Have you seen those machines that look like souped-up Pilates reformers? They’re at studios like The Studio (MDR) and SLT in L.A. and NYC. If you’ve never tried one, they can appear intimidating. You might even ask yourself: “How do I not become a causality while doing a plank and moving the carriage?”
Fear not—we’re here to clear things up. The fitness machine is called a Megaformer, and it’s the brainchild of Sebastien Lagree.
What is a Megaformer?
A Megaformer is a fitness machine with a moving platform and springs for resistance that is used for Lagree Method workouts, which involve slow, total-body exercises to blend the body-sculpting ideas of traditional Pilates with strength training and cardio.
To get the scoop on what makes Megaformer workouts so popular, we tapped two Pilates and Lagree Method experts. And, I must say, it felt like we were learning the secret handshake to a super-awesome workout club. The best part? Anyone and everyone is welcome—including you.
Ready to jump in with us? Keep reading to find out everything you need to know before taking your first Megaformer class.
Meet the Expert
What Are Megaformer Workouts?
The Megaformer machine is meant to provide a low-impact, total-body, high-intensity workout. “The workout builds muscle, strengthens your core, makes you sweat and shake, and focuses on slow, precise movements,” explains Wang. Unlike traditional Pilates reformer workouts, which isolate specific muscles individually with faster and lighter reps and longer breaks between exercises, Megaformer workouts involve performing slow movements that use many muscles simultaneously with no rest time between exercises.
What Are Megaformer Classes Like?
“Classes involve challenging big muscle groups plus the little stabilizing muscles through a combination of low-impact cardio, strength training, and some Pilates-inspired movements,” explains Wang. “Expect to do standing work on the machine, to plank, and to crawl as you sculpt your body,” says Wang. She also notes that your balance will be tested because you’re on a moving platform.
What Should You Wear to a Megaformer Class?
While the best clothing for you is largely a matter of personal preference, Wang has some advice: “I'd recommend anything seamless—no zippers or weird buttons, so they don't get in the way and potentially damage the equipment.” She suggests tight-fitting workout clothing because it enables the instructor to more easily see your form and make corrections. It’s also important to wear socks with grippers on the bottoms to prevent slipping.
Our Top Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Megaformer Workout
Take an introductory class first.
“In our Intro to (MDR) class, the instructor will demonstrate the use of the Megaformer, monitor the client’s alignment and technique throughout the class, and will encourage tweaks where needed,” explains Solomon. In an introductory session, you’ll also learn the different positions on the front, carriage, and back. Don’t worry; in every class, the instructor is there to guide you.
Staying hydrated is always important, but water is especially necessary in Megaformer workouts. You’ll likely be huffing, puffing, and sweating a lot more than in a traditional Pilates reformer class, so you’ll need to replace those fluids.
Arrive a few minutes early.
Get to class 10-15 minutes early so you can get situated and meet the instructor without feeling rushed. “So often, we rush into a workout class a few minutes late. Not only will you have a frazzled mindset/attitude coming into class, you might miss the warmup,” says Wang. “Warming up your body is so important to get the most out of your workouts.”
Pay attention to your instructor.
”Make sure to listen to the teacher's audio and visual cues and use the mirrors, if available, to adjust your body,” notes Wang. “Doing things correctly the first time will help you get the most out of an exercise.”
It's not supposed to get easier.
“All of the classes are intense, but don’t let that deter you,” says Solomon. “They never get easier, but you feel yourself getting stronger each time, which motivates you to keep coming back! And you start feeling the results very quickly.”
Listen to your body.
Instructors offer modifications for those who have injuries or who struggle with a move. And, if you need to stop, you stop. “No one is staring at you. They are all concentrating on just trying to make it through," says Solomon. "I think that everyone in the class has an immediate bond because you have to be strong physically and mentally to want to take this class.” Remember how we said it feels like a cool workout club?
Consistency is key.
“We always suggest three times a week and add a fourth if you are getting ready for a special event, like a wedding,” says Lisa. “Your body does need to heal, so we encourage breaks between classes.”
“Give it five to 10 times before you stop feeling like a fish out of water, and stick with it,” advises Solomon. “I promise you, it is life-changing—both physically and mentally.”
The Benefits of Megaformer Workouts
They are low-impact, high-intensity workouts.
Solomon shares that Megaformer workouts induce little-to-no impact on the joints, in contrast to exercises like running and jumping rope. But, low impact doesn’t mean the workouts are low intensity. Megaformer workouts were designed to blend strength training with cardio for a powerful one-two punch. “The slow four-count movements and the continuous segue from one move to the next that incorporates every muscle group each time gets your heart rate up, muscles shaking, and sweat pouring out of you,” says Solomon.
