Pilates Apparatus – So many different manufacturers. Can we teach on anything?

March 30, 2010 at 1:30 am 89 comments

(I’ve owed Troy this blog for nearly 2 years…maybe longer!)

Every year there is another Pilates apparatus manufacturer putting out another line of equipment, stating that this is better, more progressive, less expensive, longer-lasting or whatever else they want to say to get you to buy their apparatus.  Marketing, man, marketing!  So, what’s the truth?  How do you know what works and what doesn’t?  How do you pick and does it even matter?

Ultimately, any apparatus can work if you know what you’re doing.

From my perspective, ideally, one would use Pilates apparatus that is closest in design to Mr. Pilates’ actual apparatus doing Mr. Pilates actual exercises in the manner in which he intended.  This is how you will get the greatest results from Pilates.  That’s pretty simplistic.  As I always say, that doesn’t mean it’s easy…just means it’s straightforward.

In the current world of Pilates, we have  many variables.  Mr. Pilates’ method of Contrology has been played with in every manner imaginable.  Equally,  his apparatus designs have been retrofitted and redesigned in countless ways.  This is pure observation.  Not judgement.  I think we all can agree on this.

What is out there in terms of apparatus?  Well,  you’ve seen it all:  Pilates designs by Basil, Gratz, Peak Pilates, Balanced Body, Stott Pilates, etc.  If you Google search “Pilates Equipment” there are an outrageous number of names that come up…in every country!  Most people work on what they were originally trained on.  It’s comfortable for them.  It’s “feels right” for them.  There are great debates about one being better than the other.  I’m bored of the debate.  Just use what you like and use it well.

I am fortunate to have been exposed to many different apparatus manufacturers as I guest teach in studios and present at conferences.  I have found that it is possible to teach Pilates on every apparatus that I’ve worked on.  Whether it’s teaching “Classical Transitions of the Advanced Reformer” on Balanced Body’s decidedly non-classical apparatus the Allegro or Gratz’s very classical Reformer.  It all works.  Now, some work better than others, but it all can be done.  It depends on what you’re looking for in an apparatus and in the Pilates session.  You need to know what you need…what your clients need.  If you’re teaching classical Pilates, then you ought to be teaching on a classical apparatus that allows you to do the exercises in the manner in which Mr. Pilates intended keeping all actions long with the ability to resist strong springs and do full classical transitions (minimum motion with maximum flow).  If you’re teaching classically on the reformer, but can’t take the footbar down with your feet after The Hundred…in absolute pure thought, you’re on the wrong apparatus.  However, in reality, can you still teach effectively…of course!  It’s just modified now, and you must remember that.  If you’re trained in a more modified version of Pilates; more for physical therapy, and are used to working on a reformer with different spring strengths or ropes and risers.  You’ll find that your method’s exercises may not work easily on a classical reformer where the springs are all the same strength and the leather straps are not adjustable.   Does this mean you can’t do your method?  Absolutely not!  You must learn the apparatus that you’re working on and adjust it to your needs.

Too many new teachers say to me, “I can’t work at that studio!  I can’t work with type of reformer!”  I say, “You can’t or you don’t like to?”  Anyone can work on anything!  It just depends on how hard you’re willing to work.  Ideally, the apparatus supports our style of teaching.  Ideally the teacher can focus her/his efforts on the client’s needs and not spend too much energy making the apparatus work for you.  Let’s not waste our energy.  Again, ideally, buy and use what works for you!  But you need to work!  Please don’t allow the apparatus at a particular studio keep you from either accepting a job or  renting space there.  You can work on anything!

What do I prefer to work on?  Pilates Designs by Basil and Gratz.

Why?  Because I am a classical Pilates teacher.  I teach only Joseph Pilates’ actual exercises in the order that he designed them to be done with his intention that every client get a balanced workout of the mind and body that is appropriate for him/her that emanates from core strength.  With that, I work on apparatus that is as close to Mr. Pilates’ actual designs as I can.  While training and teaching with Romana Kryzanowska at Drago’s, I had the pleasure of working on some of Mr. Pilates’ actual pieces.   Along with several wonderful accessories, we had one of his Cadillacs/Trapeze Tables, a High Chair and a Wunda Chair.  Therefore, from my perspective, I always want to work on apparatus that feels as close to the feel of Mr. Pilates’ actual apparatus.  I trust that Mr. Pilates, a true genius, designed his apparatus with great thought.  I trust that the width of the Cadillac/Trapeze Table was purposeful.  I believe the height of the Wunda Chair in relation to the length of the pedal was mindful.  I am certain that strength of the springs on the Reformer was necessary.

If you’re in Croatia and someone is making great apparatus out there that suits your needs…get it there.  If you want to order from Basil, he’ll ship it to you!  If you’re in Southern California and can pick up Balanced Body straight from a conference at a mark down and that’s what you love to work on…fantastic!  If your brother is a a carpenter and is going to make you a Trapeze Table from scratch…great!  Just make sure you’re working on safe apparatus that does what you need it to do.

And…make sure you are well-educated so that you can safely and effectively work on anything.  That doesn’t mean that you will like working on anything, but you ought to be able to do it.  How ridiculous would it be for me to walk into a conference workshop of 100 teachers all waiting to learn the Super Advanced Reformer and for me to say, “I can’t do it” because the apparatus is not classical?  I prepare myself by spending time with the apparatus before I teach on it and then present to my workshop.  I may have to give these teachers notes about how the exercises or transitions must be different because of the apparatus, but I would not say that for any other reason than keeping the integrity of Mr. Pilates’ work.  When I teach at a studio that has 3 different manufacturers apparatus and I’ve got a group of 5 teachers taking the session (yes, this has happened more than once), I had better know which apparatus does what as well as be able to guide my clients through the workout appropriately.

What you must not do is make excuses.  If you find that you cannot teach on an apparatus, again, it’s your education that is lacking.  What shall you do?  Take a session with the most senior teacher in that studio.  Make sure the focus of the session is learning the value of that apparatus and how to adapt it to your teaching.  Ask the manager of the studio if you can work yourself out so that you can get used to their apparatus.  Then, when you’re working with your clients, you are prepared.  If you do not like the apparatus, please do not share your thoughts on the apparatus with your clients.  Please be generous to the owner of the studio and respect her/his space.

As always, work with the best available to you.  Study with the best teachers available to you.  Practice a lot.  Be open to working in different situations on many different styles of apparatus.  I just closed my studio in L.A. and moved home to NY.  I now find myself honored to be practicing out of several of my friends’ studios.  Each week, I’m working on Pilates Designs by Basil, Gratz, Balanced Body, Peak.  Each  I work out on 4 different manufacturers’ apparatus!  And guess what?  They all work!  I’m getting great workouts and am grateful for my friends’ generosity!

*****Thank you for reading!  Please write comments and ask questions!  Your comments are insightful and may spark something for another reader and me!

If you have a topic you’d like me to blog on…please let me know!


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Pilates Myth: “Get out of your hip flexors” Group Classes – Multi-tasking the Multi-level Group Class

89 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Karen  |  March 30, 2010 at 12:04 pm

    Hi Shari,

    I cringed when I read, “If your brother is a carpenter…” — I worked in a studio where the owner had hired a local carpenter to make 6 convertible tower/reformer units. She selected zebra wood because she liked the “look.”

    During workouts, the towers bowed, the push-through bars fell apart, and the mats warped and popped out of the frame. The Reformers were worse – the end came off while a client was doing jump board, and a headrest came apart under a client while she was doing Long Stretch (required stitches in both legs). Studio owner wouldn’t admit equipment was unsafe, but blamed the carpenter for the problems. (That was about the time I quit, for a variety of reasons and the equipment was less than 6 months old.)

    Your general message of preparedness holds true in this example, but I do think an extra layer of caution is required when having equipment built for you or installed by a local craftsmen. (She’d also installed Wall Tower units incorrectly — they were coming away from the wall and clients refused to work out on them.)

    Thanks! Karen

    • 2. theverticalworkshop  |  March 30, 2010 at 12:07 pm

      Karen, I hear you loud and clear! I’ve seen terrible things made by terrible people and incredible apparatus made by the brother of a client of a studio! The most important thing is that it’s SAFE! Safety first in choice of exercise, apparatus, anything!
      Thank you!

  • 3. Alex  |  March 30, 2010 at 2:19 pm

    I still say that eqiupment I made out of Zebra wood was fine ;-)!

    My thoughts…..why did she move from LA? (don’t answer to much fun wondering)

    Maybe I shouln’t keep avoiding the short reformer!

    Self practice…..now there’s a blog begging to be written?

