8 Features to Look For in Pilates Reformer Machines for Home Gym

pilates reformer machine home

Are you tired of paying for expensive Pilates reformer sessions at your local studio? I’m constantly suffering from aches and pains on my back, shoulder and hips. I find that the most effective way to relieve my body of these aches and pains is by working out on a pilates reformer machine. Ideally, I’d like to go to my pilates reformer studio everyday to reset my body to its non-achy state. However, it is really expensive to go everyday. Instead, I go to my pilates reformer studio once a week but it’s barely enough to alleviate my body’s aches and pains. So instead of working out at my local pilates studio, I decided to build a pilates reformer studio at home. Setting up a pilates reformer studio at home is not as expensive as you think. Before I purchased my pilates reformer machine, I did extensive research comparing different pilates reformer machines. The price points of pilates reformer machines vary widely from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars. Below you will find the 8 features I looked for when deciding which pilates reformer machine to buy for my home gym. I also gave some of my recommendations on the best pilates reformer machines for your home gym.

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Why Should You Buy a Pilates Reformer Machine for Your Home Gym?

First, I’d like to make a case on why you should buy a pilates reformer machine for your home gym. If you are like me, you have been going to a Pilates reformer studio on a weekly basis, you know how expensive these pilates reformer sessions are. Unlike your regular gym memberships, pilates reformer classes are significantly more expensive than regular gym memberships. Pilates reformer group sessions are $40+ per session while private pilates reformer sessions are $100+ per session. The reason why Pilates reformer classes are more expensive is that Pilates studios can only fit a limited number of Pilates reformer machines, as a result, pilates instructors teach fewer students, therefore they need to charge more per student. An advantage to buying your own Pilates reformer machine at home is that you will save money and in just a few sessions, you can make up the cost of your pilates reformer machine.

8 Features to Look for When You Buy a Pilates Reformer Machine for Your Home Gym

When I was choosing my pilates reformer machine, I compared 8 features to decide which Pilates Reformer machine is best for my home gym. The 8 pilates reformer machine features are price, the look, adjustability/quality of accessories, resistance cord material/number of resistance cords, height of pilates reformer machine, size of pilates reformer machine, loop strap and vertical bar.

Price of Pilates Reformer Machine

The first and probably the most important factor when buying a Pilates Reformer Machine is the price. Before I purchased my pilates reformer machine, I did a lot of research comparing the pros and cons of various pilates reformer machines. What threw me off was the price point, there is a big difference in price between the low end pilates reformer machines and the high end pilates reformer machines. You can get a pilates reformer machine for a few hundred dollars or a pilates reformer machine for a few thousand dollars. I wanted to understand the difference between the types of pilates reformer machines and what makes one worth a few hundred dollars and what makes one worth a few thousand dollars. Before you start your search, decide on a budget for your Pilates reformer machine. How much are you willing to spend on your pilates reformer machine? How often will you use it? If you plan to use your Pilates Reformer machine daily, it may be worth investing in a higher end reformer machine.

The Look

Probably one of the most important features of Pilates Reformer machines is the look. The main difference between a pilates reformer machine that cost a few thousand dollars versus one that cost a few hundred dollars is the quality of the materials and the overall machine aesthetics. Just by looking, you can tell if it’s a high end pilates reformer machine or a low end reformer machine. The high end pilates reformer machines are made of wood and metal construction, making your home gym look like a professional studio. While the low end machine is a combination of plastic and metal construction. If you care about the look of your pilates reformer machine then you will probably want a higher end pilates reformer machine in your home gym.

Adjustability and Quality of Accessories

The adjustability and quality of accessories are important features to look for when buying a pilates reformer machine. Some accessories for the higher end pilates reformer machines are adjustable while the same accessory may not be adjustable in the low end pilates reformer machine. For example, the foot bar and pulley risers are adjustable in the higher end machines. The quality of accessories is also a differentiating feature. For example, the padding of the carriage for the high end pilates reformer machines are more plush making it more comfortable than the low end pilates reformer machines.

Resistance Cord Material and Number of Cords

The number of resistance cords and material used for the resistance cords are important features for pilates reformer machines. The number of resistance cords will vary between the low end and high end pilates reformer machines. At the low end, the pilates reformer machines have 3 cord resistance while the high end pilates reformer machines have 5 cord resistance. Basically, the more resistance cords the better. It will give you more options to customize your workout. The material used to make the resistance cords will also vary between the high end pilates reformer machines versus the low end pilates reformer machines. The resistance cords for high end pilates reformer machines are made of metal springs while the resistance cords of the low end pilates reformer machines are made of bungee cords. The material used affects the durability and quality of your resistance cords. Metal springs will last longer while the elastic of the bungee cords will eventually lose its tightness and will have to be replaced sooner than the metal springs.

