How a Reformer Can Be a Substitute For Weight Training

Reformer Can Be a Substitute For Weight Training

If you’re trying to gain muscle mass and increase your strength, your first thought might be to increase the amount of weight training you’re doing. While weights can be beneficial in this regard, reformer Pilates offers a more low-impact, strength-training alternative. The benefits of Pilates vs weight training are that you’ll still increase your overall strength but will develop leaner muscles whilst also improving your posture and balance. 

Pilates engages the body in different ways to weight training. It’s also more easily adjusted to account for things like injury, age, and body type to give you a comprehensive workout without so much risk of injury. 

Understanding the Reformer's Resistance System

One of the main differences that reformer Pilates offers is the utilisation of resistance bands and springs. Rather than working against gravity by lifting weights, you’re either lying or standing on the sliding bed platform on your Pilates reformer and pulling. By utilising resistance, they can be adjusted incrementally to make your workout more challenging over time. Not only does this enable a more finely tuned adjustment in difficulty so as not to overload the muscles, but it can also be refined to accommodate for injury or pre-existing joint issues. 

The benefits are twofold when you gradually increase the resistance at a steady rate. First, you won’t overload your body, as in order to correctly engage with Pilates, you need the proper form, which can’t occur when the resistance is too high or low. Secondly, by reducing the chances of overloading your body, you’ll be able to recover more quickly and need fewer breaks between workouts. 

By contrast, weight training can overload your body when poor posture or excess weight is used. Whether you’ve chosen a dumbbell that’s too heavy or haven’t supported your core and back with good form, the chance of injury can be higher. 

Targeted Muscle Engagement and Toning

There’s a high contrast in how your muscles are engaged between reformer Pilates and weight lifting. When the inventor of the Pilates reformer machine, Joseph Pilates, designed the workout, one of his core aims was to utilise the whole body. Rather than isolating any one muscle group, no matter which aspect of your routine you were at, his focus was on engaging the core and supporting the spine. 

To achieve this, your body needs to maintain good balance in order to complete the slow, controlled and precise movements that a Pilates reformer requires. By utilising the whole body more evenly, you’re less likely to overcompensate as you might when you’re lifting weights. Through regular practice, each muscle group is targeted more evenly, gradually increasing overall strength and developing lean muscle. 

By contrast, weight training is designed to engage certain muscle groups more individually. Aside from when you’re lifting from a standing position, most weight training exercises don’t have as strong a focus on spine alignment and core support. The nature of muscle built through weight training is also slightly different. The shorter bursts of lifting give you more bulky muscles, in contrast to the long and lean muscle growth you get with the more fluid motion of Pilates. 

Joint Protection and Low-Impact Workouts

Pilates is a more gentle form of exercise for those getting back into exercise after a break or rehabilitating an injury. In fact, reformer Pilates has even been found to support those suffering from low bone density from osteoporosis in the same way that weight lifting can. Reformer Pilates is low-impact, designed to engage your body fully but without straining any one muscle group. Most routines last for 45 to 60 minutes, and in that session, you’ll complete a range of exercises that you’ll repeat no more than 5 to 10 times. 

Pilates isn’t designed to push your muscles to the point of failure, which is the main goal of weight training. This is also the reason that the muscle you build from each workout differs. Instead of pushing your body physically, Pilates engages you mentally by encouraging focus on your breath, posture and fluid movements. When you’re using a Pilates machine, you can skip exercises entirely or adjust or refine the resistance to make it more accommodating for your body. 

If you’re working towards rehabilitation for a certain joint, one of the many Pilates reformer workout benefits is that it’ll help restore normal muscle function. You’ll gradually build muscle around the damaged joint, taking the pressure off the injured area to allow for a smoother healing journey. 

Dynamic Stretching and Strength Building 

Along with building lean muscle in a slower and more gentle way, reformer Pilates is also a supportive exercise for increasing your flexibility and overall strength. If you’re building muscle through weight lifting alone, typically, you’ll focus more on certain muscle groups with a limited range of motion. Pilates engages the full body, encouraging your joints to be utilised to their full extent. This is especially beneficial for people with more sedentary jobs who sit in the same position for extended periods. 

Along with gradually increasing the resistance on your Pilates resistance bands, you’ll also gradually increase the depth you can stretch into each movement. This is referred to as dynamic flexibility, which doesn’t end when you finish your workout but carries on throughout your daily life. It facilitates better motility of the joints, with the surrounding muscles being able to support the movement better. 

Weight training, by contrast, is less focused on flexibility but more on building muscle mass alone. You’ll still increase your overall strength with reformer Pilates but with a slower, less intense session that’s kinder to your body. 

Functional Fitness and Everyday Strength

One of the foundations of Pilates is that it promotes a stronger mind-body connection. Through intense focus on your movements, it increases your bodily awareness, referred to as proprioception. With this comes better posture, which carries a myriad of benefits. From better blood flow to less strain on certain parts of your body that have to overcompensate if your posture is poor, your overall sense of well-being often improves after just a few Pilates sessions. 

Better posture and balance also mean you’re more adept at handling everyday life, whether it’s sitting at a desk for an extended period or carrying the groceries in from the car. Pilates encompasses both mind and body health to leave you feeling better overall. 

If you’re ready to experiment with reformer Pilates but unsure where to start, you can download our free reformer Pilates e-book. For any other questions, please contact our team and we’d be happy to help you.