    • 4. theverticalworkshop  |  March 30, 2010 at 3:01 pm

      I don’t doubt your zebra wood equipment is glorious!

      Keep wondering why I moved from LA! Consider: Love and Adventure!

      The short reformer…do you mean that the back well is shortened? Did you know that Mr. Pilates’ reformers back well and front well were nearly the same length? The action of the exercises is not about pushing the reformer out and away, but rather to lengthen on the out and then really, really lengthen on the way forward!

      Self-practice…I’ve written about it before…but I’m pleased, so pleased to write about it again! I’ve got many more thoughts on it! I will do so!

      Thank you, Alex!

  • 5. Anne  |  March 30, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    Love your blog sheri. Do you have any specifics for how to check equipment. Like how long should the straps be for arm exercises vs. Overhead and leg exercises on the reformer? Or should you move a client in a bit on elephant because the carriage is longer than a classical piece. I feel like the straps are my nemisis when training on modern equipment. That and a chair who’s springs aren’t heavy enough to support my male clients on goin up front, side, pull ups etc. Any ideas are sooooo welcome.

    • 6. theverticalworkshop  |  March 30, 2010 at 2:58 pm

      Anne, it’s great to hear from you! Thank you for reading, commenting and asking more questions! You’ve hit the trifecto! Why don’t I write a blog about Equipment Maintenance and another one addressing Making Non-Classical Apparatus Work for the Classical Pilates Workout?! I’m on it!

      Quickly, though:
      Elephant: If you find that your client’s heels are so far back when against the shoulder blocks, then, indeed, move her/him forward. How do you know? Well, her heels ought to be just behind her sit bones. Remember from a profile view, the centerline of the torso and the centerline of the arms ought to be continuous, the lumbar spine ought to be raised up almost parallel to the ceiling & floor, the top of head aiming straight downward and tailbone working downward towards the heels…all abdominals in and up. OK…if those heels are waaaay far back, then your client must step forward until her heels are just slightly behind the sit bones. We want the action of the exercise to allow for the femur to almost come under the hips. We want the abdominals to have to live so high up to accept the carriage moving under the torso; allow for the femoral head to be free from the acetabulum while the femur moves.

      Now, we’re not looking for the heels to be directly under the sit bones and the profile centerline to be a plumb line/perpendicular to the floor. If we have a plumb line, then there’s not enough freedom/space between L5 and S1 for the sacrum and tailbone to curve towards the heels so the lumbar can open and the femur gets stuck in the anterior portion of the acetabulum.

      I hope that helps a bit.

      • 7. yogalina  |  April 1, 2010 at 11:11 am

        love your notes about elephant….great reminder for proper alignment!

  • 8. Jessica  |  March 30, 2010 at 6:35 pm

    Great article! Its funny that I was agreeing with everything that you were saying and then you mentioned not letting your clients know that you don’t like the equipment, and my face went a little red. At the gym I work at they have all Stott equipment, and I feel comfortable enough teaching on it, (even though there are parts MISSING!!!!….I improvise) but I’ve told every client in some capacity my frustration. Thanks for the word…I’m going to be sure to refrain from that in the future!

    • 9. theverticalworkshop  |  March 30, 2010 at 7:27 pm

      Hi, Jessica! I understand your frustration! Still, we have to rise above the petty and be professional. Always respect your client, the studio, Pilates and yourself by maintaining professionalism in every aspect of teaching. So, either keep it to yourself, talk with the manager or owner and ask for repairs or different apparatus or find a different place to rent. Those are 3 solid options!

    • 10. Cate Davies  |  March 16, 2018 at 7:04 pm

      Thank you for this article. You make me think of the expression “a bad workman blames his tools”.
      I’m training with Peak & have a 2nd hand PPS, which folds away in my sitting room. Very convenient but not a thing of beauty & I now realise will be very different in feel to a Gratz. I teach group reformer in a studio with Stott apparatus & have also used Balanced Body.

      I really struggled with Stott initially, especially the stopper position, but just had to spend a lot of time playing on it until I worked out gear, stopper & springs for each exercise. I still find it frustrating as I feel like I have to mess about with settings more than on Peak & this slows the routine down, but I manage. I will be more careful about not letting any irritation show to clients!

      I’m in the UK and am really keen to try a Gratz, Pilates by Basil and 2 European makes Purely Pilates (UK) & Tecnopilates (Italian), as buying European would be a lot easier & presumably cheaper. It’s a shame that there’s less provision of Classical Pilates in the UK than the States.

      • 11. theverticalworkshop  |  March 16, 2018 at 8:42 pm

        Thank you for reading this and writing your thoughts and concerns.
        If you’re interested in a classical apparatus that you can count on, you might also consider Balanced Body’s latest version of the CenterLine. It’s a really good piece that feels very much like Gratz/Basil. I assisted them in the design and feel very good about the dimensions, ability to do classical transitions, the action of the wheels. What is good about Balanced Body for you is that they have very good shipping abilities because they have outposts in Europe and the UK. Something to consider. Again…not the original version of the CenterLine…the second version.

        Just one more to add to your list of apparatus to give a try!

        All the best,
        – Shari

  • 12. Kimra Zadik  |  March 31, 2010 at 11:01 am

    Shari you are a teacher trainer at heart! Thank you for sharing your wisdom! There are so many of these issues that we all need to learn along our own journey and I sure appreciate your guidence. I have only worked on one type of reformer, but now feel much more prepared to handle future experiences.

    Also thank you for your reply to Anne on the correct position of the Elephant. I’ve seen it taught like Downward dog and so rounded that heels are under hips…so it is nice to know what I really should be looking for!

  • 13. Liv Berger  |  March 31, 2010 at 9:18 pm

    Great job Shari! I love this topic and am quite familiar with it!

    It is true that you can teach anything any manufacturer’s equipment. Like you said so well, it is a matter of working with what you have, and adapting to it if needed so that the exercises can be executed properly. Practicing and learning how each piece/brand works before teaching on it is key.

    I think that often where problems can lie is that students of training programs are not educated on how equipment should be set so that they would know how to adjust to it when going to teach at a studio that has equipment that they are not familiar with. For example, if you teach Classical style Pilates, but then go work at a place where they teach contemporary style, and their Reformers have Risers that offer adjustable heights for the straps and pulleys that offer adjustable lengths, how do you know how to set them to create the proper length and tensions? Or, imagine a Wunda Chair that has 4 springs of different strengths, and two tiers of settings for the springs on either side, that have 4 settings each, how do you begin to figure out what would be appropriate for the exercises you know on it? (Yes, this is what has happened to the evolution of Joe’s equipment!) What I wish that training programs would spend more time on (or at least some time on) is not just teaching the exercises on whichever piece of equipment they happen to have in the studio, but also how things should be set on the equipment to allow the exercises to function properly. Then when trainers get employed at a location, with Refomers that have a “negative” gear setting (Peak, Balanced Body, Root) they will know that the straps will also need to be adjusted because they will not be the proper length. (The mistake of not adjusting the straps can greatly distort the exercises, and possibly create safety issues). If a student is not educated on how to strap lengths, springs, bar settings, pulley heights etc. should be set, they can’t even figure out what is wrong when they are teaching on unfamiliar equipment. I think that this is part of why they feel like they don’t like certain brands too. You would hope that they would play with adjusting the equipment so that they get the proper result, but more commonly, they don’t and just assume that it is fine.

    Now, allow me a moment to take this a step further…

    I recently have taken on a Regional Pilates Coordinator position for a local health club that has 12 locations. (I only manage 7 of them that have actual Pilates studios in them). Imagine now that each of these 7 locations have different manufacturer’s equipment (some of it newer, some of it old and worn) and that between all locations there are a total of about 29 employees that represent about 7 different training programs! Whoa! Between all of them, they need someone to help create order, but with all of those variables, it is quite challenging. Now while I personally am quite familiar with pretty much all brands of equipment, and can adapt, I know that many (if not all) of these instructors don’t know how to do that. They just don’t have the training or the experience. As much as I can try to help lead the way, there is no consistency in the teaching and often a disregard that these things are important. Argh… what can you do?

    Wonder what Joe P. would think of all of that. I can only imagine that the scene I have just described at the club is happening all over the world! Oh how we need to keep the Classical method alive!! 🙂

    Anyway, just my 2 cents on this topic. I guess the good news on it all is that we do have choices now. Whether it is a training program or an equipment manufacturer, we have many sources to go to…

    Thanks for blogging Shari!


