If you’re looking to add some strength-training exercises to your workout routine this year, Pilates — specifically reformer Pilates — is a great option to explore. The full-body exercise, which was created in the 1920s by Joseph Pilates, comes with plenty of benefits, including improved flexibility, mobility, and balance, according to our experts. While Pilates is often performed on a mat, a reformer machine may offer even more benefits, including improved support and alignment, according to our experts.
Pilates reformers look like slim bed frames and have a spring-tension platform that slides back and forth. “The idea is to use your body weight and muscles to push and pull the platform along the frame,” says Josh York, certified personal trainer and the founder and CEO of Gymguyz. “Having an at-home machine can help prevent injury, correct muscle imbalances and greatly improve your posture.” That said, not all reformers are created equal, and since they can be a hefty investment, it’s important to do your research before purchasing a machine.
To learn more about Pilates reformers, we spoke to a personal trainer, a Pilates instructor and the vice president of training for a worldwide Pilates franchise. Below, you’ll find their reformer recommendations as well as the terms and criteria to keep in mind while shopping for one for your home.
SKIP AHEAD How we picked the best Pilates reformers | The best products Pilates reformers in 2024 | How does a Pilates reformer work? | How to shop for Pilates reformers
How we picked the best Pilates reformers
To find the best Pilates reformers on the market, we interviewed a personal trainer and two Pilates instructors. They recommend using the following criteria to inform your purchase:
- Materials: While most Pilates reformers have the same parts (which we define in further detail below), the materials that make up those parts may vary. Our experts recommend choosing models that have wood or metal frames and cushioned materials on the platform and footbar for safety, comfort and functionality.
- Size: The ideal Pilates reformer for you will suit both your height and your home. Some brands make extra-long machines for tall users or compact, folding machines for small spaces, according to our experts.
- Adjustability: The more adjustable your machine, the more you can customize it to suit your body and skill level, according to our experts. Below, we explain which adjustable features are worth prioritizing.
- Price: Most Pilates reformers cost at least a few thousand dollars, but you can find durable machines at a lower price point if you have a limited budget or you’re just starting out.
The best Pilates reformers in 2024
We chose the best at-home reformers using guidance from a certified personal trainer and two Pilates instructors. Most brands or specific machines are direct recommendations from our experts, but we’ve also included a few lower-cost options that have earned at least 4.4 stars from over 200 reviewers.
Balanced Body Allegro 2 Reformer
All three of our experts recommend Balanced Body reformers. “Balanced Body Allegro 2 has to be my personal favorite,” says Bianca Melas, an accredited Pilates instructor and certified clinical naturopath. Melas loves it because of its adjustability, which supports a huge range of workouts: “This machine has an infinity footbar that can move up and down the rails. I also love that when the jumpboard is used, you can continue to change spring tension (as not all reformer beds will allow this).” It has five springs, a three-position headrest and a carriage with removable padding, plus you can customize the upholstery color and footbar design. With the optional wheel kit, you can store the machine vertically to save space, and with the leg kit, you can adjust the height (both sold separately).
Dimensions: 93.25 x 31 x 15 in. frame with a 39.24 x 23.75 in. carriage | Frame material: aluminum and maple wood | Adjustable parts: five springs, three-position headrest, nine-position footbar, removable risers and shoulder rests | Weight: 146 pounds
Stamina AeroPilates Premier Reformer
This AeroPilates reformer has an average 4.6-star rating from over 900 reviewers on Amazon. It costs significantly less than other brands on this list and is the most lightweight, but it still meets our experts’ criteria for a well-made machine: Its steel frame supports up to 300 pounds, its adjustable legs let you elevate the reformer by 10 inches and its neck pillow, shoulder blocks, footbar, adjustable headrest and carriage are all padded, according to the brand. Each purchase also includes two DVDs and on-demand streaming workouts, foot and hand straps and a cardio rebounder that replaces the foot bar to simulate low-impact running and jumping exercises. Finally, the frame folds up and has built-in wheels, so you can store and reposition it more easily.
