This Pilates reformer makes working out at home way more fun
Goodbye, boring at-home routines.
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I teach yoga. I lift weights. I take a HIIT class every Tuesday and Friday morning at the park. Basically, your girl likes to work out. But during quarantine, like most people, my gym and my yoga studio closed so I was forced to switch to home workouts. I started off strong (no pun intended) but within a couple weeks, I was lacking motivation. Another on-demand yoga flow? Meh. Another day trying to make gains with the single pair of dumbbells I had managed to find? Please, no. I was in a rut.
That's when one of my favorite Pilates teachers here in Baltimore suggested I try the Balanced Body MOTR. This $350 contraption that at first glance looks like an oversized yoga mat unfolds into a workout device unlike anything I'd ever seen before—sort of like a foam-covered PVC pipe meets a clothesline on a pulley. I put on my best Lululemons, cleared out a space in my living room, and got to work (and by work, I mean pulsing, stretching, and rolling, as described in the included sample workout). Here's my review of the MOTR and whether or not this at-home Pilates reformer is worth the cash.
What is the Balanced Body MOTR?
The MOTR (which stands for Movement On The Roller) is a Pilates reformer, foam roller, and resistance trainer all in one. "Developed by Pilates instructor and fitness enthusiast Darya Bronston, MOTR’s unique and innovative design allows you to work out in eight different body positions, and quickly switch resistance while targeting different areas," the product description reads.
With cables that offer up to nine pounds of resistance on each side along with a foam roller tube, MOTR can be used for a wide variety of exercise modes including stretching, strength training, agility, balance, and even cardio.
What I love about the MOTR
The best part about the MOTR, in my opinion, is how versatile it is. As promised, I was able to use it for resistance training (I did chest flies, leg lifts, cable kick-backs, overheard presses, and more), cardio (try toe taps on the tube, for instance), balance (I stood on the MOTR for one-legged "deadlifts"), and recovery (the tube offers amount of firmness to roll out your back or legs). Because it can do so much, I have yet to get bored with it—and I love that no matter what fitness skills I want to work on, whether it's improving agility, toning my abs, or stretching/foam rolling after a long day of sitting at my computer, the MOTR can help.
Another perk is that Balanced Body provides an app for your phone that has hundreds of sample exercises that you can do with the MOTR along with a few follow-along workout videos. I found the "flashcards" explaining each exercise easy to understand and they inspired me to get creative and mix and match my favorites to build my own workout. It's a helpful feature—and would be for beginners, too—because it showed me exactly what to do and how to do it, and the exercises were broken into categories (cardio, balance, etc.) so I could easily flip through and find what I was looking for.
I also like how easy the MOTR was to set up—everything slides right into place—and that the entire contraption collapses neatly into the 43-inch roller tube when you're finished, i.e., it doesn't take up much more room than a yoga mat. You can also take it on the go by slinging its strap over your shoulder—I brought it to the park on nice days. Plus, changing the resistance is a breeze while you're working out. All you have to do to up the intensity is press a button and it clicks up to the next level.
What I don't like about the MOTR
As someone who regularly lifts 50-plus pounds on arm day, the max nine-pound resistance of the cables didn't give me that burn that I'm used to for most exercises. That being said, if you're someone who doesn't strength-train regularly or who likes doing low loads and high reps (i.e., endurance strength training), the cables are just fine.
Also, I found workout ideas for MOTR very limited. Because the MOTR isn't as common as, say, a stability ball or a resistance band (both of which you can find hundreds of online workouts for), I really only had the sample workouts that Balanced Body provided, plus a handful of workouts on YouTube from other trainers. And while I could piece together my own routine from the exercises provided in the app, I'm someone who much prefers following along to a video or being given a set workout by a professional (otherwise, I have no motivation!).
Is the Balanced Body MOTR worth buying?
Despite the fact that I wanted more resistance during certain exercises, I can't deny that the MOTR is an all-around fun—and effective!—way to work out at home. I'm able to get my Pilates fix without leaving my living room and I love that it can be enhance almost any type of workout or movement I'm craving, from HIIT to ab work to stretching. While it is an investment at $349, if you use it frequently, it's worth the cost when you compare it to the average cost of an in-person Pilates class which ranges from $25 to $35 per class—after 10 or so MOTR workouts, you've made up for that cost. However, if you're someone who wants a preset routine or who needs more than nine pounds of resistance, the MOTR might not be your best option.
The MOTR is currently sold out on Amazon—but you can check back frequently to see when it's back in stock. And if you're looking for a more affordable home Pilates option in the meantime, I 10/10 recommend the Balanced Body Pilates Ring, which you can use to add resistance to your workouts. I own it and love how easy it is to use and that it takes most Pilates moves to the next intensity level by holding or squeezing the ring between your hands, feet, or legs (or any combination thereof).
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.