This is how we roll

Ladies and gentlemen, I am pimping my ride! The more I study Pilates the more I realise how much the type of studio equipment really contributes to the whole experience. In the UK the cost of importing equipment from some suppliers is prohibitively high and so we have more limited choices than our US colleagues. Having taken classes in studios that have invested in more classical equipment the feel of the reformers is entirely different. One major contributing factor is the wheels that the carriage moves up and down the rails on. Many of the reformers manufactured now have wheels with ball bearings that ensure a smooth and even movement. Thus they are engineered to move very freely. Older models did not have such high tech wheels and there are still reformers manufactured today along the lines of Joseph Pilates original specifications with these type of wheels. This means that you have to work a bit harder to move the carriage out and back in again as the wheels themselves provide a degree of resistance.


This can fundamentally change how we experience an exercise. At a recent conference I attended a workshop with a studio owner who struggled with a couple of exercises. This lady was a very accomplished mover but was used to using a more low tech reformer. On the reformer with high tech wheels when she was used to having to push the carriage away for certain exercises, there was a feeling that the carriage would shoot away from her and thus required a different recruitment and use of her muscles. This requires a whole new approach to Pilates, if the equipment either ends up doing most of the work for you or you have to change how you move to accommodate the equipment.

The reformer in my studio was designed from measurements taken from a reformer that Joseph Pilates built. This means that certain exercises work so much better on its proportions than on some more modern reformers I have used where these proportions have been lost. The wheels are softer than the ones that manufacturer typically provides in order to facilitate more resistance to movement of the carriage. However, they are still ball bearing wheels. So my nerdy heart was set aflutter when I saw a another manufacturer had produced a set of bearing free wheels for their reformers.You can see from the video below how the new wheels turn far less easily and the push test on the carriage has more resistance.

The difference when you are on the reformer is profound. Now as I move the carriage I am aware of the rails wheres before the ride was so smooth there was little feedback of that movement into my body. Now the reformer is doing less of the work for me. When I push I really have to push to open the springs and I actually have to pull it back in to close them. Many instructors, and I have certainly been guilty of this myself, tell clients to pull the carriage back in to close the springs on a contemporary engineered reformer. What you need to do to close the springs is decelerate the carriage because the combination of spring load and easily moving wheels will slam it back in unless you control it and slow it down. This is a completely different recruitment pattern of often completely different muscles for what would otherwise appear to be the same movement. This really does change the fundamentals of the exercises Joseph Pilates created for this equipment. If you use one set of muscles to push away and then a different group to pull back in as opposed to the same group you used to push away to decelerate the return journey there will be more balanced muscular activity around the joint. Imbalance around the joints is one of the factors that can lead to wear and tear of the joints and various pain syndromes. There may be situations where this deceleration is useful. For example in rehabilitation eccentric muscle control, where the muscle both lengthens and contracts at the same time, is a great way to strengthen and repair tissue. However, in a healthy body I would rather work on the balance of muscles around a joint than isolating certain ones.

So I’m starting to explore familiar movements in a completely different way. I love the fact that Pilates keeps getting more fascinating for me and I keep feeling like I’m discovering it anew, when the reality is probably that I’m getting closer to how it was always meant to be.


5 thoughts on “This is how we roll

  1. Hi Jon,

    I would like to order the Peak bearingless wheels for my BB Centerline Reformers. Gratz equipment does give an entirely different experience of the exercises and I was SO excited to read your blog about the Peak wheels. Can you tell me exactly what you ordered and/or provide a contact name/number at Peak? Also did you simply remove the old wheels and attach the new or did you need to make more modifications??


    1. Hi Marsha,

      Great to hear from you and I’m really pleased that you enjoyed the blog post. Because I’m in the UK I ordered the wheels from Peak’s UK representative but I originally saw them online via the following link:

      I’m sure that you will be able to order them direct. Changing them over was a breeze and took a few minutes with no need for any modifications. In fact the Peak wheels fitted better onto the rails than the wheels that Balanced Body supplied the Centerline with. With the old wheels I had already fitted some extra washers as all of the wheel did not fully sit on the rail.
      The feel of the reformer is just SO different, you feel much more connected into the machine and feel like you have to move it and not vice versa.

      Please let me know how the transition goes!

      Best wishes


      1. Hi Jon! Thanks for being a Pilates nerd! I appreciate this info very much! I’ve just ordered the studio reformer from balanced body – but I had it modified to be almost identical to the centreline. Do you think the peak wheels would be able to go onto the studio reformer just as easily? It appears to be the same rails and undercarriage.. Please let me know what you think!

        Thanks, Carly (and by the way – I’m in Canada so I feel your pain when it comes to the shipping/exchange/duties)

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