Wellness

5 Core-Sculpting Pilates Moves (and the At-Home Reformer We’re So Into)

Written by: Kelly Martin

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Published on: February 8, 2024

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Photo courtesy of Claire Lejeune/Stills.com

Sure, your very own Pilates reformer is a major investment. But if you love the reformer—for all its low-impact, body-strengthening, mobility-enhancing benefits—it’s also one that pays major dividends.

That said, most at-home reformers come up lacking in one area or another. They skew bulky, and not particularly pretty. And you have to either really know what you’re doing or prop up your laptop somewhere to stream a class. Which is why we’re ogling over the reformer from FRAME Fitness, the game-changing brand by Pilates instructor and ballet dancer Melissa Bentivoglio. It’s 10 (50? 100?) times better than the next best option.

Here’s why: The FRAME reformer is modern, good-looking, and lightweight enough to wheel into a corner when you’re not using it. We actually want it in the house, not relegated to the garage. And it makes the whole experience seamless. The machine has a built-in touchscreen, from which you can stream on-demand classes by the brand’s team of expert instructors. (While we’ve heard the words “It’s the Peloton of ____” too many times to count, it is pretty apt here.) Springs provide resistance or support, depending on the move, and an optional Pilates box helps you hit even more muscle-chiseling angles.

Below, Bentivoglio leads you through her five-movement core workout. (If you haven’t gone in on a reformer yet, most of these moves can be achieved on a mat or with sliders.)

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5 Reformer Moves for a Stronger Core

By Melissa Bentivoglio

1. MOUNTAIN CLIMBERS

With your feet on the stationary platform and your hands on the carriage, push out into a high plank with your shoulders stacked over your wrists. Engage your core and keep a neutral spine, with the scapulae protracted, chest and sternum lengthened, and shoulders stabilized.

Maintaining the high plank, bring one knee toward your chest and cross it toward your opposite elbow. Alternate legs, engaging the obliques. Be mindful to stabilize through the shoulders, maintain a steady rhythmic pace, and keep your hips level.

2. BEAR HOLD

A bear hold on a reformer challenges stability, balance, and core strength due to the instability of the moving carriage, which requires precise control. The core, quads, shoulders, and adductors are engaged, as well as all the stabilizer muscles.

From a high plank, slowly bend your knees, allowing the carriage to travel toward the stationary platform until your knees are lined up and underneath your hips. Your back should be flat, with your shoulders stabilized, core engaged, and knees hovering above the carriage.

3. MODIFIED FOREARM PLANK WITH SAW

Begin in a kneeling position, forearms on the carriage and knees on the stationary platform. Stack your shoulders over your elbows and tuck your pelvis slightly. Do not overtuck; be mindful of the alignment of your pelvis with your spine, creating a straight line from head to heels. Do not arch or round your back in this position.

Once you’re stabilized, start to slowly saw your forearms away from your body, further engaging the core. Use your exhale to slowly pull your forearms back in until your elbows are once again stacked directly underneath your shoulders. Do not slump into your shoulders; maintain shoulder stability with an elongated neck and sternum.

For more intensity: After a set of saws, add a set of pulses until you near exhaustion, which helps you build muscle stability and stamina.

4. HIGH PLANK TO PIKE

Begin in a high plank position with your shoulders stacked over your wrists, feet shoulder-width apart, heels elevated, shoulders stabilized, scapulae protracted, and core engaged. The body should be in a straight line from head to heels.

As you inhale, engage your core as you lift your hips toward the ceiling. As your hips lift, keep your weight in your hands, engage your lower abdomen, and keep your feet light on the stationary platform. Slowly, with control, draw the carriage in toward the stationary platform until your body is in an inverted V. As you exhale, slowly release back into a high plank.

5. CARRIAGE SIT-UPS

Begin seated on the stationary platform with your feet underneath the carriage strap, shoulder-width apart. Your spine should be neutral, arms reaching outward, wrists in line with the shoulders, shoulders depressed down, sternum lengthened, and neck relaxed.

You should feel tension in your core and stabilizer muscles as you slowly lower the upper body, vertebra by vertebra. Keep your chin off your chest and your core engaged. Then, with control, sit back up. Keep your legs steady throughout the movement; the instability of the moving carriage works the inner thighs and strengthens the hip flexors.

THE POSTWORKOUT SHOWER

Perhaps our favorite thing about an at-home workout is the at-home shower that follows: with all the things that you might not be inclined to haul around in your gym bag.

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