    • 14. theverticalworkshop  |  March 31, 2010 at 9:26 pm

      Liv, thank you for your comment and image of your current situation! You’re correct that what you have in these 7 Pilates studios is how many or most are across the country and probably internationally, as well. I’m going to write a piece about “ideal” settings and apparatus maintenance. Perhaps that will spread the word on some of it to some teachers!
      It’s great to hear from you, Liv!

  • 15. Troy  |  April 1, 2010 at 1:03 am

    Thank you Shari for responding to my request (was that really 2 years ago?) to write about this topic. I like what you have to say and agree that it all works. But. . . I have to say and ask: when I use a Gratz reformer, I feel a noticeable difference in the work as compared to the work I would do on a Balanced Body or a Peak (those are the ones I’m familiar with). It’s harder and deeper on a Gratz, in my experience. Do you (or others) find that to be true as well? And if so, why is it that way?

    • 16. theverticalworkshop  |  April 1, 2010 at 10:26 am

      Troy, I apologize. I’ve changed the focus of my life making a big part of it not letting anything go for 2 years that is as important as this is to me. I’m so sorry that it’s taken me that long.

      Your observation of working on Gratz which would be the same as working on Pilates designs by Basil, is absolutely correct. You get a better and harder classical Pilates workout on Gratz or Basil’s apparatus. Remember that with classical Pilates/Contrology, we’re looking for something specific and know that this sort of apparatus will help us achieve it. Others are looking for something else completely and will use other apparatus to achieve that.

      Why do Gratz and Basil apparatus work best for classical Pilates/Contrology?

      On the reformer: Relative to any other apparatus, the carriage is heavier, the springs are both stronger and some how more able to be resisted and the distance between the front edge of the frame and the front edge of the carriage is small enough that can achieve full range of motion in your joints.

      Heavier Carriage and Springs:
      They are heavy enough that you actually strengthen, which is one goal of Pilates, but just light enough that you can lengthen instead of compress. And there is enough variability in the apparatus that you can adjust it for any client’s needs.

      Distance between frame and carriage:
      It’s end-range motion that we’re looking for: full extension and flexion of a joint to both strengthen and stretch the muscles and lubricate the joint.
      You’re able to achieve the end range of your hip flexion while doing any exercise with your legs (i.e. footwork, stomach massage, knee stretches, pelvic lift).
      There is the ability to achieve greater range of motion in exercises with your arms or greater shoulder flexion or extension [i.e. rowing, pull straps, long stretch, up stretch, swakatee).
      Also the opportunity to have a greater range of motion in exercises with your spine/torso (i.e. up stretch, mermaid, snake/twist) and more.

      The use of leather straps helps you be able to really hold on comfortably.
      The angle of the straps is agreeable to shoulder safety.
      The width of apparatus is wide enough to accept the width of anyone’s bones, but narrow enough to encourage length.
      The handles are wooden and give support to the hand.
      The handles have the metal support which while uncomfortable for many at first ought to be a guide to letting the teacher and client know that the shoulder girdle still needs strengthening.

      On the Cadillac/Trapeze Table:
      The apparatus is narrow and long encouraging length. A very wide table puts too much stress on shoulder and hip joints. Just like on the reformer, we have to accommodate the width of bones, not the width of mass/fat. We don’t need the extra wide tables and reformer carriages that are being designed these days.

      The springs are strong enough to get strong, but not so strong that they are compressive. There are enough different strengths of springs on Gratz and Basil’s apparatus that you can adjust as needed.

      The setting for the stable part of push-through bar is low enough that there can be an equal amount of stretch and strength for anyone (most other manufacturers put this bar so high that you don’t actually achieve a stretch. They are accommodating teachers who don’t know how to safely modify exercises).

      The handles on the arm springs are just as on the reformer and for the same reasons.

      The Chairs:
      The springs are like the others: strong with the ability to resist and adjustable.
      The end-range motion of the pedal allows for complete work of the joints.

      The Barrels:
      The Spine Corrector, in particular, allows for the development of proper placement in exercises so that the joints can have full range of motion and there is enough support to develop strength and stretch.

      The Pedi-Pole –
      The pole is stable enough in the base, yet still allows for a tiny bit of movement so that the spine does not have to stiffen in resistance of the springs. Instead the pole absorbs the “shock”.
      The springs are strong enough to really strengthen, yet pliable enough to resist. They are strong enough to be on the advanced apparatus that they are.

      Clearly I’m a fan…and for these reasons. However, you can still work on any apparatus. And my opinion of this style of apparatus is based on what I’m looking for for classical Pilates apparatus. Remember, not everyone is looking for what we’re looking for!

      Thank you for asking, Troy!

    • 17. June Vertucci  |  January 29, 2012 at 7:37 pm

      I agree completely, Troy. I was trained under Romana, so I’m trained in the classical Pilates. I’ve been an Instructor for about 12 years and had my own studio in Los Angeles for three years. As a studio owner, I had to learn as much about the different equipment manufacturers as I could. In the beginning stages of our studio we had mostly the Balanced Body equipment because it was less expensive than Gratz. When we purchased our first Gratz Reformer, I could clearly feel from my first jump onto it, that this was very different than the Balanced Body. My first time on it, I said to my business partner (also a classically trained instructor who had worked on Gratz before), “What’s wrong with this machine, the carriage isn’t coming in like it’s supposed to?” She laughed and said, “That’s the point, You have to drag that carriage in with your body, your effort.” We had a mix of equipment from both manufacturers, but I could clearly see that our clients who used our Gratz Reformer had to work harder/deeper at the exercises, and thus got better results over time. The studio has since closed and I had to sell off all the equipment. I knew I wanted to keep one Reformer for my own personal use. I sold the Balanced Body and still have the Gratz 9 years later.

  • 18. Cheryl Bigos  |  April 1, 2010 at 11:46 am

    Hi Shari! Hope all is well in NYC.

    This is a great topic and one that I have personally struggled with myself. I do teach on Stott equipment at one of the studios. Although I have been able to modify many of the exercises, I must say Stott is the furthest from the original design and the most challenging for teaching the classical method.

    With that said, my biggest challenge has been the long box series. Pulling straps and t-pull are okay, but I have stretched the straps as far as they can go for backstroke and teaser. The client must either start backstroke with their hands way behind and above their head, or start with the carriage already extended. I’ve done it both ways myself, and prefer the carriage be extended so they begin with their body in the correct position. Is this okay? Have you ever worked on Stott?

    I have to say that although I “can” teach on Stott, I really don’t “like” to. Not being able to put the foot bar down with my feet are the least of my issues. It’s also very slick and I need to use a sticky pad for a large number of the exercises. I’ve worked on many other types of equipment, and find this is the most challenging. Because I don’t “like” to work on Stott, I find myself practicing on it less and less. Help! I want to like it…I really do.


    • 19. theverticalworkshop  |  April 1, 2010 at 3:11 pm

      Cheryl! I hear you and agree in that when I work on a manufacturer’s apparatus that is not my favorite…I don’t like it…but I do it anyway because that’s what’s available to me. Frustrating as it is, at times, but still because we have really great training and understanding, we’re able to make the most out of it!

      So…what do you do with short straps for Long Box Series? There are ropes and risers.:
      1st – Set the ropes to the low setting…down near the frame…more like a classical reformer.
      2nd – Lengthen the ropes so the tip of the strap/handle is 2 inches past the shoulder blocks when the straps are taught. This should feel “right” for The Hundred”. We can call this a “neutral rope setting” (Yes, I’ve just made that name up!)
      Then that ought to work for the rest of the exercises with neutral rope setting. They will have to be shortened for Short Spine and Hamstring Curls, lengthened for Leg Circles and Frogs and Long Spine. Practice on yourself and measure how much you need to shorten or lengthen the ropes so it can be done quickly.

      Do you lose flow? Yes. Hence…not a classical apparatus at all, but you’ll get better benefit from it.

      What do you think?

      If you still need more length on Pull Straps, then you can either hold onto the straps at their furthest length…or adjust the length of the ropes.

  • 20. Alex  |  April 1, 2010 at 3:42 pm

    Some thoughts!
    Chain Shari to a Pc, then feed and water (periodically expose to sunlight and Pilates studio) the stuff thats being generated by all is just great 🙂
    This is something that a freind mentioned in passing. She was trained modified, she worked that way for a long time, she then buried herself in the classical training and just went for it, she then took a risk and expanded her studio to a much bigger place.
    She kept all her clients and slowly turned them around to the classical approach, week by week she say’s “you know they quite like it” and ” I think they prefer to work this way” her mental gymastics where apparent, Have I done the right thing? etc, but it has worked very well for her.
    What has this to do with equipment I hear you say!
    She had 2 Modified reformers (balanced body) she bought 2 Basil long Ref, she has 3 together (for semi’s) and one on its own (for privates).
    2 Basil and one Balanced together, guess what happened?
    They start saying ” I prefer the new one” “I don’t want to work out on the “Range Rover”
    “We Like working out the new way”
    So she comes in saying “I don’t believe it I’m guna have to get another 2 the same, more expense!”
    A nice problem to have (maybe) but if anybody is thinking on adding to there present equipment maybe what ever you get should all be the same! Which ever route you are taking…..

