(613) 542-3222 [email protected]

From fitness training clients to physiotherapy patients, here at Movement Performance Centre we use the reformer daily with a variety of clientele to aid strength training and rehabilitation.

The reformer resembles a bed frame with a flat platform on it (the ‘carriage’) which rolls back and forth on wheels within the frame. The carriage is attached to one end of the reformer by a set of weighted springs which allow for differing levels of resistance as the carriage is pushed or pulled along the frame.

One of the reformer’s greatest assets is its versatility. Exercises can be done lying down, sitting, standing, pulling the straps, pushing the footbar, the list goes on. Exercises that are done on the reformer promote strength, flexibility and balance.  The bars and cables guarantee you’ll move your body through a full range of motion as when you hold the cables at your arms or fix the cable to your feet, you can’t help but extend to the fullest range to follow their track. (Fedoruk, 2015). When doing an exercise alone without such guidance, it is easy to fall back into old, sub-optimal movement patterns.

An exercise I use most commonly when working with clients in the reformer is the squat. Squats are great for working all the large muscles in the lower body, and squatting on the reformer adds a whole new dimension. By using heavy springs and keeping the carriage apart, your hips and glutes need to engage, promoting glute activation which plays a key role in knee and lower back health. Using light springs changes the challenge to stability. Your abductors need to work and hips need to remain stable in order to perform the movement. Those with poor hip stability may have a challenging time completing a squat with full range of motion without any assistance. Performing a squat in a supinated (lying down) position on the reformer provides a strong support for more load during a squat later in your workout.

Another indication to use the reformer with a client is when they have an anterior tilt in the pelvis; meaning the hips naturally tilt forward when standing causes tight hip flexors and excess pressure on the lumbar spine (low back). This means that when they squat they can be very quad dominant and lack any glute activity, resulting in poor back and knee health (Garnas, 2017). The reformer can help mobilize the low back as well as stretch and strengthen the muscles in the hips allowing for a more effective and efficient squat. The photo below demonstrates a squat lying down in the reformer.

This photo below demonstrates another variation of squats. This is a lateral squat, using a light spring in a standing position.

Physiotherapy and the Reformer

At MPC, we provide traditional physiotherapy treatment but we believe that from the onset of an injury it is important to stay mobile and fit. Commonly, when injured we are recommended to rest, (and we should) but that doesn’t have to mean sitting still all day. The reformer provides versatility to use physiotherapy principles and adapt exercises to enable training even while injured (Law, 2016). This still allows your body to benefit from the chemical, neuromuscular effects of exercise ensuring range of motion and strength is maintained throughout the recovery process. This makes it easier to return to normal exercise once you have recovered.

Author: Megan Cook


Fedoruk, R. (2015, October 16). STOTT PILATES® Rehabilitation Spotlight: Kim Howard. Retrieved from Merrithew: https://www.merrithew.com/post/2015-10-16/stott-pilates-rehabilitation-spotlight-kim-howard

Garnas, E. (2017). 5 Steps to Dealing with Anterior Pelvic Tilt. Retrieved from The Personal Trainer Development Centre: https://www.theptdc.com/2014/06/5-steps-dealing-anterior-pelvic-tilt/

Law, E. (2016, September 22). Physio:Pilates – same principles, different tools. Retrieved from Reform: Physio & Pilates: http://www.reformphysio.com/blog/