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Spring to It

“How much weight is this?” If you do Pilates, you’ve probably had this question as you switch out your springs, whether you voice it to your instructor or not. The truth is, it’s not quite that simple.

Unlike traditional weight lifting, springs provide more resistance the more that they are stretched from their starting position. Sometimes this resistance challenges us as we work against it through an exercise, while others, it offers us support, making the exercise easier or helping us move through it.

Each spring tells us its resistance by its color. At Catalyst Rehab Studio, each reformer has 5 springs: two outer red, one inner green, one inner blue, and a yellow.

Red = Regular/Full

Green = Heavy

Blue = Light

Yellow = Very Light

As anyone who has taken a Pilates class can tell you, using the correct spring is key to success in your Pilates practice. Feeling like putting in a little less work today? Maybe you think you’re getting away with something sneaky by selecting the yellow spring for all your exercises -- but that’s not how this whole thing works. As we just mentioned, added resistance doesn’t always equate to added difficulty. But how does that make sense?

To understand how this works, we need to dive a bit into the physics of traditional weights compared to springs.

When we think of a traditional weight training program, added weight always equals added challenge. In Pilates, sometimes this is the case, you are working against the added resistance, but other times, the weight makes a movement easier to complete, helping you bring the carriage home.

Traditional weights:

You don’t have Pilates class today, so you decide to hit the gym and do a little lifting. When you take a seat at the leg press, you select 80 lbs. As you begin the exercise, it will require full effort to get started, and as you count out your reps, you will need: force to push the plate away and force to return it without letting it crash down. Each rep maintains the same 80 pound resistance and same force of gravity throughout. Each rep is just as difficult at the beginning, middle, and end because the force required doesn’t change.

Tension/Extension Springs:

Now it is time for Pilates (woohoo!) and you’re getting ready for Footwork. Again you’ll need an initial force to begin the motion, the force to stretch the springs, and the force to bring the carriage home without crashing. Not so different than when you were doing the leg press, right? Well maybe not. Here, the force is varied. Unlike the steady 80 pound resistance with the same force of gravity, here each rep doesn’t require the same amount of work from beginning to end. In fact, the further away from the footbar you push the carriage, the stronger the force of the springs, making the exercise more difficult. The closer you bring the carriage back to home, the less force the springs exert.

So how much weight is each spring? Well, as you can see, that depends. Overall, choosing the correct spring relies on the intention behind each exercise. What are you trying to achieve? Working on stabilization requires less resistance while building strength calls for more.

The good news is, the team at Catalyst Rehab Studio is here to guide you through all your spring transitions!

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