    • 21. theverticalworkshop  |  April 1, 2010 at 3:52 pm

      You’ve pretty much described my current life as I’m transitioning from LA to NYC! I spend my days on the computer writing, I go out for a long walk to get some sun and stretch my hip flexors, read and write more, go workout at a Pilates studio and eat!
      It’s fantastic!

  • 22. Alex  |  April 1, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    You still shower right?….

    Tidy up….throw out the rubbish! 😉

    • 23. theverticalworkshop  |  April 1, 2010 at 5:43 pm

      Maybe I need to write a blog on showering!
      Oh! I ought to write about how Mr. Pilates wanted people to shower! Another one in the future on that!

  • 24. laura robbins  |  April 16, 2010 at 7:43 pm

    Oh no, please don’t write on how J.P. Wanted people to shower! When my thyroid when “hot” it was the only thing that worked, now, sans thyroid, a cold shower is awful!!! The brisk rub: very japanese of him 😉

  • 25. Marie Roth  |  April 23, 2010 at 10:23 am

    Hi Shari,
    It is always good to read your blog..you inspire me to stay true to my training. I am inquiring about spring setings on the Basil reformers. I attended the powerpilates conference in Las Vegas…where you taught some fabulous workshops and I loved the equipment there. The owner of our studios agreed to purchase 4 of the reformers featured there and they have arrived in our studio this week. I am thrilled. I talked with Basil and he suggested contacting you and power pilates as you would know how to use the spring settings in various exercises. I apologize in advance that some of these questions might seem simple…I just want to make sure we are using the equipment correctly. 1. In footwork, are you including the middle spring in the 4 spring setting or is it the one spring not used? 2. In 1st gear do you have the stopper in front on the first hole and in second and thrid gear the stopper is the the 2nd hole? I am assuming when in negative gear no stopper is used in front. 3. When using a jumping board…I believe I remember that when you are using one spring that is is always the middle one…is this correct? and when you use 2 springs..it is the two outside springs. 4. When pulling straps or teaser (any exercise that uses on spring) is it the middle spring or one of the outside springs? I would appreciate any clarification on spring settings with this system. I have looked in our power pilates manual and it has information on Balanced body/Peak and Gratz but none of this system with the middle spring being the heaviest spring.
    Any information would be greatly appreciated,
    Looking forward to the day when I can take more of your workshops,
    Marie Roth

  • 26. pilates enthusias  |  March 31, 2011 at 12:05 am

    Dear the vertical workshop,

    I am looking to buy the whole set of pilates apparatus. My trainer is from classical pilates and she recommended either gratz / basil / Heritage…my first choice was gratz but then I read from a few website that gratz quality has gone downhill and few people are having problem with the equipments, is that true? Which of the apparatus would u recommend me to get?

    • 27. theverticalworkshop  |  March 31, 2011 at 7:29 pm

      Thank you for reaching out and asking about apparatus. I am a big fan of Pilates Designs by Basil. He was the “go to” man at Gratz for many years. When he left and opened his own operation, I can tell you that he took all that he knew about what works and what doesn’t work and put them into his designs. He really understands what is needed, will adjust to your needs, too, has remarkable craftsmanship and excellent customer service. When I had Gratz apparatus, I worked with Basil all of the time. Now, I stay with Basil…he’s the one!

      I do not know if Gratz has gone downhill…I only know if Basil isn’t there, I’m not either.

      http://www.PilatesDesignsByBasil.com Tell him I sent you! It’s always a nice icebreaker!

      I suppose I don’t split any hairs, do I?

      All the best! Let me know how it goes!
      – Shari

  • […] Pilates Apparatus – So many different manufacturers. Can we teach on anything?2010/03/30 […]

  • 29. June Vertucci  |  January 29, 2012 at 7:46 pm

    Sure we all have our personal preferences on equipment manufacturers, usually based on what we were trained on, which method we were trained in etc. In the end, unless you own your own studio and get to pick the equipment, you’d better learn to teach on whatever equipment you’re put in front of (and keep your opinion about it to yourself) if you want to actually get work in the Pilates world.

    • 30. theverticalworkshop  |  January 29, 2012 at 7:56 pm

      Hi, June,
      Thank you for taking the time to read this article and comment on it.
      Clearly, I agree with you…we all have our personal preferences that are most often set by what we were originally trained on; however, then there is someone like you trained on one apparatus and developed a love for another. It’s always interesting to me to see how people grow and develop their own desires and styles!
      And, yes…we have to learn to work on everything and anything! It’s amazing what you can do on the most ridiculous looking contraption! Nothing is impossible! Everything is available!
      All the best!
      – Shari

      • 31. Tracy  |  March 12, 2012 at 8:24 pm

        Hi Shari! Today i received an email from my studio owner (my boss!) saying that we need to shorten the straps when we change to a lower gear. This is Basil aparatus designed “Peak style” with 5 springs and a negative gear- Help! This something i was never trained to do and is confusing me !

        I dont like to change the straps at all once i get them where i like them. How would you do it?

      • 32. theverticalworkshop  |  March 12, 2012 at 9:06 pm

        Hi, Tracy,

        Indeed, when you change gears, the strap length ideally needs to change relative to how far the carriage is altered by the gear change. When you go to a lower gear, that makes the straps appear shorter, so you must equally let the straps out to be in the proper placement otherwise the springs feel very heavy and the leverage for pulling them is sincerely altered making it not so great on the shoulders. Conversely, when you go to a higher gear, straps appear longer making it all feel lighter and less leverage…too loose. So, it is appropriate to change the straps to the gear.

        Basil’s apparatus is not necessarily “peak style” as much as it has a 5th spring of equal weight to center and balance the carriage when it is on one spring only.

        With that, the “correct” measurement of straps is when in 1st gear, the leather strap should be about 2 inches longer than the shoulder blocks…further toward the springs than the shoulder blocks. Then in negative gear, you will have to set the straps to that location.

        If straps and gears are going back and forth often, then perhaps marking the strap per gear would be a good reference noting that the straps will stretch differently and those marks will need to be adjusted over time.

        Does that make sense? If not…ask more questions and I’ll be glad to assist!

        All the best!
        – Shari

  • […] Pilates Apparatus – So many different manufacturers. Can we teach on anything?2010/03/30 […]

    • 34. Tracy  |  March 15, 2012 at 7:20 am

      Yes it does, thanks!

      So, for a large, stiff client, would you leave the gear setting alone and just not expect the carriage to come all the way in (home), or give them a longer position initially by moving the gear?

      I have noticed that folks who are very long or have some flexion limitations (for whom I might add a gear for footwork!) can sometimes handle an extra 1-2 inches of strap length without losing significant resistance during 100. Am I wrong?


  • 35. Achieve Your LOVA "Life of Vitality & Agility"  |  April 7, 2012 at 6:54 pm

    Hi Shari, I just love your blog. You provide a great learning venue for instructors. I wanted to ask a question on this particular topic. Most of my teaching experience is on Balanced Body. I have also taught on Peak and Gratz (my favorite). I currently live in Michigan I am starting at two Pilates studios that are equipped with Stott apparatus’. What advice/pointers do you have for teaching the classical method on Stott equipment? I have worked out on the Reformer with the Intermediate system. It was different, especially the footbar and the extra setup for short spine,etc. It kinda breaks up the flow. Just wonder what you have experienced that you can pass along.

    Thank You 🙂

    • 36. theverticalworkshop  |  April 8, 2012 at 6:21 pm

      Hi, Jami,

      Thank you for reading this article and asking about how to translate onto Stott apparatus. Indeed, working on Stott does break up the flow. The only 2 apparatus manufacturers that create reformers that maintain the classical Pilates flow are Gratz and Pilates Designs by Basil. Even with Balanced Body there are issues with footbar locks and shortbox height that interupt flow; however, Stott is the most challenging to maintain flow. Here is my advice: Do practice on the apparatus several times yourself. Get to know it inside out. Figure out the length of ropes that you need, the placement of gears, footbar. Practice it over and over again…just doing setup and one repetition of every exercise so you can do it quickly and eventually teach your clients to do it. Flow will always be an issue with classical workouts on Stott, but the more you know the apparatus the better you’ll be able to make it seamless(ish).

