If you are looking to get stronger and build some muscles, you may have been researching different ways to do it, and, since you are here, you’ve probably stumbled over the reformer-weight training controversy. Where did it start? No one knows. Probably some Pilates instructor affirmed that this type of training can help build muscles, and weight lifters didn’t agree, or completely the other way around. Nonetheless, there may be some truth here, otherwise, we wouldn’t have seen smoke.
In some way or another, they can both be regarded as strength training, so here comes the supposition that it is more a matter of taste. Since you’ve must already notice that most Pilates enthusiasts have defined muscles, if this is your thing, there’s nothing to stop you from going through a good Pilates reformer machine buyer’s guide and picking your apparatus already. On the other hand, some questions still need to be answered. For example, how far this type of training can get you? We mean, what if you want big arms? Can you obtain them without lifting heavy dumbbells? We are bound to find out.
How Does a Reformer Work?
Made famous by the inventor of Pilates, this apparatus is often found in gyms where Pilates is taught. It consists of a bed-like frame, which contains a flat platform, also known as the carriage. This platform isn’t fixed. It is attached to one end of the bed through springs. This system is actioned by the user, who uses their body strength and weight to make the carriage slide. A footbar positioned at the end of the apparatus holds the springs and can be used as support for the feet in some exercises.
The machine also includes a set of straps, which are provided with handles, designed to hold either the hands or the feet of the user. They are positioned on the side opposing the footbar. Both the springs and the straps can be adjusted according to the user’s height and strength.
Why Both Reformer Pilates and Weight Lifting Are Considered Resistance Training?
First, let’s see what resistance training means. The simplest definition would describe it as the type of physical activity that exercises a muscle or a group of muscles against external resistance. Thus, when we look at weight training, things are pretty clear, as the external resistance can be immediately identified in the weights the lifter uses. Thus, the training can start slowly, with just a few pounds being added on each hand, and get more and more intense, either by adding more volume, increasing the number of reps, or throwing in some cardio movements that can get the heart rate up.
The reformer, on the other hand, can be a bit more subtle. The resistance is provided by the apparatus itself, and here is how this thing works. The springs and the straps are the correspondents of weights in weight training. They can be adjusted to oppose either higher or lower resistance. Thus, they have an effect on the muscles, engaging both type 1 and type 2 fibers and boosting strength and muscle growth.
Can the Reformer Offer the Same Results as Weight Training?
Now that we’ve established that the reformer can offer strength training, let’s explore how efficient it truly is. Most Pilates enthusiasts will show you their muscles, but you can see that they are long and lean. This is what makes this practice perfect if you are not looking to get bulky. On the other hand, if you aim to develop large arms or train for strength, you will find a better friend in weight lifting. You can also combine them, as they tend to engage different muscles, so you will actually get a complete workout.
Plus, strength training is just one of the benefits offered by the reformer. Check out all the others:
- You will develop better balance – if you are planning on lifting heavy weights, this will help you reduce the tremble in your body that is caused by the extra load.
- It will improve your resistance – you will, in time, get to last through longer and more intense workouts and do more reps when lifting weights.
- The risk of injury will decrease – You will acquire better posture, and, as your muscles grow stronger, they will offer better support for your spine, preparing you for the moment when you will switch to an Olympic dumbbell set.
- It will increase flexibility – a stiff body is the last you need when handling heavy weight. Pilates engages a large range of muscles and helps reduce the pressure that is put on the joints. Once again, this will lead to lower injury risk.
The Bottom Line
While these types of training are not interchangeable, they surely are complementary. You can use the reformer to get general muscle strength and improve balance. In parallel, you can start training with light weights and work your way up to heavier ones. In fact, you’ll hear many Pilates instructors recommending this alternation, and most weight lifting instructors have nothing against including Pilates in their student’s program. It is just a great way to reduce the risk of injury and boost results.