Reformer Pilates is something I’ve looked at many a time before and thought “that looks SO GOOD” but never got around to trying for one reason or another. When we moved to Withington I realised that the wonderful Holly Thrower’s studio was literally a 2 minute walk from our flat so it would have been rude not to try it out – and I’m so glad I did. Yes, I ached the day after (a lot!) but I felt a lot more conscious of how my body moved and felt I’d really made a difference.
Read on to find out the benefits of reformer Pilates specifically to strength athletes and why I’ll be going to see Holly each month from now on.
Reformer Pilates increases flexibility
The nature of strength sports mean we spend a lot of time shortening, contracting, and tensing our muscles. Some people might be fine with this, but for others this shortening could cause injuries. Reformer Pilates encourages the muscles to lengthen, thus increasing flexibility, but it’ll also build strength at those new ranges of motion as opposed to leaving you with long, weak muscles.
Reformer Pilates strengthens the core
You’ll hear so frequently that everyone should work their core, not just strength athletes, but what do we mean when we say ‘core’ and why is it important? In this instance, we’re talking about the core being the external abdominals, the internal abdominals, and the lower back, which all work hard during reformer Pilates to keep the spine neutral and the pelvis level. Bracing the core is important for strength athletes for stability during almost every move and your reformer Pilates teacher will show you how to do this. A strong core also means you transmit forces more powerfully to your limbs, so your lifts become more efficient.
Reformer Pilates improves bodily control
Your brain activates and coordinates your body to move, and motor control is the integration of external and internal sensory information to determine how the body should move itself to generate the desired action. Let’s take a box jump – you digest the information about your body’s capabilities and how high the box is in order to jump on it.
That’s a massive simplification for something very complex we all take for granted, but bodily control can be trained and improved like you would a muscle. Motor learning occurs when the body responds to new stimuli, such as working on the reformer Pilates bed and having to engage your core and move your limbs in a brand new way. This learning is relatively permanent and that improved motor skills can pass over to other aspects of your life too, such as strength movements requiring large amounts of coordination.
Reformer Pilates improves mental focus
When you’re on the bed, there’s very little you can think about other than how your body is moving at that time! I felt as mentally wrung out after my reformer session as I would do after a great yoga class or meditation session. A study in the Journal of Neuroscience suggests that those who meditate may be better-placed to deal with brain wandering and more easily focus on the task in hand – essential when you’re a strength athlete waiting to get up onto the stage or field, with anxious and self-destructive thoughts racing through your head. Of course, meditation alone can help, but many of us find it difficult to sit and meditate even when guided, so moving meditation is a great option.
I’m booked in once a month for my reformer Pilates sessions now – all the above benefits totally sold it to me, plus the DOMS I had the next day showed me just how imbalanced my body is and how underused certain muscles are! We’ll see over time how my lifts improve, but for now I’m enjoying the experience of trying something new and teaching my body to move in a different way.