Good Moves

Who Needs a Pilates Reformer When You’ve Got a Foam Roller?

Pilates reformers challenge your core, shoulders, and other muscle groups by making you work to either move the carriage or hold it steady. Unfortunately, you usually have to go to a class to work out on one, or shell out thousands of dollars to get one for your home.

But if you're looking for more reformer-like exercise in your life without that hassle, have we got the hack for you. You can actually mimic the same sort of resistance and engagement you get from a reformer with the help of an inexpensive object you probably have at home: a foam roller.

While it’s usually used for self-massage and recovery, the foam roller is actually quite a versatile tool for working out, too. You can use it to introduce some rolling movement into an exercise, like by turning a static plank into a moving one that works your shoulders and core. Or you can fire up your muscles to keep it from rolling away, like you would in a bridge pose with your feet on the foam roller.

East River Pilates instructor Brian Spencer makes full use of this technique in Well+Good’s latest Good Moves video, a 23-minute at-home "reformer” workout—that's actually a Pilates foam roller workout. After anchoring the beginning of the warm-up by connecting with your Pilates breath, you’ll do a series of moves to both strengthen and mobilize your muscles.

“With this foam roller today, we’re going to be really challenging stability and range of motion,” Spencer says.

With base poses including bridges, hands and knees, lunges, and planks, you can expect to get a full-body workout in just over 20 minutes. It's also low impact, with no jumping or other moves that are hard on your joints—just like reformer exercises.

Though that doesn't mean it will be easy. “It is gonna get a little spicy,” warns Spencer, since some of the exercises—hello, single-leg bridge marches elevated on a moving object!—are tough. But you’ll also get some delicious spine opening and mobilizing moves. A well-rounded workout, indeed.

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