Posts In: pilates

How Reformer Pilates benefits your Squats

Squats are a great exercise and should be in everyone’s training schedule. Even though people refer to squats on ‘leg day’ they are actually beneficial for the whole body. I have looked at how Reformer Pilates will improve your squat and how I have benefitted from Pilates 


Believe it or not this one of the most important elements to your squat. Good foot and ankle health with give you more Strength, Power, Balance and Control. 

Footwork is a series of exercises done on the Reformer Pilates machine which train the muscles in your feet. These muscles play a significant role in providing support for the arches in your feet. Weak arches may cause your feet to rollinwards while you squat adding extra pressure to the inside of your knees (MCL ligaments).  

Flexibility and mobility of the ankle joint is also important to perform the squat. Poor flexibility in the ankle will mean your knees will travel over your ankle as you squat engaging more of your quads rather then the more powerful gluteus muscles. 

Training your feet and ankles should never be over looked, as it’s the foundation and base of all your movement.  

Pelvic Stability 

Every single move is generated from your core, your Pelvis forms part of your core. Spinal alignment, posture, shoulder mechanics, knee stability are all things that could go wrong with poor hip stability or biomechanics. It will also have a major impact on your squat. 

The muscles that play a major role in hip stabilisation include Gluteus Medius, Gluteus Maximus, Pirformis and the deep core muscles.These muscles are regularly worked during a Reformer sessionproviding a strong support for more load during a squat. 

I have an anterior tilt in the pelvis; biomechanically my hips naturally tilt forward when standing. This causes me to have tight hip flexors with excess pressure on my lumbar spine (lower back). This meant that when I squat I was very quad dominant and lacked any glute activity resulting in back and knee pain. Reformer Pilates has mobilised my lower back as well as stretch and strengthen the muscles in the hips allowing for a more effective and efficient squat. 

Pilates has highlighted the importance of your feet and your hips when it comes to squats and this has brought my training up to a new level.

Katie-Babs-reformer smaller size

There are six essential principles that make Pilates different to a regular workout and its important participants are fully aware of the principles in order to truly get the benefits associated with Pilates. As every move is performed at least one of the principles should be present however they do often work together.

1) Centre:

All movements originate from the centre of the body. The centre is located in the pelvis just below the naval (inside). From our centre we support our spine, major organs, strengthen the back, improve alignment and posture. Developing the centre will mean participants are less vulnerable to fatigue and lower back pain.

During a Pilates session it is important to maintain the engagement of the centre without holding your breath.

2) Control:

Control is a key element to Pilates. It is important that every move is carried out in a controlled manner as you are less likely to get injured and more likely to recruit the right muscles to carry out the movement. Control also gives you time to think about the move to ensure its been done to a high quality.

3) Concentration:

Its so important to concentrate and connect the Mind with the Body. Concentration will help keep your movement precise meaning you need to be fully aware not only of the moving body part but what the rest of the body is doing. There are many benefits to concentrating during Pilates and dealing with life’s stresses is one, as you must concentrate on something totally different other then your stresses. Concentration also helps with body awareness reducing the risk of injury.

4) Precision

In Pilates every move has a purpose and every cue and instruction is important to the success of the movement. Precision will also help to build on concentration which is vital especially while working on the smaller unused muscles.

5) Breathing

Breathing and the benefits are so underrated and is one of the main reasons why my clients come out feeling so much better.

Inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth. When breathing in Pilates you need to visualise the rig cage expanding three dimensionally with each breath. Conscious and specific breathing patterns assist movement by focusing the attention and direction of the body, oxygen is delivered to the muscles being used, it also assists in removing non-beneficial chemicals stored in the muscles and provides oxygen to the brain.

6) Flowing Movement:

When performing Pilates exercises its important they flow from one exercises to the next, they need to be smooth and in a evenly flowing manner. Participants need to avoid jerky quick movements and really get the movement to work along with breath.


You’ve made the positive decision to take the next step on your fitness journey and work with a qualified professional who will coach you towards goals.

