Enter: the at-home, “smart” or “connected” Pilates reformer.
Renovators have been available for purchase almost as long as they’ve been around, and now there are more compact, lower-cost options than ever before. But these reformers are something different—they’re the “peloton-ification” of Pilates. And they cost about $2,000 to $5,000, plus a monthly subscription fee for access to on-demand classes.
Multiple brands have recently come out with reformers to be used in conjunction with guided virtual workouts. The idea is that you’ll be able to do reformer Pilates classes—and not just use your machine free-style—from the comfort of your home gym.
What smart reformers offer
What makes these machines “smart” or “connected” varies from brand to brand. Reform RX’s reformer comes with a screen pre-loaded with a library of classes and adjustable settings. The reformer’s spine also measures your reps and the force of your output, and you can see your stats instantly and over time. The frame’s sleek pink reformer comes with a screen and content library, but no smart biofeedback. The Flexia doesn’t have an attached screen, but it measures your resistance and will give you setting adjustment recommendations in its app (which also has a streaming class library).
Pilates instructor Amy Jordan, founder of WundaBar Pilates, is excited that these machines can bring Pilates to people who might not have access to a reformer-equipped studio.
“Those of us who live in New York or Los Angeles, we’re just like, well, why don’t you hit the road?” Jordan says. “But for millions and millions of people, that’s not even an option. There’s not much where they live.”
But physical access isn’t the same as making something accessible, especially since these machines cost thousands of dollars. The Flexia is currently discounted from $3,495 to $2,995, and the frame (the pink one!) is $3,999. Both require a $39.99 monthly subscription fee to gain access to the content library. The Reform RX doesn’t require a subscription, but it will cost you $4,995—about three and a half times the price of a base model Peloton bike.
Lagree Fitness—the brand bills itself as “Pilates on steroids”—sells the Microformer (starting at $990) and Miniformer (starting at $2490) that pair with its streaming classes. You’ll also pay $9.99 a month for access to celebrity-approved workouts.
Advantages and disadvantages of home access
So is convenient access to an admittedly awesome workout worth the price? Heather Anderson, founder and owner of New York Pilates, appreciates that the machines “can be a great resource for students interested in the quantitative results of a workout.” Personally, when I tried Sanskar RX, I didn’t find the stats compelling or inspiring, but if you have a trend line you can see over time.
However, Andersen also notes that home machines “may not provide the support you can get with an in-person class.” New York Pilates offers an online streaming platform, but Andersen says “we highly encourage studio classes. There’s nowhere else you can get hands-on instruction, form correction and personalized support.”
Form is important for every workout, but especially so in Pilates. Engaging your Pilates core is a very specific exercise that can be difficult to understand, at least at first, without the help of a teacher. The same goes for the form you need to maintain in Pilates key positions like neutral spine and tabletop legs.
“Pilates can be so confusing,” says Jordan. So while he’s passionate about machines, he recommends making sure you have the basics down
He also stresses the importance of paying attention to your body’s physical cues. “Make sure you’re not trying to push through any steps,” says Jordan. “When you’re in private, I’ll notice that you’re on the side of your hips, or your face is kind of twitching when we’re doing something, and I’ll pay attention to that. So it’s really up to you, the home user, to advocate for yourself. . and if something doesn’t feel good, to stop doing it.”
Still, there are some unexpected potential upsides. Reform RX features classes for beginner, intermediate, and advanced. Reform RX instructor Courtney McCullough explains that most Pilates studios aren’t able to offer such segmented classes, as the goal is to fill every space. She appreciates being able to program classes at the level she teaches.
“Exercise selection in a Pilates class varies greatly depending on the client’s experience level,” says McCullough. “I love knowing that whether I’m programming for a beginner or an expert, each user will receive a thoughtful class that will give them a safe, yet highly effective, workout every time.”
The level of attention a student receives from a teacher can also really vary from class to class. If you have a problem with a transition, the teacher may not have time to break it down for you after class. After doing a reform RX class, I was a bit confused about one section – which was a bit tricky in that I wasn’t facing the screen for that step, so I couldn’t actually see what the teacher was doing. However, the content library has step-by-step instructional modules for each step they feature. So once I was done with the workout, I got to practice the movements. I may only have the option to pause and rewind during class – certainly not something you can do in person.
Applying the Peloton virtual classroom model to reformer pilots may be inevitable. And just like cycling, rowing, running or lifting, it has the advantages of on-demand use and the disadvantages of personal instruction and camaraderie. What makes this method stand out is the huge price tag on the equipment itself But if you want the core-coaching, muscle-stabilizing workout of a machine Pilates class at home, and you’ve got a few thousand dollars to spare, at least now you have options.
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