesh every now and then.
P.S.: These are some old pictures of when Booster Pilates in Zurich was so kind to invite Vic and I for a training session. If you live around Zurich, this is your go-to studio for Pilates! In fact, Slowolution is hosting an event there this Saturday, May 28th at 2PM, to which you can sign up here.