To the untrained eye, Pilates reformers look more like fancy BDSM beds than pieces of exercise equipment. If you’ve never seen or used a Pilates reformer or apparatus, it’s pretty much just a large machine with straps, springs, and bars that are used to strengthen your muscles through a series of exercises found in the classical Pilates technique.
Pilates reformers are certainly trendy. Fitness bloggers like Hannah Bronfman swear by them, and boutique fitness studios across the country are incorporating the machines into their classes.
But Pilates reformers have been around for a while, and the story behind them is actually pretty surprising for such an of-the-moment workout regimen. In the midst of World War I, a German man named Joseph Pilates was interned in England with other German nationals for being an “enemy alien.” During that time, he invented an exercise technique that we now refer to as “Pilates.” Later on in the war, he worked in a hospital, and legend has it, he created the first Pilates reformer by rigging springs to hospital beds so that patients could exercise with resistance. And look where we are now!