How strong are Pilates springs and how do they compare?
Pilates is not like weight training, where the weight being lifted is the key factor, indeed in Pilates less resistance is often more challenging and the amount of resistance required from the springs is primarily related to feel rather than kilograms! That said, many customers want to know how strong Align-Pilates’ springs are so they can compare them to other brands they have worked with, or, so they can better understand the most effective way to increase resistance for different exercises.
Background – Original Pilates Springs
Back in Joseph Pilates day reformers only had 4 springs and these were originally all of equal strength. In addition the springs were steel and did not have linear progression, so users would feel a noticeable non-linear change in the spring resistance as the spring extended. After his passing, the Pilates Elders (those who had studied under Joe & Clara) discussed the need for a lighter spring and the five spring Reformer machine was born. This led to different manufacturers producing springs with different strengths to offer more variety and refinement in one’s choice of resistance. Today only a few specialist classical reformer manufacturers still use the type of spring used by Joe, but it is interesting to consider how much choice Joe Pilates had when selecting his springs, when his requirements would have tiny in manufacturing terms, and springs of this size and not readily available, let alone in a choice of resistances.
Anyway in the 1990s the majority of Pilates manufacturers started to colour code their springs and name them based on their level of resistance eg heavy/strong, medium, light, very light etc. Most manufacturers would also equip their reformers as standard with 3 different strengths of springs in either 3/1/1 or, 1/2/2 set ups. Some brands, notably Stott Pilates chose to classify their springs as a % of their strongest spring ie. by relativity, offering 100%/50% & later 25% springs. This system seems more objective, though in reality (according to data on Merrithew’s website*) the actual relativity of Stott springs does not approximate to the % names, it is actually more like 100%/66%/41% (similar to Align-Pilates’ 100%/60%/40%). Anyway regardless of the system, the concept is the same as for a small increase/decrease add/remove the lightest spring, for a larger one the middle (if there are 3 different ones) and for the largest the strongest and vice versa. The important point is not the description, but the range of resistances available and the size of possible increments, so you can get the right feel for the exercise being undertaken, regardless of who is using the reformer.
So what is the Align-Pilates spring set up?
Like the majority of brands Align-Pilates colour code their springs and categorise them by resistance. The springs are offered are Extra Light (yellow), Light (blue), Medium (red) and Strong (green). A weight or, resistance, is not specified, as this is dependent on the amount of extension of the spring, but the data is shown in the table below for those interested. Align-Pilates commercial reformers come with the following 1/2/2 set up as standard:
1 x Green (Strong). The Full or, 100% spring
2 x Red (Medium). c. 60% of the 100% spring
2 x Blue (Light). c. 40% of the 100% spring
This choice of standard spring set up aims to achieve a wide spread of resistances, from very light to very strong eg 2.6Kg at 25% stretch with the lightest spring, to a maximum of 133kg with all springs attached at maximum travel on a C series reformer. In addition the set up allows for small increases, equivalent to half the resistance of the weakest spring for over half of the increments. The optimum progression is shown in the table below:
As 2 x blue (light) are 20% more than 1 x red (medium) and 20% less than 1 x green a really nice progression is possible with this set up and the maths is easy for those wanting this level of precision.
In terms of how many kilograms Align-Pilates’ spring resistance relates to, the table below shows the amount of Kg of resistance that each spring offers at different amount of stretch. This is based on 25% / 50% / 75% and 100% of the maximum stretch on our best-selling C8-Pro and C2-Pro reformers. The table is not particularly useful or relevant to Pilates practice itself, but it does serve as useful tool for comparison with other manufacturers springs.
All Align-Pilates springs are made from top quality nickel-plated Korean music wire, which offers the best life and a smooth linear resistance, so that the resistance increases steadily and evenly during extension. The graph below shows the smooth progression of the resistance provided at different levels of stretch.
How do Align-Pilates springs compare to other Pilates manufacturers springs?
Most leading brands offer data on the springs resistance by kg/cm or Lbs/Inch, which makes comparison relatively easy to undertake. In the majority of cases the Align-Pilates standard set up offers as low a resistance as other leading brands standard set ups, up to a slightly higher resistance than most, so few will need to change from the standard set up.
In terms of cueing spring changes in classes, users familiar with the Full (100%), half (50% ) Quarter (25%) style instruction can continue to do this, as in relative terms Align-Pilates spring relative percentages are very similar to other brands actual % values, as stated above, these terms and %ages are however approximations only. That said the using colour is move intuitive way of cueing spring adjustments with the Align-Pilates set up from the students perspective as the colours are marked on the springs and the spring nuts.
Other Align-Pilates Spring Set Ups
Some customers who focus on Clinical Pilates or, Rehab Pilates may be interested in a lighter set up than the standard set up and this can be achieved by swapping a blue (light) or, red (medium) spring for a yellow spring (which requires a special supported spring cover); the choice being dependent on how low a resistance one wishes to achieve. Swapping a blue for a yellow to get a 1/2/1/1 set up is the most common – please speak with your distributor if you wish to change the set up on your Align-Pilates reformer.
Few will require a heavier set up even in Fitness Pilates, though again this can be achieved by swapping a red (medium) or blue (light) for another green, or for a more subtle increase a blue (light) for another red (medium). Note swapping from a 1/2/2 configuration to a 3/1/1 configuration marginally increases the replication of resistances and the smoothness of the increments of change between adjustments, hence Align-Pilates favours a 1/2/2 set up.
Please note that like most brands, Align-Pilates springs should be replaced every two years or 2,000 hours (whichever comes first). Pilates springs showing any sign or wear, kinking or distortion should not be used and should be immediately replaced.
Links to other Pilates Manufacturers spring data:
Balanced Body Springs. Standard set up: 3x Red (med), 1x Blue (light), 1x Yellow (v. light)
Merrithew or Stott Pilates Springs. Standard set up (Traditional Spring Package): 4x 100%, 1x 50%, or (High Precision Package) 3x 100%, 1x 50%, 1x 25%
Peak Pilates Springs. Standard set up: 1x Red Heavy (heavy), 2x Yellow (med), 2x Blue (light)
Basi Systems Springs. Standard set up: 1x Yellow (light) 1x Blue (med) 3x Red (heavy)
For any questions about spring resistance please email firstname.lastname@example.org.