Dimensions: 86.25 x 20 x 14 in. frame with a 24 in. carriage | Frame material: steel | Adjustable parts: four resistance cords, three-position headrest, adjustable legs | Weight: 109 pounds
Balanced Body CenterLine Reformer
York recommends the Balanced Body CenterLine because it creates resistance using four strong springs and has secure support for your shoulders, hands and feet. “It’s a smooth, completely customizable ride, known for its strength, consistency and durability,” says York. It’s shorter and narrower than Balanced Body’s other reformers, so it’s a better fit for small workout spaces, but like the rest of the brand’s selection, it’s customizable with various color options and add-on accessories. This unit also includes a gondola pole for stability, a reformer box to customize your height and kneeling pads for extra comfort.
Dimensions: 91 x 25.5 x 14 in. frame with a 30.5 x 23 in. carriage | Frame material: maple wood | Adjustable parts: four springs, two-position footbar | Weight: 145 pounds
Flexia Smart Reformer
Because it provides comfort, stability and guidance, York also recommends Flexia to those who are new to Pilates and just beginning their routine. This tech-enabled smart reformer has built-in sensors that track three metrics: your control, speed and consistency. (When you access the brand’s online studio from your tablet, phone or computer, you’ll get real-time feedback using these metrics.) Due to the machine’s adjustable headrest and padded foot strap, it fits most users between 5 and 6.5 feet tall, and its aluminum alloy and wood frame can support up to 350 pounds, according to the brand. Each order includes free access to Flexia’s online studio for one month, and you can opt for a 30-day home trial and return the machine without shipping fees if it’s not a good fit. This reformer also has wheels and stores upright.
Dimensions: 90 x 30 x 14 in. frame with a 28 x 33 in. carriage | Frame material: aluminum alloy and cherry wood | Adjustable parts: five springs, adjustable headrest, four-way footbar, three-way carriage, four-way shoulder blocks | Weight: 150 pounds
Merrithew At Home SpxReformer Bundle
Due to its four-position footbar, three-position headrest, six-position carriage and five springs (four full-tension and one half-tension), this reformer accommodates most skill levels and heights, according to the brand. It also comes with a free reformer box, foot strap, padded platform extender and a roll-up pole, plus you get 60 days of free access to the digital workouts on Merrithew Connect. Finally, the aluminum frame and foam cushioning are built to withstand ongoing, high-intensity workouts, says Merrithew. It has an average 4.4-star rating from over 200 reviews on Amazon.
Dimensions: 96.5 x 26 x 10 in. frame with a 22 x 38.5 in. carriage | Frame material: aluminum | Adjustable parts: five springs, three-position headrest, four-position footbar, six carriage-stopping positions | Weight: 115 pounds
Balanced Body Allegro Stretch Reformer
Tianna Strateman, a certified Pilates instructor and the vice president of training and experience at Club Pilates, recommended these reformers, which Club Pilates carries in studio. “They are a leader in the space and have a variety of reformer options available,” she says. For larger or taller users in particular, Balanced Body’s Allegro Stretch reformer has a frame that’s 18 inches longer and a carriage that’s 2 inches wider than the brand’s original Allegro machine. It also has five springs, a platform extender, a three-position headrest and a five-position footbar so you can customize your workout. You can also opt for 14-inch legs to raise the machine, and the built-in wheels make the reformer easier to move and store.
Dimensions: 111 x 36 x 6.75 in. frame with a 34.62 x 24.75 in. carriage | Frame material: anodized aluminum | Adjustable parts: five springs, three-position headrest, five-position footbar | Weight: 138 pounds
The parts of a Pilates reformer
Before shopping, it helps to familiarize yourself with the various parts of a reformer. According to our experts, these are the most important terms to know:
- Frame: The frame is the structural base of the reformer. It should be durable and long enough to accommodate the length of your body, but compact enough to suit your space, says York.
- Carriage/platform: The carriage (also known as the platform) is the part of the reformer that glides back and forth on the frame. It should be lightly cushioned for comfort and roomy enough that you can sit or lie back on it, according to our experts.
- Springs: The springs attach to the carriage to create resistance while it slides, and on most machines, you can attach and detach springs to customize the support and difficulty level, says Melas.