The guidance of a personal trainer (PT) will keep you more motivated and accountable when it comes working out furthermore, you are much more likely to reach your targets.

However, in an industry with little regulation there is a fine line between choosing the correct PT for you….and simply throwing your money away! A “Personal” PT should be just right for you and it’s simply not “a one size fits all situation.”

Here are 5 Things to consider when choosing the PT for you!


This is really important. What motivates you? Do you need an empathetic PT or a bootcamp style PT who will push you to your limits? It is extremely important you can build a good working relationship with your PT to ensure continued motivation and enjoyable sessions. You wouldn’t spend time with someone you dislike outside of the gym so you are even less likely to pay for a PT you dislike!!


All PT’s must hold at least a REPS level 3 qualification or equivalent. Another factor to consider may be Fitness related degree and other relevant courses which will add value to your sessions.


I personally believe PTs who have previous sporting experience and have been coached from grassroots have an advantage over “new kids on the block.” Also it is important to know how long a prospective PT has been in the industry so you ensure you are paying for quality and in depth knowledge.


If you’re looking for something specific for example training for the marathon — you’ll want to work with a PT who specialises in running and not bodybuilding. Expertise in a desired area will allow for a more specialised programme and better end results.

Location and Time

Are you willing to drive 20 minutes across London, or do you need something within walking distance of work so you can train at lunch? Do you prefer to train in the evenings? Whatever your preference and In order to maintain a sustainable programme it’s important you find a PT or studio which is convenient to your diary!

SW1 Fitness is perfectly based in between Pimlico and Westminster. All our PT’s have a huge passion for the industry and a combined over 20 years industry experience. If you have a new goal, get in touch today!  

Why London Love Reformer Pilates

Growing up in London you soon realise it’s a fast paced city, people are rushing around, time is low and we are constantly looking for time efficient ways to do things with exercise being no exception. Here are free reasons why London has fallen in love with reformer pilates:

1. Celebrities Do Reformer Pilates

Michelle Obama, Madonna, Hugh Grant are just a few of the celebrities that are rumoured to love Pilates. Benefits including a longer, leaner and more toned version of yourself delivering a body that looks great for the camera. There’s no surprise that more and more Pilates studios are popping up all over London

2. Fast Results

Anyone who has participated in Reformer Pilates will tell you how much more effective it is in comparison to Mat Pilates. The carriage on the Reformer can dramatically change and intensify stretches and exercise. This makes it great for people who want to see results FAST.

3. Injury Rehab

Busy London means there is less and less time to look after ourselves. Often people are sitting at desks for many hours a day or training muscles that only look good for Instagram or Facebook. This often means neglecting muscles that are actually important for day to day function and posture. Reformer Pilates is an excellent form of exercise for Londoners as it’s great for targeting the important neglected muscles but also feels like a workout so you get the sense of achievement after a class.

Book Your First Class Today!

Squat Reformer Sw1 Fitness


Squats are great for working all the large muscles in the lower body. However squating on the reformer adds a whole new dimension. By using heavy springs and keeping the carriage apart your outter hip and glutes need to engage, promoting glute activation which plays a key role in knee and lower back health. A light spring the squat, the aim changes to stability. Inner thighs need to work and hips need to remain stable to perform the movement.

Side Planks

Side planks are great for shoulder stability and obliques. On the Reformer a havier spring can be used to work on shoulder stability. A lighter spring is used to challenge more obliques. As the carriage moves you can add new dimensions to exercises such as side pikes or moving the carriage forwards and back.


Lunges are a functional movement and great for sport performance, however due to the weight placed on the front many people have poor form resulting to a higher risk of injury. A reformer can assist a lunge with a heavy spring as the resistance on the carriage will support the joints.A light spring on yhe carriage will mean participants need to use more balance and stability to perform the movement.

Press Ups

Press ups are great for upper body and core, it works many muscles together making it a functional movement. Reformer will add the stability aspect to the press up. You shoulders and core need to work to keep the carriage in still. You can also add different core exercises such “pikes”  to increase core engagement.