      As for straps and such, it’s considerably different, so here, too, plan ahead and see if you can start with a setting that is good for shortspine and then use an extension for when it’s handles and another extension of sorts when it needs to be longer like for leg circles/frogs or long spine.

      All in all…you have to practice on this apparatus and get to know it intimately well. Then write out a little chart for yourself if you need to keep it close by. However, if you really try out many things and create your own system…you won’t need a chart. It will make sense to you.

      Now…with that, you’ve got to figure out how it works for your body…and then be able to translate it to different heights: shorter and taller.

      I wish I had a sincere chart to give you, but my work on Stott has been limited to workshops with clients who are teachers who are used to working out on the apparatus. I will reach out to one who is classically trained and see if he has other pointers. Until I hear back from him…let me know what you discover!

      All the very best!
      – Shari

  • 37. Achieve Your LOVA "Life of Vitality & Agility"  |  April 7, 2012 at 7:03 pm

    Hi Shari, I just love your blog. This is an excellent venue for instructors to find information. I am looking for some feedback on this very topic. Most of my teaching experience is with Balance Body, Peak and Gratz(my favorite). I am in Michigan and starting to teach at a couple of studios equipped with Stott apparatus’. I have worked out with Intermediate system on the Reformer…different. The setup with the footbar and straps (especially for short spine) breaks the flow of the workout. What advice/suggestions do you have for training a body classically on this equipment?

  • 38. Jami  |  April 7, 2012 at 7:06 pm

    Hi Shari, I just love your blog. This is an excellent venue for instructors to find information. I am looking for some feedback on this very topic. Most of my teaching experience is with Balance Body, Peak and Gratz(my favorite). I am in Michigan and starting to teach at a couple of studios equipped with Stott apparatus’. I have worked out with Intermediate system on the Reformer…different. The setup with the footbar and straps (especially for short spine) breaks the flow of the workout. What advice/suggestions do you have for training a body classically on this equipment?

  • 39. The Vertical Workshop's Pilates Teacher Blog  |  December 6, 2012 at 10:23 pm

    […] Pilates Apparatus – So many different manufacturers. Can we teach on anything?2010/03/30 […]

  • 40. Chantal Poulin  |  April 22, 2013 at 11:54 am

    Thanks for this article. I’ve been trained on Stott equipment. I’ve been teaching for only 4 months and now I’ve been hired to teach in a studio that has Balance Body and Peak. My biggest challenge is finding an equivalence chart for spring tension between these apparatus. Once I figure this out, I’ll be fine but most of my time has been trying every exercise and figuring out what tension to put on all of them. Any thoughts or ideas about how I can find this?
    Thanks and as a new teacher, I find your blogs extremely helpful, I’m becoming a better teacher because of it!!!

  • 41. StarBird  |  June 14, 2013 at 6:33 pm

    Hello, I bought a used Pilates reformer at a yard sale. I got a chart of exercises with it, but no instructions as to how to set the length of the straps to use it. I first learned about and worked on an oak Pilates reformer about 35 years ago and it was the only form of exercise I ever actually was willing to do. I am anxious to get back to it but can’t remember everything I learned all those years ago.

    Can anyone help me get started, especially with the strap length?

    Thank you.

  • 42. Beth  |  July 17, 2014 at 4:22 pm

    Hi Shari, I am still really enjoying reading all of the blog entries here and learning. I have worked on many different reformers – Peak (both the “classical” and the metal ones, Balanced Body, STOTT, Teague, and now I have a Gratz in addition to a couple of reformers of another brand (couldn’t pass it up!) I really enjoy working on the Gratz, for some things, and then there are some other things that I find work a bit better on the other reformers – so I am wondering if it has to do with the strap setup. I was trained in the classical style in terms of exercises, order, etc. – but not on a Gratz reformer (I apologize if anyone thinks that is an oxymoron) and I am used to the straps’ length when I set up the carriage being set so that the arms are at a 90 degree angle, or in other words the hands are directly above the client’s hands, when the carriage is closed and the arms are extended straight out. This does require adjustment depending on where the carriage is (that is, what gear the client is in). What I don’t understand with the Gratz reformer is that if a client is not working in first gear, then what to do about the fact that now their range of motion will be limited when doing some exercises where their hands are in the straps due to the fact that when the carriage moves back the straps “lengthen”, so to speak – if you know what I mean – so their arms, for example, would never be able to reach straight up above the shoulders without having considerable slack on the straps. The straps on my Gratz reformer are not adjustable and are fastened completely so that the only way to adjust them would be to find a leatherworker who could work on them. But maybe they are at the correct length?

    I fear none of this makes any sense, but if you or anyone else can help, that would be great!

    • 43. Beth  |  July 17, 2014 at 4:24 pm

      (That should say when the arms are extended straight UP, not out, as in, reaching toward the ceiling…)

    • 44. theverticalworkshop  |  August 9, 2014 at 5:57 pm

      Hello, Beth,
      Indeed, you have found a fault in the Gratz apparatus in a way, but not for the reason you and others think. Gratz apparatus is adjustable in gear…which is the space between the front of the moving carriage or the shoulder blocks (whichever you’d like to consider) and the foot bar. That means the only times you need to adjust gear length is when the person’s hip, knee or ankle flexion is hindered by the gear position. When a person puts his/her feet on the foot bar, hip, knee and ankle joints should “lay” easily and work easily. If there is impingement or if this client needs to push the carriage out to be set up, then this person must go to a longer gear. HOWEVER…then you must return to the first gear (furthest in toward the foot bar) for all other exercises. Then the strap length does not ever need to be changed. This makes for a disruption in flow, but that’s all. You never need to alter the straps. The different gear is only for hip, knee, ankle issues of length or injury.

      What would be great for Gratz is if their strap system were more adjustable for when the leather stretches. That is part of the intelligence of Pilates Designs By Basil’s strap adjustment system. Leather straps can be adjusted to whatever is needed when stretching of the leather occurs. And being a natural material, leather straps will stretch unevenly and unpredictably. With that…even with Basil’s…they are not designed to be altered session by session. They are a standard length.

      This is a common misunderstanding across the boards for Pilates apparatus. So much so that some manufacturers have easily altered straps. Is it necessary to do all in a 2nd gear? If your apparatus is designed to have straps alter to the gear. Then do so. If not…that means you must return to the very 1st closest gear each time. Only use the longer gear for footwork based exercises and the random other exercise that requires this extra space:
      Stomach Massage
      Pelvic Lift

      For some:
      Long Back Stretch

      For some:
      Long Stretch Series

      Please let me know if this makes sense to you!

      All the best and thank you for asking!
      – Shari

  • 45. Beth  |  August 11, 2014 at 6:25 am

    Thanks for your reply! I appreciate the time you took to answer me. But that actually doesn’t quite address my question. For me, working in first gear is fine, but the straps are already too long when I am in first gear, so I cannot get full range of motion on the arm series. If I reach my arms straight up to the ceiling, the straps are slack. I don’t know if this would be the same for a taller person. Does this just mean that the straps are too long in general? If so, do you have suggestions for how to get them adjusted?

    Thanks again!

    • 46. theverticalworkshop  |  August 11, 2014 at 1:18 pm

      Gosh, Beth, I’m sorry…a bit embarrassed that I misunderstood your needs…thank you for helping clarify for me. With that…

      I do think that your straps are too long. For Gratz, when the carriage is in the shortest gear/first gear, and the straps are laid out long and taut, with the carriage in, on the outside of the shoulder blocks, the forward end of the leather ought to be about 1.5-2 inches (4-5cm) past the forward edge of the shoulder blocks. If it is longer, then it is too lax. The Gratz apparatus has screws on the back end under the carriage that the straps attach to that can be adjusted; however, when they are already at their shortest and the straps are still too long, then you must bring the straps to a shoe maker or other leather-smith who can shorten the straps. Take note: when having them shortened that the leather will continue to stretch and give. So…shorten them to a place that they are good when the screw at the back of the carriage is long, but secure and the straps are the appropriate length. That way you will have room to adjust as the straps stretch again.

      Now…does that make sense or did I confuse the situation?

      Thank you! – Shari

      • 47. Beth  |  August 11, 2014 at 2:08 pm

        Thanks, Shari! That absolutely did answer my question and now I have a good idea of how to get the straps adjusted. Thanks so much!