They work your whole body.
Wang notes that the Megaformer provides a total-body workout, helping strengthen all your major muscles. “You can expect to feel a burn, especially in your arms, core, hamstrings, glutes, and quads,” she says. Plus, Megaformer workouts are designed to hit five components of fitness: muscular strength, muscular endurance, cardiovascular endurance, flexibility, and body composition. This means every time you take a Megaformer class, your body is getting a big bang for your buck.
They strengthen your core.
Because you’re on a moving platform, Megaformer workouts require you to engage your core the whole time for balance and stability. So, although you’ll tone all of your muscles, Megaformer workouts are especially designed for building core strength. Not only does a strong core help you feel confident and powerful in your body, it also helps you move more efficiently, maintain proper posture, and can help prevent injuries.
They are efficient.
Because Megaformer workouts are high intensity and involve all your major muscles, you may torch a lot of calories. And although exercise is about a lot more than burning calories and losing weight, it always feels good to stoke your metabolism.
They are effective.
“[Since] the routines are constantly changing and evolving, your body never acclimates to the exercise regimen,” explains Solomon. While this may not sound like a positive thing, she clarifies: “It never gets easier, but you continually get stronger, which is the ultimate motivator.”
They strengthen your mind-body connection.
Our favorite workouts are the ones that make us feel confident, powerful, strong, and good in our bodies. Megaformer workouts do just that. Wang says they really connect you to your body. “You'll feel more aligned in your body, and have way more core strength and body awareness and control,” she says.
Megaformer vs. Traditional Pilates
Wang notes that while both Megaformer and traditional Pilates reformer workouts have similarities, such as building core strength, toning the body, and improving the mind-body connection, they also have several differences. “The first difference is in the equipment itself. The Megaformer is a modified reformer created by Lagree. Not only does it have additional springs, an extra platform, and more weight to pull (and other modifications like cutouts), it's ‘blueprint’ looks very different from a traditional reformer using Joseph Pilates's original design,” explains Wang.
Beyond equipment differences, the workout methodologies vary as well. “A Megaformer class spends almost all of its time off your back, using a method of movement and style more similar to lifting weights at a gym” says Wang. Megaformer workouts involve very slow, controlled movements that involve many muscles at once. “Think lunges or push-ups on the machine,” says Wang. Since one of the goals is building strength, the resistance is usually greater than that used in traditional reformer workouts. Plus, traditional reformer workouts involve faster and more numerous reps using isolated muscles, with the primary goal being aligning the body and toning the muscles rather than building strength and getting a cardio workout.
It might seem surprising that the Megaformer method, with its much slower movements, might get your heart rate elevated more than lighter, faster movements. But, unlike traditional Pilates reformer workouts, which have plenty of rest after each exercise, Megaformer workouts have you push from move to move without rest. This is meant to keep your heart pounding the whole time, making for a high-intensity workout.
The Best Items for Megaformer Workouts
Although you don’t technically need anything special for your Megaformer workouts (besides the Megaformer!), our experts recommend the following products to make your workouts more comfortable—and let’s face it—more fun.
Girlfriend Collective Compressive High-Rise Leggings
Not only are these super cute and come in fun colors, but they are lusciously comfortable, sustainably made, and provide support in all the right places, too.
Hydroflask Wide Mouth Water Bottle
Remember how we said you'll need to bring water to class? Consider this bottle. "I use this almost every day," says Wang. "The straw makes it easier to drink water, and I love that it carries a lot, so I don't have to refill often."
Bombas Gripper Ankle Socks
Solomon requires all participants to wear grip socks during classes for safety and sanitary reasons. These cozy Bombas socks have a seamless toe, a honeycomb arch system for support, and a blister tab. “The grip prevents slipping on sweat and [off the] Megaformer,” notes Solomon. Plus, as with all Bombas socks, when you buy one, the company donates a pair to someone in need. How cool is that?
Ursa Major Hoppin' Fresh Deodorant
Well, we said the Megaformer will make you sweat, but this deodorant has you covered. "I use this before workouts," says Wang. "I love that it's clean, and it smells amazing!"
TriggerPoint GRID Foam Roller
If Megaformer workouts are one thing, they're intense. Try to help ease sore muscles post-workout with this foam roller.
Harvard Health Publishing. Understanding and improving core strength. Updated September 4, 2018.