Relieving stress is one of the many benefits of Pilates. I notice this particularly immediately after a class as clients feel stretched, relaxed but at the same time a good workout. This is no coincidence, Joseph Pilates was very smart with the principles of Pilates and relieving stress is a key component in injury rehab and prevention.

How Pilates reduces stress


At the start of each class I get my clients to focus on breathing and what happens to the body when you breathe. Learning to breathe deep and controlled creates a relaxing sensation in the body. This reduces your heart rate and decreases blood pressure. There is also an increase supply of oxygen to the brain releasing “feel good” hormones which help overcome stress and anxiety.

Clear your mind, take time out:

So much is going on in our lives today, family, work , financial worries, the list goes on. Our attention is pulled all over the place making it hard to focus and maintain a sense of peace and calm.

In my classes I slow the movements down, they can still be dynamic however it is slow and controlled. I get my clients to think about the movement, the muscles they can feel all while controlling their breath at the same time.


Pilates is different to any other exercise, its not just about pushing through, feeling the burn, getting as many reps as you can. You need to focus on each movement with intention and awareness.  This is a skill to learn and helps you to stay focused, present and manage seemingly stressful situations.

 Adding Pilates to your exercise routine will take your physical wellbeing to another level. 


There’s a massive misconception that Pilates is slow-paced and gentle and generally for women. This could not be further from the truth. Yes Pilates is great for injury rehab but a tough class can be just as challenging as a session in the gym. The truth is a Pilates session is often more beneficial than a general gym session or a jog.

Men can achieve the following benefits from attending Pilates.

Sport Performance

If you participate in sport Pilates will significantly improve your performance. This is demonstrated through professional athletes who have used Pilates to take them to another level, examples include Tiger Woods in his prime and Andy Murray. Below are some of the skills Pilates can improve;

  • Balance & Co-ordination – Pilates involves balance, control, core stability, and co-ordination. This helps massively while participating in sport.
  • Strength and Power – In order to generate maximum amount of power and strength you need to be stable through your core. As you can generate more from a stable base.
  • Concentration and Focus – To compete at the highest level you need to be able to concentrate and focus. Pilates forces you to pay attention to how your body is moving and your breath at the same time. You need to concentrate on good form and ensure your engaging the right muscles.

Strengthen your core

Your core is made of a range of muscles that help to support your spine and torso. All movements are originate from the core, if the core is weak or unused it becomes dependant on the larger more dominant muscles, while the smaller stabilising muscles go unused. Overtime this can lead to poor flexibility and range of movement and increase risk of injury. Pilates promotes core activation leading to more stable and powerful movements.

Improved posture

Bad posture is becoming more and more common as technology improves. Every Pilates exercis  in some way relates to improving posture, reducing general  aches and pains and reducing the risk of long term injury.

Spinal mobility

A stiff spine is the root cause of so many back injuries, any good Pilates class will look at taking the spine into different ranges of movement which will keep the back and spine in good health.

Develop neglected muscles

All muscles in the body have an action and purpose. However our current lifestyle means some muscles are used much more than others causing imbalances which either led to injury or inefficient movement.  A big part of Pilates is to focus on the muscles we do not use as much and to lengthen the muscles that become short due to our lifestyle.

So if you’re man and have never tried pilates I challenge you to give it a try!

Dynamic Reformer Pilates.

Catchy name, right? But what does it actually mean and does it accurately describe this relatively new kid on the block in the Pilates (and indeed fitness) world?

Also, as a method of training does it deserve its place alongside the more traditional form of the method?

The answer to the first question is, well, yes and no. The second question? That gets answered with a resounding ‘hell yes!’ (at least in my book).

Let me explain by examining the words that make up the name and applying them to the original Pilates method. It is also worth pointing out that Pilates as a practise is by no means restricted to the use of the reformer, I’ll just be examining the method as it pertains to the reformer in this case.