      • 48. theverticalworkshop  |  August 14, 2014 at 7:40 pm

        You’re welcome, Beth!
        Thank you for helping me understand what you were asking me. I’m sorry I didn’t catch it the first time!
        All the best!
        – Shari

  • 49. Ann  |  April 21, 2015 at 11:18 am

    Hi. I am keen to get a good reformer for home use as I plan to practice Pilates everyday. I have been doing Pilates on and off for some years now although I would like to improve and work on it more seriously. I have been using a reformer for about 2 years on a weekly basis at a studio, a Balanced Body Allegro 2 which I like. Please would you share your professional opinion on the pros and cons of choosing between a classical vs a contemporary reformer for somebody entering their 50s? I exercise regularly and eat well but I am not a trained dancer nor an athlete. I would love to learn to do the classical Pilates but I understand that the classical reformer is very challenging.

    • 50. theverticalworkshop  |  April 26, 2015 at 10:11 pm

      Hello Ann,

      Thank you for having read my article and for reaching out to me about your reformer needs.

      Ann, the truth is that whatever you feel comfortable with is the apparatus you should purchase. I highly suggest trying out any reformer before you purchase one. If you find that you’d like to try any manufacturer’s reformer, just contact their customer service and ask them where they have one of them in your area.

      If you’ve been working on an Allegro 2, then perhaps that is the one for you. It comes from a great manufacturer who can really be trusted, Balanced Body. It is extremely versatile and…is really good looking! If you’d like to try other Balanced Body reformers, they are all a bit different. Just contact Balanced Body and they will help you find some in your area.

      Now, you mention not being a dancer, etc…but let’s remember that Pilates was created by a non-dancer for people of all sorts. Sadly or wonderfully the dancers have taken over Pilates (I’m a professional dancer myself) and some have (this is the “sadly” part) made non-dancers feel like lesser beings. All humans are movers. And here is a little bit of historical fodder to release yourself of some dancer-imposed pressure: Mr. Pilates said something akin to “I hate dancers! They ruined my method!” And there we have it!

      My best advice is to purchase an apparatus that you feel comfortable with. Most people purchase what they have been working on…and that seems to work out great!

      Please reach out with any other questions!
      All the best and enjoy!

    • 51. theverticalworkshop  |  April 26, 2015 at 10:14 pm

      Ann, I ought to add to my reply to you, that, indeed, the classical reformers feel more difficult than the Balanced Body reformers to someone who has been working on a Balanced Body reformer. And to someone who has been working on a classical reformer, they do not feel difficult at all. The Balanced Body reformers feel far too easy…not supportive enough. Like I had written in my other reply, it all comes down to what you’re used to and what your goals are.

      You mention your age, fear not, any apparatus can work well for you either a Classical (Pilates Designs by Basil or Gratz) or a Contemporary (Balanced Body, Peak, etc.)

      The only pros and cons are about making sure that you are comfortable on the one you purchase. If you are not, then it will be a massive dust collector or a very expensive clothing bench.

  • 52. Ann  |  April 27, 2015 at 12:18 pm

    Thank you Shari for addressing my concerns and for your kind reassurance. I do like the sound of the Gratz or Basil for toning and strengthening all over. I will have to trek up to a studio in London to use one as most use the non-classical. I don’t think the reformers from Basil and Gratz are available to us here in UK though. I should bear it in mind what you said – make sure to be comfortable on the one I purchase – and not be distracted by how it looks! They are expensive and more so for us because we have to pay for them to ship from U.S.

    • 53. theverticalworkshop  |  April 27, 2015 at 12:37 pm

      Ann, I am writing you a private email to continue this conversation with some London information and my upcoming trip June 4-7… Please look for an email from me with a subject “Shari Berkowitz & The Vertical Workshop”… See you on email! – Shari


    • 54. Alex  |  April 27, 2015 at 2:23 pm

      With out hi-jacking this thread, going to London to visit Shari if at all possible Ann, would be worth every second, aside from getting to use the equipment! But if that is not possible and you wanted to try a Basil reformer, I may be closer to you, I am on the South coast. You would be more than welcome to try before you buy 🙂

      • 55. theverticalworkshop  |  April 27, 2015 at 2:29 pm

        Indeed, Ann, save yourself a trip and go to Alex!

        Alex…I owe you an email…here it comes…

        All the best! – Shari


      • 56. Ann  |  April 27, 2015 at 3:17 pm

        Hi Alex. I think Shari might be closer. I’m only 30 miles from London. I shall try the reformer first and see how I go…if I get to move it at all! Will certainly keep you in mind if I decide to get one. Thank you. – Ann

      • 57. Alex  |  April 27, 2015 at 4:53 pm

        Hi Ann, No problem, try the classical equipment, my impression is that the people that do, end up liking it. Shari is lovely, I taught her most of what she knows, so I can vouch for how good she is 😉

      • 58. theverticalworkshop  |  April 27, 2015 at 5:04 pm

        Oh, Alex, for your sensitive male ego, I will not go in and edit your comments as I am able to do on here. You have taught me much that I know about motorcycles, that is true!!!

        – Shari Berkowitz

        Pilates Teacher Blog: http://www.TheVerticalWorkshop.wordpress.com



      • 59. Alex  |  April 28, 2015 at 7:33 am

        Ha ha, love it, not in the slightest bit useful at all then, as usual!!!

  • 60. Jenny  |  July 30, 2015 at 6:09 pm

    Just found this blog.. It’s great! I’m a classically trained instructor who has only ever used Gratz and Basil apparatus. I’m looking to purchase a reformer for personal use in my home but am afraid these brands are a bit out of my price range right now. I stumbled upon the website for Teague, who makes a “classical” version of their reformer. I was wondering if you’ve used this and how it compares to Gratz and Basil? Or in other words, is it worth buying a Teague or do I keep my “Reformer Fund” going until I can afford a Gratz or Basil?

    • 61. theverticalworkshop  |  July 31, 2015 at 7:43 pm

      Hello, Jenny!
      Thank you for finding such interest in The Pilates Teacher Blog. I am glad you’re part of it!

      My greatest suggestion is that you try out any piece of apparatus you’re going to purchase. Even if two manufacturer’s pieces look exactly the same, that doesn’t mean they’ll behave the same or last as long, have as good customer service and the like. I highly suggest, in the classical world thus far, if you can purchase a Gratz or Basil…do. And in that realm, I would even consider Pilates Designs by Basil over Gratz since the adjustments that Basil has made to the reformer are so wonderful, as a reformer owner.. The feeling is the same. Wonderful wonderful, but he has infinitely adjustable straps, a way to protect the springs when they are off so they do not just hang into a metal bar which can distort them, a wise choice of pulley wheel that makes for greatest efficiency, better upholstering of how the shoulder blocks meet the carriage mat, to just name a few adjustments that really work as the owner of the apparatus. Meaning, we’re looking for ways to make our life easier and the life of our reformer longer.

      I have never tried a Teague apparatus. Perhaps it is just what you’ve been waiting for, but no one I’ve ever talked with has ever suggested it. Try it out. That is my best advice! If you’er going to make an investment of any money at all…shouldn’t you give it a test run first? Even if it’s only $2000 vs. the $4000 or $5000 of another…don’t you want to make sure you’re not throwing $2000 away?

      Also, check to see if Gratz or Basil do payment plans. They might. I have heard of such things or leasing. I’m pretty sure they do this. Email Sylvia Fuster at Basil. Tell her I sent you. info@pilatesdesignsbybasil.com Ask if they have financing.

      Then reach out to Teague and see if they know of any customers of theirs in your area.

      Remember: “Cheap is Expensive.” as my grandmother would always say. Get what you want and need even if it’s more expensive. And quality costs.

      Again, truth is…you do good work on anything. Just some are truly better for some styles than another. It depends on your needs.

  • 62. Maggie Moore  |  September 1, 2015 at 3:48 pm

    Shari, my springs on a two year old Peak Low Chair have lost their spunk already! (The springs on all the equipment I bought made by Michael Arbuckle in 1997 lasted forEVER!) Who has the strongest, most reliable springs now? My concerns are for safety and for my larger men clients who need more spring assistance when they are new to a move. I can always challenge a client by dropping a spring but need to be able to count on it at its fullest.

    • 63. theverticalworkshop  |  September 1, 2015 at 4:29 pm

      Hi, Maggie, thanks for reading this article and reaching out to me!
      It’s sad that those springs are shot already. That is definitely a manufacturing issue. Those should last far longer. Have you reached out to Peak?
      Spring longevity is vital and these three manufacturers do it great:
      Balanced Body: http://www.pilates.com
      Pilates Designs by Basil: http://www.PilatesDesignsByBasil.com
      Gratz: http://www.pilates-gratz.com

      Of course, you will need to watch for the length of the spring and the way it hooks/connects to your chair to make sure it is appropriate. Both Basil at Pilates Designs by Basil and Kim Pechak at Balanced Body can help you with that. Basil and Kim know the Peak apparatus well.

