Build Athletic Smarts

With the latest technology constantly redesigning fitness equipment to offer you a better workout, it’s a challenge to know what the best choice truly is. No matter how artificially intelligent and expertly wired your workout device or equipment is, you might be surprised to know the most innovative fitness tool was created in the 1920s—and has been right under your nose all along: the Pilates Reformer.

More than one hundred years after its inception—and having seen countless fitness machines come and go—the Reformer still stands, used not only for its original purpose of rehabilitation, but also for athletic strength training and conditioning. Whether you want to build a strong core and lengthen your spine as traditional Pilates offers, or build strength and muscular size with Athletic Pilates, the Reformer will get you there.  

Athletic Reformer and traditional strength training differ based on vertical and horizontal loads.  Simply look at the Reformer as a “horizontal version” of a fitness cable machine and the options become limitless. Workouts here follow the same traditional strength training approach by using timed durations, repeated sets, targeted muscle groups, and adequate recovery periods.

Typically, traditional Reformer classes use low load-bearing (spring tension), low rep count (three to five), and are set at moderate intensity, and therefore do not typically cause the onset muscle soreness associated with strength training. It takes multiple sets of heavy tension and intensity to break down a muscle. 

Athletic Pilates is programed with increased spring tension, multiple sets, and options for high intensity. In order to experience a burn and next-day soreness, you’ll need to increase the intensity. This means doing 10 reps, then moving onto the next exercise won’t cut it. 

Want to get sore? Follow my lead. High intensity and load-bearing exercises create tiny, microscopic tears in the muscle fibers. These tears are necessary in order to rebuild and develop stronger muscles. Your body responds to this by increasing inflammation, which may lead to what’s known as delayed onset muscle soreness. Your Reformer loaded with heavy spring tension, alongside long durations and repeated sets focusing on one specific muscle group, will create onset muscle soreness … and growth! 

If you’re looking for a slim, narrow waist without the bulky look associated with heavy strength training, you’re in luck. A thick waist requires a combination of high-volume core work and consistent heavy vertical loads. A thick midsection is due to overdeveloped rectus abdominus and obliques.

In traditional strength training, the loads are predominantly vertical, whereas in Athletic Pilates, the horizontal and vertical loads are shared. Constant vertical loading causes the abdominals to react by strengthening them in relation to the force applied to the spine. In Athletic Pilates, the vertical and horizontal loads are proportional. This equality allows the abdominals to develop in a more balanced manner.  

Spine compression is a common side effect of vertically loaded body building techniques. If you were to measure the distance between the ribcage and the pelvis on the 45-year-old body builder, there would most likely a few inches missing. This is another reason Athletic Pilates is more beneficial to the spine over time. 

Take the time to experience new Reformer exercises designed for strength. Don’t overdo it, and always remember that when training hard, you’ll need to give muscle groups days to recover. I had to give up the gym due to a spinal injury. Now, with Athletic Reformer exercises, I’ve safely rebuilt my strength and size. The benefit to Reformer training is that you have both an entire gym floor and a Pilates studio in the palm of your hand.


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