Why Reformer Class Size Matters

Reformer Pilates has exploded in the last few years. In my local area there was one Pilates studio that offered Reformer classes and that had been there for over ten years. In the last year alone 3 more studios have opened locally.  

Pilates Reformer is a piece of apparatus designed by Joseph Pilates, the creator of Pilates. It is a bed-like frame with a moving platform attached to springs.  

The platform or carriage is attached to one end by springs. The springs add resistance and can be adjusted to suit the individual. On the other end of the frame are straps which are connected to the carriage. Arms and legs are placed in the straps, and you can do exercises using your own body weight and the resistance of the straps.  

Reformer can be used by everyone. It is brilliant for rehabilitation, it is brilliant for athletes, and it’s brilliant for everyone in between.  

Reformer Pilates is my favourite type of Pilates and I think it is wonderful that more and more people are getting access to it. One thing that does concern me, and is what prompted this article, is the sizes of reformer classes. 

I see a number of studios with upwards of 20 reformers, that run classes with 20 or more people. And that is bonkers! 

I’m going to be brutally honest; this is not safe, it is not practical, and it is doing your students a disservice.  

Class size is important when considering reformer Pilates. Doing Pilates isn’t enough, you need to be doing Pilates correctly to get the full benefits. You need individual correction and cues suited to your body and you cannot get that in a big class.  

A cue will not work for everyone because we all have different learning styles, different bodies, and different limitations. To get the full benefits from Pilates you need to be getting directions tailored for you and your body. 

With the reformer you also have the addition of springs. It is important to select the springs suitable for your body. The teacher can provide guidance on this and help you switch springs which you might not get in a larger class. 

The reformer is a safe piece of apparatus, but it needs to be used correctly to avoid injuries. There is more going on with a reformer; there are springs, a moving carriage, sometimes you stand on it, there is more that could go wrong if you aren’t paying attention, or you don’t know how to correctly use the reformer. 

A qualified reformer teacher can supervise your usage of the reformer. They can be there to help switch out springs, to hold the carriage still, or hold hands when getting onto the reformer. All of this requires a small class.  

The largest reformer class I’ve run had 8 people in. They were all qualified reformer teachers. I still watched them, I still demonstrated how to use the reformer safely and effectively, and I helped them when needed.  

This was with trained teachers. It was super stressful because I didn’t feel like I could adequately observe them, teach them, and offer that individual attention because I was scared if I took my eyes off one of them, they’d roll off the machine. Not the worst thing in the world but not good either! 

I run classes now with a maximum of 5 participants, 4 if they are beginners. This is a comfortable number that allows me to keep track of everyone and offer individual attention. I can observe my students’ movements, offer corrections to improve the quality of the movement and allow me to ensure my students are practicing safely and getting the most out of the class.  

Header photo from senivpetro on Freepik