By Leslie Goldman
Updated: September 10, 2008

That medieval-looking machine glaring at you from that boutique Pilates studio down the street? Its called the Reformer, and no, its not an instrument of torture. All of those straps, ropes and pulleys combine to provide resistance, build strength and flexibility and help align your body while doing Pilates, says NY-based expert Kristin McGee, whose celeb clients include LeAnn Rimes and Soledad OBrien. You can get a hardcore workout on the Reformer, but mat exercises can be equally effective. Here are the pros and the cons of each:

Pros: Portable; less expensive; harder to “cheat” because without the help of cords or springs, you must engage your core muscles even more; dont necessarily need an instructor; use your own bodys range of motion; no downtime for switching out equipment, which means your heart rate stays up and your calorie burn intensifies.

Cons: As you improve, it may become harder to challenge your body (try incorporating 1-2 lb hand weights into your mat routine to add resistance).

Pros: One-on-one experience with a professional; good for first-timers who need special attention; improves body alignment better than work on the mat; can elevate your mat workout to a new level (and increase muscle mass) by adding resistance with pulleys and springs; also adds more range of motion to help you get more results from each exercise.

Cons: Increased downtime while switching equipment; expensive – an hour with a Reformer can cost anywhere from $55 to $100, depending on where you live and if your teacher is certified. (Visit to locate a certified instructor.)