The Gratz reformer at Ett Hem

Getting to Grips with the Gratz Reformer

I recently stayed at the magnificent Ett Hem hotel in Stockholm. I’d chosen it primarily because of my passion for interior design but there was a wonderful Pilates bonus in the little basement gym – a Gratz reformer.

Gratz reformers are based on Joseph Pilates’ original designs and are the equipment of choice of most Pilates purists.

The first thing you notice about the Gratz reformer is how beautifully made it is. The frames are either wooden or aluminium (the one at Ett Hem is wooden) and the straps are leather rather than rope.

The next thing that strikes you is the size. Gratz reformers are quite small. At just 5ft 3ins, this suited me perfectly but I can see how it could be difficult for a taller person, particularly if they have mobility issues with knees and hips.

There are no risers which I found took a little getting used to, as did the wooden handles, which felt heavy and uncomfortable at first. The sumptuous upholstery was perhaps a little too comfortable – the thick padding on the carriage meant I had to really focus to maintain neutral in supine exercises.

The main difference, however, is the springs. Like most modern reformers, my Balanced Body reformer has full, half and quarter springs, making it very easy to adjust depending on the client and the exercise. Gratz springs are all full tension and at first I struggled to find the right load. It made me really focus on the aim of each exercise and I actually felt them differently.

The Gratz isn’t as smooth as other reformers such as Peak or Stott. On my Balanced Body, the springs pull the carriage back in and the work is in resisting them. With the Gratz, you have to use your body to pull the carriage in.

Was it harder or just different? It’s difficult to say. The springs definitely felt heavier but, once I got used to them, I found I preferred some of the exercises. Arm work was particularly challenging, probably because I was recovering from an intercostal sprain and had to use a light spring load to avoid aggravating it. This meant I kept losing tension on the straps and didn’t feel I was getting enough out of the exercises.

After three sessions, I finally started to get the hang of it and, if I had the space in my studio, I’d probably invest in a Gratz reformer. For most of my clients, who are either new to the reformer or working with injuries, Balanced Body is probably more suitable. Ultimately, of course, it comes down to personal preference but if you’re looking for a challenge or a more authentic Pilates experience, then do try Gratz.

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