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Can Pilates Reformer Build Muscles?


Over a century ago, Joseph Pilates introduced the low-impact workout to the world. Still, it took decades for Pilates to find mainstream adoption. In the last couple of decades, Pilates has seen exponential popularity, especially among women.

The benefits of Pilates go beyond any low-impact exercise. It can improve stamina, increase range of motion, improve posture, boost flexibility, tone muscles, and even help build lean mass.

Reformer Pilates is something not many people are aware of. It is a form of Pilates performed using a reformer. In this article we will learn what is a Pilates reformer and can we use it for building muscles.

What Is A Pilates Reformer?

A Pilates reformer is a bed-like flat platform that is attached to a frame with wheels. The platform moves back and forth and is connected to the reformer via springs that can be adjusted to vary the resistance of the machine when pushing or pulling.

Most people argue that Pilates and Reformer Pilates are different, but there is no such distinction between the two. The main difference lies in the use of the reformer rather than the mat.

The added benefit of Pilates Reformer is the improvement of body movement. It also helps maintain body posture and balance.

The Pilates reformer also enables a more intense workout that can help with muscle building. To truly benefit from the workout, you must know how reformer Pilates affects the different muscles in the body.

Does Pilates Reformer Build Muscles?

Yes, you can build muscles with a Pilates reformer. However, if you want to build specifically large muscles like quadriceps, back, and chest, you need to lift heavyweights.

How Long Will It Take To Gain Muscles With A Pilates Reformer? 

By default, the main aim of doing Pilates is to tone the muscles, but with some changes, you can target exclusive muscles of the torso, hips shoulders, pelvis, etc to build muscles in the region. Studies have shown that for maximum benefits you should work out at least three days a week. Furthermore, to maximize the benefits you must combine Pilates with some form of cardiovascular exercise such as running.

Strengthening and building muscles is not the only benefit of reformer Pilates but it is also helpful in easing chronic lower back pain. As the workout improves flexibility and posture, it helps prevent injury. People have also reported increased ability to focus after Pilates. As Pilates requires concentration to coordinate breathing and body position it helps to train the brain to focus.

What Muscles Can You Target With A Pilates Reformer? 

It is a known fact that Pilates can target a range of muscles. For muscle-building, here are the muscles that play a vital role:

  • Stabilizer Muscles – The most impact of the Pilates exercises passes on to the midsection of the body. With reformer Pilates, you can work deep intrinsic muscles like the multifid that surround the spine and transverse abdominis, the body’s natural girdle. These are called stabilizer muscles because they help stabilize the spine, pelvis, and core. When you have a strong core, you can control your movements throughout exercises and daily routines.
  • Gluteus Muscles – The butt region specifically is targeted through squats, lunges, dips, curls, and bridges. While these are excellent workouts to work muscles like glute max, hamstrings, and glute med, they hardly target the ‘under butt’ area. It is this region that gives you a round and lifted butt. Pilates can be excellent to tone your muscles at the back of the legs. You can also tighten and lift glutes with a few consistent sessions.
  • Iliopsoas – Iliopsoas work in tandem to connect your lower spine and hip with the front of the thigh. These muscles are not the ones you can see in the mirror, nor can you target them easily. But you certainly can feel their effect as they enable you to bend side-to-side and flex your spine. Pilates is an excellent workout to build the iliopsoas.
  • Internal Obliques – There are two sets of oblique muscles-internal and external. While bicycle crunches help carve chiseled abdominal muscles working on external obliques, for firing up the internal obliques you can do static side planks. Pilates can help work both these muscle sets.
  • Inner Thighs – Pilates is one of the few head-to-toe workouts that help strengthen and build muscles. There are very few exercises to work out the inner thighs, but Pilates got you covered. Using a reformer you can challenge the inner thighs against the natural momentum, targeting the adductor muscles.
  • Teres Major and Teres Minor – Present beneath the rear deltoids (the back of the shoulders), these muscle groups are important because they help keep the armpit tighten working with the much larger latissimus dorsi. Tightened armpits are important to reduce the unsightly arm flab. Pilates can help engage these muscles and strengthen them.


A Pilates reformer can help you build muscles with the more intense workouts in merely a few sessions. Not only muscle gains, but when you commit to Pilates workouts for the long-term you improve your physical appearance as well as improve overall wellbeing including mental and emotional health.



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