Can Beginners Do Reformer Pilates? Tips For First Timers!

Posted on Sep 29, 2021

Can Beginners Do Reformer Pilates? Tips For First Timers!

Many of us think that Pilates Reformer is only for experienced Pilates practitioners. Unlike common fitness equipment, this unique-looking machine that you can only find in Pilates studios is not easy to figure out how to use, especially if you have no experience in Pilates exercises.

Beginners can do Reformer Pilates. Most Reformer exercises can be modified to suit a beginner level with the guide of a Pilates teacher. Make sure that you are attending a beginner-level session if you are planning to attend a Pilates Reformer group class, as there can be some advanced-level classes that will be too fast-paced for beginners.

The challenge with the Reformer Pilates is not about the intensity of the exercises done on it, nor do you need to be on an intermediate level in order to use it. In fact, I use the Reformer machine to do rehab with my clients and for complete beginners. 

However, the complexity of using the Reformer is the main obstacle for first-time users on the machine. You will need guidance on the basic parts of the Reformer Pilates and the fundamental exercises that can be done on it. So the key ingredient is to attend a beginner’s class for the Reformer or get a good Pilates teacher to guide you with the movement.

Here are a few things that you need to know before attending your first Reformer Pilates Class!

Anti-slip socks are great for Reformer exercises

Reformer Pilates exercises require you to be in different positions where you need to push with your legs while lying down on the machine or stabilize yourself while you are standing on it. This can be slippery, especially if your feet tend to sweat or if you are wearing a normal pair of socks. 

A pair of socks with a rubberized sole is a good solution for this. There are different brands available on the market, and some can be quite pricey for a pair of socks. They all serve the purpose of keeping you more stable during the exercise.

Let the teacher know that you’re a beginner

This is not needed if you are attending a beginner Reformer class, but there are some classes that are multi-level, and you need to inform the Pilates instructor that it is your first time doing the class so the teacher can keep an eye on you during the class.

Coming to the class 10 minutes earlier will also help so you can get familiar with the place and if allowed, you can go to the Reformer machine and get familiar with how it looks and feel. Some studios may allow you to just sit on it and do your own safe exploration before the class. 

This is also a good time to talk to your Pilates teacher or to other attendees to make yourself comfortable.

It can be easier than Pilates mat class

You may think that Reformer exercises are a lot harder than Pilates mat exercises, but this is only partially true as some of the exercises are actually easier to do on the Pilates Reformer. Here is an article I wrote comparing Reformer and Mat exercises. 

Because of the design of the Reformer, the intensity of the exercises can be adjusted with the springs. And at some times, the springs and straps of the machine can guide and assist you as you do your exercises which will make it easier compared to a mat workout where you have to rely on your strength to lift your own body.

Be familiar with how you breathe

Breathing is a big part of doing effective Pilates exercises and being familiar with your breath will help you go through the movements better. What I mean by being familiar with your breath is just by paying attention to how you breathe normally or breathe deeply.

We have been breathing since our first minute of existence on this planet, and most of the time, we take it for granted and never really pay attention to it. By just paying attention to your breathing before your first Pilates Reformer class will help you regulate it more so you won’t end up holding your breath when you are in challenging positions, or it will give you one less thing to think about during the exercises. 

You can read my article about Pilates breathing to get more familiar with it.

Try to look at your posture in front of the mirror

One of the benefits that you can get from doing Reformer Pilates exercises is having a better posture. This Pilates equipment helps in realigning your body, correct muscle imbalances, and improve the symmetry of your movement.

But improving your posture is not a passive thing, and the correction is done before and after the exercise session. It is a consistent battle to correct the bad habits you have built from years of sitting in front of the computer. 

It helps with the correction if you proactively work on your posture. One of the best ways to do this is to look at yourself in the mirror and be aware of your body’s alignment. The more aware you are of your posture, the easier it is for you to follow the minor corrections in the Reformer class.

When I start my Pilates class, there are 4 things that I would like my students to be aware of before we start the session. You can do them in front of the mirror, and use them as a guide in checking your posture at home.

  1. Feet – stand with your feet around hip-width apart and keep them as parallel as possible. You will notice that one foot is slightly turned out than the other.
  2. Mid-section area – try to pull your belly in just a little bit, so you are not fully relaxing the abdominal muscles. This will help you to stand up taller but make sure you don’t over contract the muscles that you will end up holding your breath. It has to be a sustainable effort for a long time.
  3. Shoulder area – Check if both your right and left shoulders are on the same height, in the same plane (not one shoulder more front than the other), and try to open your shoulders by squeezing your scapula backward. 
  4. Stand as tall as you can – think of someone is measuring your height, and you want to make sure that you are taller than your last measurement. That means your effort will be reaching the top of your head upwards but not looking up. You will feel the work on both your abdominals and back muscles if you do this correctly.

I wrote an article about Pilates exercises for rounded posture. Read it as there are exercises that will be very helpful for you to correct your posture. 


Here are more articles that will help you understand the Pilates Reformer better.

About Michel Velasco

Michel is a licensed Physical Therapist, a seasoned cyclist, an avid wall climber, a classical guitar teacher, a martial arts enthusiast, and an impassioned carpenter. He teaches Pilates, Calisthenics, and Handstands–injecting his values of patience, discipline, and hard work into every class.