Can you Build Muscle with a Pilates Reformer?
Posted By: Pamela Toy
The Pilates Reformer is a phenomenal exercise machine that allows you to do a full-body workout. While it is very versatile, you are unlikely to build a lot of muscle mass using it.
The Reformer was invented by Joseph Pilates in the 1920s for rehabilitation purposes. (1)
For building muscle mass, you typically want to lift heavy with lower reps to hit your “fast-twitch” muscle fibers. To build more endurance you would want to use lighter weights with higher reps. (2)
And while you can continue to increase the resistance on your Reformer, the exercises are geared towards lengthening and strengthening your body while keeping your core engaged.
Does Reformer Pilates tone your body?
Reformer pilates can be considered strength training, but as we mentioned earlier, you won’t develop big bulky muscles. Instead you can build strong toned muscles using a Reformer.
It is a dynamic form of exercise that uses the Machine’s springs for resistance with an emphasis on muscle contraction and eccentric release to create long muscles. (3)
Can Reformer Pilates Replace Weight Training?
Reformer Pilates likely isn’t the best replacement for weight training. However, it really depends on what you are trying to accomplish with your weight training regiment.
For example, if you are lifting lighter with higher reps to try to strengthen and stabilize your muscles, then a Reformer can aid in this department. Exercises like the frog and leg circles are all geared to lengthen and strengthen your muscles at the same time.
Many professional athletes train on the Reformer to improve their core strength, balance and increase their overall range of motion. This can help athletes rehab and prevent injuries.
However, if your goal is to develop big bulky muscles and put on 15-20 pounds then training on the Reformer is not the best replacement. It can definitely be used in conjunction with your normal weight training routine, but on its own, you likely won’t see the same results.
Many weight lifters will lift very heavy while isolating a few muscle groups at a time like a bicep curl or a tricep extension. Reformer training is very different in that you are working your entire body while keeping your core engaged. Breathing is really important as well.
Check out our detailed guide on the differences between Pilates and Weight Training for a full breakdown.
If you are looking for a form of exercise to lengthen your muscles while strengthening and toning them, the Reformer may be for you. However, if your goal is to create big bulky muscles, you will probably want to stick with weight lifting instead.