What is a pilates reformer?
The pilates reformer invented by physiotherapist Joseph Pilates, is a tool to increase core strength, flexibility, coordination and balance translating into better posture, movement and pain relief from physical imbalances.
The reformer trains full-range motion, which helps to increase flexibility while building functional strength. The instability of a rolling carriage with the springs set at different levels of resistance develop strength and promote better balance.
Working on the reformer uses the methodology of training eccentric muscle contractions.
What is the importance of eccentric training?
Eccentric strength is essential for balance, mobility and physical functions such as walking down stairs or lowering objects to the ground. It is also exceptionally effective for achieving specific performance goals, and increasing strength and power in a short period of time.
Muscles can support 1.75 times more weight in the eccentric phases of exercise than in concentric phases. Think about traditional bench pressing. At a certain weight, the concentric muscle action “fails” and cannot push the bar any higher, but the lifter can still apply enough force to hold the bar over the body and slowly lower it back onto the rack.
Cable or spring resisted workouts on the pilates reformer are perfect for eccentric exercise because they allow for more natural ranges of motion. Pilates training focuses on the return phase of every movement is emphasized, forcing muscles to eccentrically work against the rebounding pull of the spring.
4 Major Benefits of Pilates Training!
- A metabolic boost
Research shows that slowing down the eccentric phase of your lifts can significantly increase your resting metabolic rate (RMR)— aka the number of calories you burn at while watching Netflix! One study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that eccentric training boosts RMR for up to 72 hours post-exercise.
- More flexibility
In one North American Journal of Sports Physical Therapy study of 75 athletes with tight hamstrings, those who performed eccentric hamstring exercises improved their flexibility twice as well as those who stuck with static (bend-and-hold) stretching. The trick is to move through your entire range of motion as you perform the eccentric phase of your exercise. Over time, that range of motion will get bigger and bigger. A research review published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine confirmed that eccentric training is an effective way to increase flexibility.
- Reduce your risk for injury
Eccentric training builds stronger connective tissue (ligaments and tendons), which is critical for injury prevention. Here is an analogy using a car: your connective tissue would act as the seat belt for the joints, whereas the muscles act as the brakes. Too often connective tissue is forced to take over the brake function when muscles aren’t strong eccentrically or there is a deficiency in eccentric strength versus concentric strength.
Since eccentric exercises strengthen not just your muscles, but also your body’s connective tissues, they help to rehab injuries as well as prevent injuries ranging from tendinitis to ACL strains The International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy notes that eccentric exercises are vital in sports rehab settings and are great even for people sidelined with exercise injuries.
- Better sport performance
Eccentric actions aren’t just something you do in the weight room. They are a part of many activities from beach volleyball to runs and obstacle course races. Have you ever run an obstacle course race that had hilly terrain? Eccentric muscles contractions are why your quads feel very tired when running down those hills!
By training eccentric movements on the reformer, you will better prepare your body for any challenges to come your way! Plus, a 2015 review in BioMed Research International shows that eccentric moves are critical to increasing your body’s ability to produce power, which is critical to delivering hard-hitting volleyball serves and setting new race PRs.
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