Classic Pilates is by definition ‘Dynamic’ in that it comprises a series of free-flowing exercises with an emphasis on precise technique, breathing and above all control. No surprise that Mr Pilates coined the term ‘Contrology’ to describe his work.

The original method has been practised in various forms for over 100 years. In fact, the very first iteration of a ‘Reformer’ (Just google Pilates Reformer and you’ll instantly get a good idea of what this contraption looks like and what it does) was a hospital bed with old bed springs attached, which Mr Pilates used to help patients on his ward recover from illness (he was at the time serving as a POW in a hospital on the Isle of Man during the great war).

In short, traditional or Classic Reformer Pilates (CRP) is awesome. It is a unique system of exercises devised by the eponymous man himself and borne out of a desire to help his fellow human. Cool.

So, given the above explanation we could be forgiven if we thought the name ‘Dynamic Reformer Pilates’ (DRP for short) does the original method a slight disservice. However, I think we are much better served by heeding some age-old wisdom and not judging this book by its cover (or name).

The real question is, why should we be open to embracing it as a method? I’d wager that many of the purists in the Pilates world would much rather we didn’t. In fact, I’ve often heard / read that DRP is just ‘not pilates’ for varying reasons. Of course, I humbly beg to differ. 1

Here’s why.

DRP (practised correctly)2 incorporates many of the elements that make the classic method great – namely precision of movement, focus on breathing and control – and incorporates certain key exercises used in the classic repertoire.

It is also performed on a Pilates reformer machine, just like the classical method.

It is also dynamic and in addition allows for certain exercises that may more commonly be performed in a gym setting or circuit class to be incorporated into its repertoire. Think squats, lunges, planks, press ups, hip hinges and the like.

So, what’s the difference between the two? Should you do one over the other?

As one of my favourite actors put it (Keanu Reeves in The Matrix Reloaded if you must know), ‘the problem is choice.’

Broadly speaking, I see the main differences between the two currently to be in the areas of setting and aim.

Please note that one method is not better than the other, and they deliver many of the same things to varying degrees. The key thing to bear in mind is that they just have a different focus and therefore a slightly different offering. Depending on your reason for taking up Pilates in the first place you may find one of them to be more beneficial for you.

Differences in Aim:

DRP as a method has a focus skewed more towards fitness, muscular endurance + cardiovascular conditioning. CRP as a method on the other hand will typically focus on controlled strength and mobility (often for rehabilitative or corrective purposes).

But surely you can still develop your overall level of physical fitness with CRP you might ask? Absolutely, but it won’t be the main focus of your practise.

Likewise, can you begin to correct muscular imbalances with DRP? You certainly can, you’ll just have to be comfortable with pushing yourself a bit more on the cardio and muscular endurance front whilst you do.

Differences in Setting:

In a DRP class in London you will most likely find yourself in a room with several other people, sweating up a storm as you perform exercises on your reformer. The atmosphere in the room will typically be energetic, in most cases aided by an upbeat soundtrack with the volume UP.

In a CRP class, you will most likely find yourself also on a reformer, potentially also with several other people, possibly getting a little bit of a sweat on, but usually to a more serene soundtrack or perhaps none at all (save for the cues delivered by your instructor).

As you can see, both methods aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, I see them as hugely complementary. I also believe that each one can be a gateway to the other.

For example, if you want to begin to develop your body awareness and start to correct a few imbalances but you know you won’t do so unless you’re satisfying your craving for sweating and ‘feeling the burn’ at the same time then a DRP class is probably the place to start for you.

Similarly, if you want to really drill down into the precision and nuances of each exercise to develop strength, mobility, and really get in touch with how your body operates (or should operate), then a CRP class might be a better place to start.

As I said before, the methods are in my view complementary and I would advise trying both to see which works better for you. Even if you pick one and stick with it for a while you’ll find changing things up every so often to be hugely beneficial. If you’re a seasoned DRP aficionado, you’ll find you might learn some different exercises and ways to perform the ones you already know in a CRP setting – you can then take this knowledge back to your DRP class and reap the rewards.

