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Best arms Pilates replacements for gym exercises

A common question we get from our Community members is “What are the best arms Pilates replacements for gym exercises?” 

It’s a great question. Pilates can be an abstract concept if you’re not familiar with it. Exercises we know and love from the gym are often the easiest to conceptualize and directly relating those movements to Pilates on your own can be confusing. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. 

Let’s start with the basics:

Does Pilates work the upper body?

Yes! Pilates most certainly works the upper body. Though mat Pilates is a great upper body workout, and you will feel the burn with your bodyweight alone, Pilates on the reformer provides external resistance using springs, so you can see results faster.

With reformer Pilates, spring resistance can either assist your movements by providing additional support, to make the exercise easier, or it can provide an added challenge. With five different springs to add, remove, or select in combination, there are plenty of options to help you get the most out of your upper body workout. 

Often, knowing which springs to add, remove, or combine can be the most challenging part of reformer Pilates. With the reformer, more resistance doesn’t always mean more burn. Every exercise will react differently to different spring selections and combinations. Sometimes less weight can actually be more challenging! 

If you’re new to reformer Pilates, or simply unsure which exercises could benefit from which spring selections, check out our Online Studio. With every reformer workout in our library, we help you select the appropriate spring resistance for your body’s needs–it doesn’t have to be a guessing game and the learning curve can be curbed.

Is Reformer Pilates like lifting weights?

Yes and no. While the resistance that you experience using a reformer isn’t identical to the resistance created with weights, there are ways to practice most upper body exercises on the reformer - often with the added benefit of flexibility, mobility, and core stability! Your body is still experiencing resistance during movements on a reformer, just in a different way.


Best arms Pilates replacements for gym exercises


Now that we know reformer Pilates is the best way to get more bang for your buck, let’s chat about movements on a reformer. The best introduction to reformer Pilates is likely correlating reformer movements with exercises you already know and love. Three of the most popular upper body gym exercises are bicep curls, overhead press, and tricep extensions. These same movements are staples in an upper body reformer class!


Arms Pilates replacement for bicep curls

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Arms Pilates replacement for overhead press

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Arms Pilates replacement for tricep extensions



See, not that different at all and, dare we say, a bit more fun?

Alongside these core gym replacements, reformer Pilates can offer variations of pull-ups, rows, push-ups, and chest presses–just to name a few. 

Don’t forget the plus side of swapping your weight workouts for the reformer…you get the added bonus of increased flexibility, mobility and core work. After all, what’s the use in bicep curling an elephant if you can’t lift your arms above your head? We thought so.

If you’re ready to take your upper body workouts to the next level, learn more about our Smart Reformer here or request a demo with us to walk through all the amazing things our Flexia Smart Reformer can do. 

Not ready to book a demo just yet? No problem. Check out our Knowledge Base here, a searchable FAQ where you can find answers to common questions.