The Pilates "Medico-Mechanical System" or the "Universal Reformer," was created in the mid 1920s in Hamburg, Germany and originally designed without legs, has the same shape as the mat. It has a smaller mat or "carriage" that moves on wheels within the frame of the reformer. The frame was originally attached to weights and pulleys
with resistance ranging from 20-1000 pounds. It was not until Joe Pilates, the creator of the Pilates method, was in America that he adapted springs to his apparatus. The movement done on the Reformer is to both push against resistance as well as to resist the weights as the carriage moves back to the gear bar. This was the second apparatus that Joe created. He wanted to create a machine that would push and pull his clients for him.
Over the years there have been many variations made to the Reformer.
The accessories and parts to the Reformer include:
Springs: Classical apparatus use springs all of the same weight. While some of the contemporary equipment manufacturers have springs of varying resistance. Each manufacturer uses its own color coding system for each weighted spring. Classical Reformers have 4 springs while some have started adding a 5th spring at a varying weight.
Frame: The body of the Reformer may be made of wood or metal and varies in length from 80", 86", 89", 93".
Straps: Straps can be made of leather, vinyl, or rope.
Handles: Handles can be made of wood, metal, leather or wool.
For the Feet: platforms that cover the springs, jump boards with cloth padding, wood, or resembling a trampoline , foot straps, foot bar, disks that rotate on the jump board.
Combinations: Some Reformers have a Tower or Cadillac attachment. They may also come with a Mat that sits on top of the Reformer for Mat or Cadillac work.