      I would reach out to them! info@pilatesdesignsbybasil.com and kim.pechak@pilates.com Please let them know that I have sent you requesting comparable length springs for your chair. Tell them what you have and let’s see where you can go with this!

      All the very best!
      – Shari

  • 64. Lucie  |  September 20, 2016 at 8:25 am

    Hi Shari,

    After reading this blog post a few months ago, I purchased Pilates designs by Basil apparatus. I bought a cadillac/reformer combo and a ladder barrel prior to my training to be able to practice more. Then I took my training this summer and we worked on a Balanced Body Allegro. Oh what a difference! I have to re-learn all the moves on my machine as spring tensions are completely different as well as the way the carriage rides! It just doesn’t work the same at all!

    I must admit it’s very interesting but practicing on my apparatus makes me feel like it’s way harder (especially arm work and leg work on the Cadillac) and less accessible to beginners. That is one thing my instructor said when comparing Classical vs contemporary Pilates: classical pilates doesn’t adapt to students. What do you think of that?

    At first I found working on the Allegro was too easy, too assisted, I didn’t like it. I felt like it was missing the whole point of practicing on machines! But now I’m wondering if in fact those brands aren’t aiming a allowing weaker people to work on the cadillac or reformer. Just as an example, I suffer from SI joints issues and just doing the Abd/Adductor exercice on the reformer (1 spring only) put pressure on my pubis bone and hurt me because it was too much of an effort for me to bring the carriage back in (this never happened on the Allegro as the carriage would come back in on it’s own).

    Not sure you’ll reply but I’d be interested to get someone opinion on that!


    • 65. theverticalworkshop  |  September 20, 2016 at 9:49 pm

      Hi, Lucie

      First, thank you for reading this article and then for commenting on it!
      I really do think that you can do solid work on most apparatus. I say “most” because the truth is, I’ve been on some that are so poorly designed from an engineering standpoint…that they wobble or don’t stay intact. I won’t name the brand, but being on a wunda chair whose sides wobble…whose actual frame can’t stay square and stable while doing an exercise…this is a problem.

      It appears that each different style of Pilates is seeking something different from the apparatus. And why not?! And even within one Style, each person has different ideas of what s/he wants from the apparatus. So…we have many options to draw from and can purchase or have made nearly anything that we’d like!

      You’ll find that on one apparatus an exercise is easy, but on a different manufacturer, you have to alter your internal calculations it’s so very different. Don’t we want adaptability? Meaning, the ability to adapt to the forces we’re working with or against? If I had a full studio once again, I would consider having several different manufacturers’ reformers. And I would make sure that all of my clients and the studio teachers worked on all different reformers. Maybe the wunda chair is the other apparatus that I would seek a lot of variability from/with.

      If you are a very delicate person, then starting with light, but supportive springs would be great until you get the strength to work with stronger springs. If you have hip and/or knee issues, then you do not want deep flexion in those joints…so an apparatus that has the carriage set further back from the frame than a typical classical apparatus might be exactly what you need/want.

      There are a lot of options out there. A wise teacher studies quite deeply about how the human body works, how her/his style of Pilates works and why and how the apparatus works…then puts them all in a good relationship with each other.

      Thank you for reaching out!
      – Shari

  • 66. keira  |  October 18, 2016 at 2:05 pm

    THANK YOU! great food for thought.

  • 67. Sidney Tarlow  |  February 22, 2017 at 6:53 pm

    I am in the midst of my classical training and recently took a job at a studio w/Stott equipment (also teaching at 2 classical studios w/Gratz, Peak & Balanced Body equipment. I am hoping to translate (if possible) classical classes on Stott equipment. Is this POSSIBLE? Eagerly awaiting your response.

    Thx much for this blog…very encouraging!!

    • 68. theverticalworkshop  |  February 23, 2017 at 3:21 pm

      Hello, Sidney,

      I understand your concern…but let me put your mind to rest: you can teach on all apparatus!
      The key is adaptability. Perhaps that is the Key To Life…not just Pilates.
      Very often, and I dare say all too often in the classical world, we are told it’s done like this, it’s only like that, it’s always like this and it’s never like that.
      Well, that’s sheer silliness.
      All things are up for adaptation (well…the things we’re talking about)…

      While reformers by Pilates Designs by Basil, Gratz and Balanced Body’s new version of the Centerline are the best suited for classical work…one can do classical work on any apparatus. One can also do therapeutic or contemporary on any. It’s all about understanding your method, the body in front of you and the actual apparatus. And considering what is and is NOT important. Prioritizing.

      So…it would behove you to get on those pieces you are not familiar with and do a workout on them. See what works and what doesn’t. What translates and what doesn’t. And then figure out what adaptations you must make. Try to make the apparatus fit what you desire. Try not to change your exercises to fit the apparatus. Make the apparatus work for you. Some aspects will be easier than others.

      You’ll find you can’t do the same transitions on the reformer…if the foot bar doesn’t go down with your feet and you have to get off the reformer. Plan ahead for that! And do not comment on it to your clients. Meaning…please don’t be disrespectful to the studio, your clients and the apparatus because it doesn’t do what you want it to do. Keep it to yourself and recognize that it likely was not designed to do what you are asking. It is up to you to adapt.

      You’ll find maybe you cannot do the typical teaser to the side spring transitions. Fine. Plan ahead and figure out how you’re going to make the transition work.

      You’ll find the spring setting are different. Great! Plan ahead. Write it down if you need to. Figure out what spring combinations make this apparatus give you what you need. It won’t be the same…but it will be enough!

      YOu’ll find the strap lengths are different. Sure! Figure out if you need to preset the straps differently. Figure out how to change the gear to help that out, too. Then remember to reset the apparatus to the way you found it. The way the studio generally has the straps/ropes/risers set. You’re not there to impose your style on them. However, you can alter what you need for the session/class and then set it back to the studio-standard afterwards.

      There will be other factors to look into: gear bar and stops, foot bars…check it all out and plan ahead. Are there unweighted bars? What are the long/short boxes like?

      So…any apparatus: reformer, trapeze table, tower, chair, barrel, magic circle, etc…if you’re going to teach with it, you’ve got to get on them and discover what they are like and you must plan ahead so that you can have a smooth session. And you have to go for it with joy! Otherwise, you’ve got to turn down the job.

      We can all work on every apparatus. It might not be your favorite…but you can do it! You might also find that you like aspects of different apparatus you had never been on before! You might find yourself surprised!

      Give it a go! Be open-minded and adapt, adapt, adapt!

      – Shari

      • 69. Sidney Tarlow  |  February 23, 2017 at 4:44 pm

        Wow! Thanks so much Shari! Just what I needed to hear. So eloquent and encouraging! I love being challenged creatively and I’m very curious about all of the various equipment makes and models and how to adapt for the body in front of me given my knowledge base, etc.

        Truly grateful!!!


  • 70. theverticalworkshop  |  February 24, 2017 at 8:02 pm

    Sid, please keep me posted on how it all goes! If not here on the blog, then email me at info@TheVerticalWorkshop.com However…those who are following this thread might very much like to hear. We can all interact!
    – Shari

    • 71. Sidney Tarlow  |  February 25, 2017 at 2:01 pm

      Hi Shari.

      Just taught my first two classes. I’m thrilled to report the equipment and I seem to get along famously. Truly not a big deal translating the classical work. My ideal is to be able to walk into just about any studio and feel comfortable and more importantly, excited to learn and share my ever evolving love for this work. Once again, thanks so much for your feedback!

  • 72. theverticalworkshop  |  February 26, 2017 at 7:44 pm

    Sidney! I’m so glad it went well! Enjoy!!!
    – Shari

  • 73. zila  |  May 19, 2017 at 5:00 am

    Hi Shari;

    I started pilates after suffering from runner’s knee injury at the age of 38 (I’m now 40 yrs old) and I found so much improvement to my knee since then.

    Pilates has been my go to exercise as I no longer run and I love the fact that it is less strenuous to my body.

    Since I’m only able to use the pilates reformer at the studio twice weekly (The studio I’m in is using the Body Balance reformer) , I’m now considering to purchase one for home usage. Reading through your article and the input provided in the discussion section, I would love to get more in depth input with regards to the Grantz reformer and the Body Balance reformer – especially for people who has knee injury.

    My objective of purchaseing the reformer for home usage is to enable me to have a consistent practice and to futher help me in improving the total body strength especially at the knee joint areas. I look forward to your reply pertaining to this.

    Kuala Lumpur

    • 74. theverticalworkshop  |  July 4, 2017 at 11:49 am

      Many pardons that I did not write to you earlier. Your comment came while I was in the midst of finishing up my semester in graduate school and I couldn’t stay on top of anything else.