By the same token, if you’ve got your strength, mobility and technique honed through continued CRP practise, you’ll be in a great position to add some DRP classes to your routine and challenge yourself in a different way.

Whatever you decide, I wish you all the best.

Happy training,


1. In case you were wondering how I feel I’m able to give my humble opinion, here’s a brief run down of my experience with DRP and CRP. I have been instructing DRP (and CRP in some settings) in the UK for over 10 years and have delivered over 12,000 hours of classes and private sessions. I was initially trained by one of the first practitioners to bring this evolution of the classic method to the UK and have been at the forefront of its development over the past 10 years (the majority of which at arguably the largest DRP studio chain in the UK). For the classically minded bods out there, I’ve trained with APPI and Polestar Pilates and (hopefully I’ve explained this enough already) I’m a big fan of CRP as well!

2. I could go down the rabbit hole on what I feel constitutes ‘correct practise’ but I’ll save that for another time! One thing I will say is, make sure you do your research before trying out your first class (whether its DRP or CRP). In an ideal world, you want an instructor with multiple fitness / allied health qualifications and at the very least 2 years’ full time experience in class based instruction. Also, make sure you ask the company you intend to hand over your money to if they’ve put an in-house training and evaluation program in place and how long the training period is for their instructors (ask for total hours of training, not weeks as this can be misleading). The answer they give you will tell you if they’re serious about the quality of instruction their trainers provide and if they are operating with ongoing quality assurance in mind.

Small Group Training (SGT) at SW1 Fitness consists of a maximum of 3 people. SGT has really grown in popularity over the years as consumers look for smarter ways to train and stay motivated. Many people struggle to train alone and rely on a Personal Trainer to stay in shape but for most access to a Personal Trainer is a luxury.

Here are 5 reasons you should join one of our SGT Reformer Pilates or HIIT sessions at SW1 Fitness:

Save Money – Receive the motivation personal attention and support of a personal trainer but for a third of the cost. We have identified that personal training is still a luxury so why not access expertise for less money.

Social – People love to exercise together and Market research has shown you are more likely to work harder in a peer group.

Fun – Training in a small group or with friends is fun and interactive. Often training alone can be un-inspirational and boring which leads to inevitably dropping off from your programme.

Results Driven – Your session will be focused towards your end goals just like a personal training session. Get more from your workout in less time.

More Focused Attention Than A Class – Many classes offer a generic, non focused workout where the instructor doesn’t remember your name. In a Small Group sessions are specific to your needs and prescribed to maximise results.

Training at SW1 is a unique Fitness experience. We offer tailored Reformer Pilates and HIIT sessions which challenge you to be your best every time and at the fraction of the cost of traditional Personal Training. Our passionate Personal Trainers ensure each SGT sessions is a varied workout leaving you feeling energised and zest book a session today

Pilates and Back Pain

16th August 2016
What To Expect From Reformer Pilates Class

Back pain is a very common in modern day society. The introduction of technology has meant less manual labour jobs and more jobs that involve the use of technology meaning more time is often spent in front of a computer screen. As a result of the countless hours spent sitting means many individuals often suffer from poor posture and flexibility leading to back pain. This can easily be remedied with the correct training and stretches.

Below are 3 examples of the expertise on offer at SW1 Fitness to help elevate the pain often associated with back problems:

1) Spinal mobility: Many often sit down for hours in the same position, however movement of the spine is vital for back health. In every pilates session, the spine is taken through all the planes of movement, to keep the spine healthy and mobile.

2) Butt work: Glutes are an essential muscle as they bare the weight of the back. Weak glutes are the route of various back issues. At our studio, we look to work your glutes in every session to ensure a good solid base for your back.

3) Hamstring flexibility: Tight hamstrings is also a common reason for back issues. When hamstrings are tight they pull the pelvis into an anterior tilt placing more pressure onto the back leading to pain so stretching the hamstrings is a must.

Do you suffer from back pain? Why not give pilates and go and see if it can offer you the relief you’re looking for:


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