With a combo of muscle-quivering springs, pulleys, and hanging straps, the machine is the key component of the Lagree Fitness Method developed by Sebastian Lagree, according to the company’s website. There’s no getting around it: The Megaformer in classes like SLT, CHI50, and The Studio MDR looks like a medieval torture device.
In a nutshell, the Lagree Method workouts feature Pilates-inspired moves that focus on strength. These classes have gained a reputation in the fitness world as one of the most demanding classes in a sea of teeth-grinding studio routines. Take that, CrossFit.
“It’s tough, but that’s a good thing,” says Cheri Byrd, owner of Chi50, a Lagree Fitness studio in Chicago. The price tag for a few sessions on those machines can be torturous, too. Each Megaformer costs the studio around $10,000, which is probably why studios charge $35 to $40 a class.
If you’re like us, forking over that kind of cash means you’ll want to dominate those 50 minutes of full-body resistance training. No confusion eating up your precious time, no leaving any muscle behind. Here’s how to make the most of every minute.
1. Remember ‘Carriage’ Vs ‘Platform’
A note to newbies: “I always tell new people that the only thing they need to remember is where the carriage is and where the platform is,” says Byrd. FYI: The platform is the stationary space at the front and back of the machine. The carriage is the thing that slides between both platforms. Boom.
Megaformers have numbers printed on the carriages, so you know where to put your hands and feet for each movement, and the instructors are trained to talk through each exercise in detail so you don’t have to look up. “As long as your ears are open, you’re good,” says Byrd.
2. Saddle Up in the Middle
Most studios don’t have an instructor mimicking the moves on a machine in the front of class, so if you’re a beginner or unsure about your form, avoid the end of the row so you can watch your neighbors on both sides. Even better—ask the instructor to plant you between two seasoned classmates. (Ready for a serious workout? Check out Women’s Health’s Look Better Naked workout DVD.)
3. Slow Your Roll
Momentum is a dirty word in the Megaformer world. Each move should be done at a super-slow pace, so you’ve got to embrace that shake. “Slow everything down to at least four counts,” says Byrd. (Yes, that means every single lunge should last four seconds or longer.) “This is how we ignite all those slow-twitch muscle fibers and take you to the point of muscle fatigue,” she says.
4. Make Quick Transitions
Unlike other forms of low-impact exercise, you can expect to sweat (heavily) in a Megaformer class. “The cardio element comes into play as you transition quickly from one move to the next,” she says. “Try not to rest so your heart rate stays up for the full 50 minutes.”
5. Go for Extra Credit
This class works because it’s pretty much impossible to cheat, and it’s easy to amp up the intensity. Lifting your hands up in the air to test your balance, adding one more spring, or slowing down your motions to a five or six-count can help ramp up your burn.
6. Get a Sick Stretch
Your instructor will take you through a few quick stretches after class, but stick around longer to give your muscles some major TLC. “One of my favorite stretches is to just throw on a red and yellow spring, grab a foot strap, and lay down on the carriage while stretching out my legs,” says Byrd. Play around if you have a few minutes before or after your next class.
7. Don’t Overdo It
You only need to get on this torture device, eh, machine, two or three times a week to see a change in your physique. Rest and recovery are key to building muscle after putting your body through the wringer, so don’t try to tackle this one on a daily basis.