Reformer Vs Mat: Rotator Cuff Strength

In this blog we are going to add another exercise to the ‘Reformer Pilates vs Mat exercise’ blog series. This blog will talk about how shoulder rotator cuff strengthening can be done on both the mat and on the reformer.

What is the Rotator Cuff?

The rotator cuff is made up of four muscles which hold the upper arm bone into the shoulder joint. They are only small muscles however they play a vital role in stabilising this joint and allowing the arm to move smoothly in all directions. The four muscles are called supraspinatus, infraspinatus, subscapularis and teres minor. If you would like to read more about the rotator cuff click here.

The Mat:

There are various different positions to strengthen your rotator cuff on the mat. You can also use various apparatus such as a resistance band or a hand weight. In this blog we are going to use a hand weight. If you don’t have a hand weight at home you can use a full water bottle or a can of food depending on what weight you are after. Set your self up in a side lying position either supporting your head with your lower arm or a pillow. You uppermost arm is bent to 90 degrees at your elbow and hovering at your waist. With the hand weight in your uppermost hand, lift the weight to the ceiling by rotating your upper arm in the shoulder socket. You elbow should stay hovering at your waist the entire time. The hand weight is then lowered back towards your belly in a controlled manner (i.e. don’t let gravity just drop the weight back down).

The Reformer:

To strengthen the rotator cuff in a similar manner to the mat exercise described you will start on the reformer in a side on kneeling position. The strap will be held in your hand furthest away from the pulley system. The elbow is again bent to 90 degrees and hovering beside your waist. The strap is then pulled by rotating the upper arm away from your body. You also need to control the strap when returning to the starting position. The spring will try to quickly bring the strap back, but you want to resist this weight to ensure rotator cuff strengthening throughout the entire movement. As with most of our reformer exercises you need to ensure your deep abdominal muscles are switched on here as the bed moves when you pull the strap. Activation of your deep abdominals will help to stabilise you on the reformer.


This is just one example of an exercise which can be done on both the mat and reformer. Keep a look out on the Bend + Mend blog page to see some more Mat vs Reformer exercises.

If you would like a personalised physiotherapy exercise program using clinical pilates equipment come in for an assessment with one of our Bend + Mend physios today.



Helena Dwyer

About Helena Dwyer

Helena graduated with a Doctor of Physiotherapy at Macquarie University. Prior to her postgraduate studies she completed a Bachelor of Science at the University of Melbourne. Growing up in Melbourne, she has a love of AFL which led her to work for an elite level AFL club. She has completed further training in Clinical Pilates and uses these skills to assist in the rehabilitation of her patients. Along with AFL, she has a passion for netball and treating the various injures that come with competitive sport. Helena has further training in Dry Needling and uses this skill in treatments when appropriate. She also has experience in assessing and treating pregnant and post natal women. Overall she enjoys getting her patients pain free and back to doing what they enjoy. In her spare time Helena enjoys getting out and exploring which often includes a refreshing dip at the beach.

Leave a Reply