Height of Pilates Reformer Machine

The height is also an important feature when choosing a pilates reformer for your home gym. The low end pilates reformer machines sits low to the ground which makes it more uncomfortable to get on and off your pilates reformer machine. If you have difficulty bending down or don’t want to workout too close to the floor, then you will want a pilates reformer machine that sits higher up. The low pilates reformer machines also limits the types of workouts you can do. For example, you will not be able to do the calf stretches with the low pilates reformer machines.

Size of the Pilates Reformer Machine

The size is an important feature when comparing pilates reformer machines to buy for your home gym. If you have a big space in your home gym for your pilates reformer machine, then you have more options to choose from. You can go for the higher end pilates reformer machines which are generally bulkier and heavier or you can go for the lower end pilates reformer machines that are smaller and more lightweight. However, if you are limited on space, you may want to consider pilates reformer machines that can fold so you can put the machine away when not in use.

Double Loop versus Single Loop Strap

Another feature to consider when choosing a pilates reformer machine for your home gym is the loop strap. Most of the low end pilates reformer machines only have one loop strap. That means you are using the same loop strap for your hands and feet. Typically, the length of one loop strap will not work for both hands and feet. That means you will need to adjust your grip in order to comfortably workout on your pilates reformer machine. Adjusting your grip may mean keeping your hands off the loop strap and holding onto the rope which is not comfortable at all. The higher end pilates reformer machines have double loop straps so you don’t have to self adjust your grip since there is a loop strap for your hands and another loop strap for your feet. It is definitely more comfortable to workout on a pilates reformer machine with double loop straps.

Vertical Bar on Pilates Reformer Machine

If you want to be able to do all the pilates reformer workout at home that you would normally do at a Pilates studio, then you will need the vertical bar. The low end pilates reformer machines don’t come with the vertical bar and you can’t even add-on the vertical bar accessory to your low end pilates reformer machine. In order to have the option for the vertical bar add-on, you need to buy a higher end pilates reformer machine. Some are bundled with the vertical bar while other pilates reformer machines have the vertical bar as an add-on accessory.

There are many features to consider when you are comparing pilates reformer machines for your home gym. The 8 features above are what I find most important when choosing a pilates reformer machine for my home gym. Below you will find recommended pilates reformer machines based on these features.

Best Pilates Reformer Machines for Your Home Gym

Best Professional At Home Pilates Reformer Machine

If you want a Pilates reformer machine at home that is comparable to the professional pilates reformer machines at your Pilates studio then you can’t go wrong with the Merrithew pilates reformer machines. There are two options to choose from: the Merrithew At Home SPX Reformer or Merrithew V2 Max Reformer. The Merrithew At Home SPX Reformer is the top of the line at home pilates reformer machine and is Merrithew’s at home version of their professional Merrithew V2 Max Reformer machine. If you are used to working out at a professional Pilates Reformer Studio and you want the same quality reformer machine then I suggest going with one of the Merrithew pilates reformer machines.

The difference between the Merrithew At Home SPX Reformer and the Merrithew V2 Max Reformer is the size. The Merrithew At Home SPX Reformer is less bulky than the Merrithew V2 Max Reformer.  The Merrithew At Home SPX Reformer weighs 115 lbs versus 145 lbs+ for the Merrithew V2 Max Reformer.

The Merrithew At Home SPX Reformer is also lower at 10 inches off the ground versus 16 inches off the ground for the Merrithew V2 Max Reformer. I think 10 inches off the ground is plenty but if you don’t want to bend down, you may prefer the Merrithew V2 Max reformer because it is higher.

The Merrithew At Home SPX does not come with the vertical frame which are the bars at one end of the pilates reformer machine. The vertical frame is often found at professional Pilates Reformer studios, so if you like using the vertical frame for your pilates workout, then you should look into Merrithew V2 Max Reformer and not the Merrithew At Home SPX Reformer.

In terms of the finish and sturdiness of both Merrithew Pilates Reformer machines, they are comparable, with wood and metal construction that should last you years of use. The padding on the carriage is made of high density, high quality UVA foam padding to support your back. The 5 springs are made of sturdy, metal coils. The strap is double looped so you can switch from arms to legs exercises without having to change straps. The foot bar is adjustable for comfort.  If you want what professional Pilates studios have, then you should go with either the Merrithew At home SPX Reformer or Merrithew V2 Max Reformer. When I was working out at my local pilates studio, I was using the Merrithew V2 Max Reformer with the vertical frame and it is definitely a solid choice. If you are serious about doing your pilates reformer workouts at home and want the top of the line pilates reformer machine, then you should get a Merrithew Pilates reformer machine.  

pilates reformer machine home
Merrithew at Home SPX Pilates Reformer Machine
pilates reformer machine at home
Merrithew Pilates V2 Max Reformer