- Straps: Also referred to as pulleys, the straps consist of stretchy resistance ropes with handles on the ends. These allow you to work out your arms and shoulders, according to our experts.
- Footbar: The footbar sits at the bottom of the machine. It often has a grippy but cushioned texture for secure, comfortable positioning of the feet, says Melas.
- Shoulder blocks: The shoulder blocks stop you from falling off the machine when working out, says York, but you can also use them as hand holds during other exercises, so they should be sturdy and comfortable.
- Extras: A few of the above machines come with extra accessories, like a reformer box (which adds height to your body while seated or lying down), a pole (for additional stability), and foot straps (which secure your feet to add more stability and versatility to your workout). Some brands also offer DVDs or free trials of their online guided workout programs.
How does a Pilates reformer work?
“Reformers work using resistance,” says Melas. “The springs are attached to a moving carriage to create tension. It is through either pulling or pushing movements done by both hands and legs that the user is able to move and work areas of their body.” When used regularly, a Pilates reformer can help you gain strength, build muscle and improve posture, according to our experts.
How to shop for Pilates reformers
When shopping for a Pilates reformer, durability and craftsmanship are paramount for both your safety and the functionality of the machine, according to our experts. While reformers vary in terms of their materials, you should also consider the size, adjustability and price of the machine.
“Look for a reformer made of high-quality materials to ensure safety and durability
during your home workouts,” says Strateman. The frame should be made from strong materials such as steel, aluminum or timber, while the carriage should glide smoothly and be lightly cushioned for comfort, but still structured enough for stability, according to our experts. Finally, high-end brands sometimes offer lifetime warranties that protect your machine and its accessories.
It’s important to find the right size reformer for your body and workout space, says York. If you’re especially tall, some brands make extra-long Pilates reformers with larger carriages and frames. For those who have limited space for working out, “foldable or compact options are excellent for smaller living areas,” says Strateman. For each machine above, we listed both the dimensions and the weight.
Strateman recommends choosing a reformer with adjustable parts, so you can customize the machine to fit your body’s needs and use it for various exercises and resistance levels. Adjustable frames let you customize the reformer’s height, whereas having multiple springs lets you adjust the tension as needed. Moveable footbars are also helpful since they let you find your ideal position.
Most at-home Pilates reformers start around a few hundred dollars and can cost as much as several thousand dollars. “Determine your budget and find a reformer that offers good value for the money,” says Strateman. For beginners, that could mean purchasing a sturdy but low-cost machine, and for those with an established Pilates practice, it might mean investing in a high-end reformer that’ll last years and broaden your range of exercises, according to our experts.
Budget reformers may be smaller, less sturdy and less adjustable; if you choose a more affordable option, at the very least, be sure that the bed is long enough to accommodate your height, the maximum weight capacity is suitable for your body and the machine has enough springs to adjust the intensity of your workout, according to Melas. An option with a full, half and quarter spring will give you plenty of resistance levels in one machine, says Melas.
Classical versus contemporary reformers
Pilates reformers come in two styles: classical and contemporary. A classical reformer usually has a smaller carriage and a footbar with two preferences (up or down), while a contemporary-style reformer is larger with an infinity footbar for ample positions, which gives you more possibilities to challenge yourself during your workout, according to Melas.
Springs versus bands
Most Pilates reformers use metal springs to create tension. However, some budget options use rubber bands instead. Both are adjustable and effectively create resistance, but metal is a more durable material that may last longer, according to our experts.
Meet our experts
At NBC Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and without undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.
- Josh York is a certified personal trainer and the founder and CEO of Gymguyz.
- Bianca Melas is an accredited Pilates instructor and certified clinical naturopath.
- Tianna Strateman is a certified Pilates instructor and the vice president of training and experience at Club Pilates.
Why trust NBC Select?
Maria Cassano is an e-commerce writer, editor and consultant who has been writing about and reviewing products for almost a decade. You can find her fitness and wellness content in publications such as Bustle, The Daily Beast, CNN, Elite Daily, Mic and Allure. For this article, Cassano interviewed three professionals in the fitness sphere.
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