      With that, do you still have queries on apparatus?

      I do suggest that you physically try any apparatus that you might purchase. It always stuns me that people are willing to pay thousands of dollars for an apparatus they’ve never tried. If you like the reformer you are using…then purchase one of those.

      If you can find a studio near you that has other apparatus, give those a try and then see what you think.

      That is really my best advice. It is all about personal preference when it comes to home practice.

      Please reach out with more questions related to this or anything else!

      All the very best and, again, my apologies for such a delayed response!
      – Shari

  • 75. CBD  |  July 21, 2017 at 3:28 am

    Refreshing read from a Classical Teacher. Thank you!!

  • […] principio, recomiendo leer este post compartido por Shari Berkowitz (en […]

  • 78. Karen Klaussen  |  December 11, 2018 at 4:09 pm

    Hello Shari,
    Thank you so very much for such valuable information. It is completely overwhelming when trying to decide upon the most appropriate reformer to buy. I am about to buy a reformer for my own use along with a few others. I have only had exposure to classical pilates and want to continue in that vein. I have mostly used a centerline reformer. Can you expand upon the difference between the ‘old’ version of the centerline and the new one (which you have recommended in preference to the old version) I am intrigued by the Basil reformer but no opportunity to try it (live in a very small out of the way community in the mountains). I definitely prefer the ‘drag’ of the carriage on the classical reformer that I have used vs. contemporary reformers and want to be challenged by the reformer that I use. The difficulty comes with all of these ‘new’ classical reformers that are available and no chance to try any of them (eg contrology, ron fletcher, archive series reformer etc )

    Thanks so much in advance for your thoughts

    • 79. theverticalworkshop  |  December 13, 2018 at 5:06 am

      Thank you, Karen, for reading this piece and reaching out.
      All in all, I think it’s best to purchase what you are used to. Whichever manufacturer you’ve been on before and like.
      With that, though I had talked of the Centerline2, now Balanced Body is moving on in a new way with the Contrology Reformer. It feels 100% like a Gratz/Basil apparatus. And looks exactly like it, too. The current one is 80″ (inches) which I do not recommend because it is quite small in length for our modern versions of exercises…even classically speaking. They will be coming out with 86″ (the standard) and 89″ the stretch. The dimensions and drag are excellent.
      Depending on where you live and what you need in timing, for classical reformers, I would purchase:
      Balanced Body Contrology 86″ with jump board accessory
      Pilates Designs by Basil 86″ with jump board
      Gratz 86″ with jump board
      And…ALWAYS make sure you get the foot bar cover with some padding, too.

      I think if you are in Europe, you will fare best with getting from Balanced Body and have really good customer service there since they use local distributors. That is important. If you need maintenance or extra parts, have questions, you’ll always have someone in your time zone who is ready to help you. This is not the same for the other companies. Though I adore them all!

      As for other apparatus, Balanced Body does not have a full classical line, quite yet. But if you have questions about this, I can assist you on all apparatus and which manufacturers to purchase from based on your needs.

      – Shari

  • 80. Cora  |  June 28, 2019 at 2:31 pm

    Hi Shari, do you prefer Gratz Universal Reformer, Gratz Archive Reformer or Balanced Body “Contrology” Reformers? What would be the difference?

    • 81. theverticalworkshop  |  June 29, 2019 at 3:56 pm

      Hi, Cora,
      I prefer an 86″ Classical Reformer with a padded foot bar.

      Gratz Universal Reformer is the standard

      Gratz Archive Reformer is 80″ and therefore not of interest to me. When an apparatus is 80″ it is limiting for anyone over about 5″ tall. Also, it doesn’t have a padded foot bar cover which is potentially damaging to hands and feet. (Read my new blog when I post it.)

      Pilates Designs Classic 86″ is more my preference because they have a better strap system for shortening when straps stretch, a cleaner system for the back pulley, canvas loops for the springs to rest in when they are not hooked on (rather than a metal bar) and an easier method to replace the foot bar cover should it need replacing. This one comes in multiple sizes, but 86″ is my preference for all people.

      Pilates Deigns Archival comes in 80 or 86″, but it doesn’t have the other attributes that I mention above nor does it have a padded foot bar cover which, as I state above in Gratz Archive Reformer has the potential of damage to your hands and feet.

      Balanced Body “Contrology” Reformers look very much like Gratz Universal Reformer and feel great. Like other Gratz, they do not have the beneficial qualities that that Pilates Designs reformer does.

      I hope that helps!
      – Shari

      • 82. Cate Davies  |  June 30, 2019 at 4:31 pm

        I’ve been wanting to ask this question myself. Really helpful answer, Shari, particularly re. 80′ or 86′. Thank you.

      • 83. theverticalworkshop  |  July 1, 2019 at 11:41 am

        Cate, I’m happy to help!
        – Shari

  • 84. Cora  |  June 30, 2019 at 5:27 pm

    Shari, thank you for your detailed answers to my question, really appreciate it!! I have a contemporary Pilates background, using all different types of Balanced Body reformers in the past. I now want to buy one from my home and only have limited length space. I understand that 80″ is too short, especially for me, I am 6’1″. So glad I asked you :). You also said you like best 86″ for all people no matter the height – that’s great. I could fit 89″ but it would be very crammed in my house. Balanced Body reformers are around 93″/94″ that’s why I am looking into classical reformers like Contrology, Gratz, Pilates Design. I assume a new kind of reformer is better than none, and I am sure I am adjusting to all the differences. Do you have any thoughts to that?
    Also one more question if you don’t mind answering to the reformer fame material. Do you prefer to work out on the aluminum frame over the wood frame or is it only a matter of looks for you?
    Please excuse any grammatical mistakes since English is not my native language.
    Thanks again for your help!😊

    • 85. theverticalworkshop  |  July 1, 2019 at 11:38 am

      Cora, when it comes to wood or metal, that is just aesthetic. I personally adore the metal. Again…it’s aesthetic.
      And as for your English…it’s wonderful! Which is your native language?
      All the best!
      – Shari

  • 86. Jeanne Reilly  |  September 3, 2020 at 4:27 am

    Helpful blog on equipment. I was trained on balanced body originally, and am now studying on Gratz and pilates design and am looking to make a purchase. I love your approach, and the importance of our responsibility as teachers to be educated on the differences, and how we are teaching our clients and why. Thank you!

    • 87. theverticalworkshop  |  September 8, 2020 at 10:49 am

      Thank you, Jeanne!
      How exciting that you’re looking to purchase apparatus! Enjoy the process!
      All the best,
      – Shari

  • 88. Kimberley Reuter  |  October 3, 2020 at 12:38 am

    Hello Shari. Thank you so much for your blog. I have had issues with equating springs of Gratz to Balanced Body. For example if our lead instructor has us on two red Balanced Body springs, what is the Gratz equivalent? I am somewhat new to pilates and go back and forth between these reformers and have not been able to get an objective answer to this.
    Thank you,

    • 89. theverticalworkshop  |  October 6, 2020 at 5:56 pm

      Hi, Kim,
      Thank you for reading this piece! It’s 10 years old, but I am quite sure it’s all still relevant!
      Now, there are no real Gratz equivalents to Balanced Body (BB) in the sense that they will never feel the same. The BB has a lighter carriage, more efficient wheels on the runners and so you will always feel like you are getting yanked in relative to the feeling on the Gratz. But…
      But, what you do is this:
      Consider 1 Gratz like 1 BB Red
      4 Gratz – 3 Red 1 Blue 1 Yellow OR 1 Green, 2 Reds 1 Blue 1 Yellow OR 2 GREEN 1 Blue 1 Yellow (some combo like that
      3 Gratz – 3 Red OR 1 Green 1 Red 1 Blue OR 2 Green 1 Blue (some combo like that)
      2 Gratz – 2 Red OR 1 Green 1 Blue
      1 Gratz – 1 Red OR 1 Blue 1 Yellow

      Does that resonate with you?

      Also, it really helps if you’re on a BB apparatus using double loops with ropes and risers to set the short loop around the shoulder blocks when the ropes are taut and the carriage is completely in. Then you use the LONG loops for everything (hands and feet) except when you need to use Short Spine loops Short Spine, Archival Rowing (not regular rowing), Hamstring Curls, Reverse Horseback.
      Because when the long loops are wrapped around the shoulder block they are simply too short to appropriately press forward and resist this springs…especially when your hands are in the short loops! It’s potentially not good for your shoulder joint.

      Do let me know your thoughts on this!

      All the best,
      – Shari


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