Best Value for at Home Pilates Reformer Machine

If you are not sure you want to spend thousands on a Pilates Reformer machine then you can’t go wrong with Aeropilates reformer machines. You can buy Aeropilates Pilates Reformer 651 for a few hundred dollars. Aeropilates are a good value and you will still be able to get a good pilates reformer workout at home. You will sacrifice on the look since it is made of plastic and metal as opposed to the beautiful wood and metal finish of the high end pilates reformer machines. You will also have bungee cords as your resistance cords (not metal springs), the footrest is not adjustable and the strap is a single loop strap. However despite the cons, you are still getting a pretty good pilates reformer machine that will give you the ability to get a good workout. The Aeropilates Pilates Reformer 651 is elevated and does not sitting low on the ground. There is a rebounder included with your pilates reformer machine. The rebounder is a trampoline attachment placed at the foot of your pilates reformer machine. It’s fun to use and you get a good cardio workout from the rebounder. The carriage of the Aeropilates is comfortably padded and it runs smoothly. Even though you are paying a lot less in price, you won’t be sacrificing the quality of your pilates reformer workout. If you are looking for an inexpensive Pilates reformer machine definitely go with one of the low end Aeropilates machines.

pilates reformer home gym

Best Pilates Reformer Machine for Small Spaces

If you are short on space but want a pilates reformer machine at home, then you can’t go wrong with one of the Aeropilates entry level machines. The Aeropilates Reformer 287 with 3 resistance cords is foldable and takes up very little space. There are built-in wheels for portability. It will give you a pretty good workout. The only downside is that it is sits very low on the ground. You will need to buy a stand to prop it up higher if you have difficulty getting on and off the machine. However, if you are ok with working out low on the floor then you don’t need a stand. It also comes with only 3 resistance cord but if you are a beginner, that is sufficient. Despite it being an entry level model, you will get a comfortable workout with the padded carriage, adjustable headrest, padded strap and padded footrest. If you don’t want to spend much on a pilates reformer machine and need one that will fit into small spaces, then this is a great pilates reformer machine.

pilates reformer machine home gym

Best Overall Pilates Reformer for your Home Gym: Looks Good and Good Value

If you are looking for a pilates reformer machine that looks good and priced right, then I recommend the Aeropilates Precision Series Reformer 608. You will get the beautiful grey, metal and wood look plus you don’t have to pay a few thousand dollars for it. For a few hundred dollars, you get a professional looking pilates reformer machine. What I like best about this pilates reformer machine is that it comes with the double loop strap so you can have one loop strap for your hands and another loop strap for your feet. It comes with 4 resistance cords that are metal springs (not bungee cords). Plus you will have a comfortable workout with the padded carriage, padded footrest, padded loop and adjustable headrest. It also comes with the rebounder (trampoline attachment) so you can get a good cardio workout. If you want it all, this is a great pilates reformer machine for your home gym.

pilates reformer home gym

Pilates Reformer FAQ

I’m a Beginner, is it a good idea to buy a Pilates Reformer Machine for my home gym?

Just because you are a beginner on the pilates reformer machine, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy a pilates reformer machine for your home gym. Don’t be intimidated by the pulleys, springs and straps of the pilates reformer machine. There are so many DVDs, free YouTube videos and streaming videos to show you step by step how to do pilates reformer workouts at home. If you are not confident with your pilates reformer machine, then I suggest you take a few classes at your local Pilates reformer studio to help you get acquainted with the pilates reformer machine. Or you can hire a pilates instructor to come to your home to show you how to use your Pilates Reformer machine. Trust me, the pilates reformer machine is really easy to use! It looks more complicated than it really is! Once you get the hang of it, it will be easy for you to do your pilates reformer workouts on your pilates reformer machine.

What’s the Difference Between Mat Pilates and Pilates Reformer?

So you are wondering what is the difference between mat pilates and Pilates reformer? With Mat Pilates, you do your pilates workout on the mat while with Pilates reformer, you workout on the Pilates reformer machine. Both workouts will get you similar results in terms of building strength and muscle tone plus enhancing your balance and mobility. However, with mat pilates, you are using your body weight as resistance while on a reformer, you are using the springs and pulleys to create resistance. I personally have done years of mat pilates and pilates reformer. I prefer pilates reformer, simply because the pilates reformer machine provides more support. I like that I’m lying down on a padded carriage versus a yoga mat, I think the pilates reformer machine’s padded carriage is gentler on my back. I also like the neck support from the pilates reformer’s adjustable head rest. While with mat pilates, I also feel like I’m straining my neck because there is nothing supporting my neck. If you ask me which one I prefer, pilates reformer or mat pilates, I’d choose Pilates Reformer because I think it is gentler on my body, making it an easier workout. 

Final Thoughts on Buying a Pilates Reformer Machine for Your Home Gym

Buying a pilates reformer machine for my home gym is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It may seem expensive to buy a pilates reformer machine but since I use my pilates reformer machine frequently (almost daily!) I’m actually saving more by buying my own pilates reformer machine. Imagine what it would cost if I had to go to a pilates studio everyday, by having a pilates reformer machine at home, it is saving me a fortune!

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