“This is the method and machine that created Hollywood’s hottest body,” says the website of Studio Lagree, the company of megaformer inventor Sebastien Lagree. And indeed: Stars like Kim Kardashian, Sofia Vergara, Jennifer Aniston and almost all known top models love the so-called “sled”. Yes, even Michelle Obama is said to be a big fan of the workout, which was invented in Los Angeles in the early 2000s.
The trend has now also reached Germany. Studios in Munich and Hamburg have opened in recent years. So it is high time to take a closer look at the Megaformer.
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What is a megaformer?
The Megaformer is a fitness machine designed for a full body workout that takes Pilates to a new level. The idea behind it: The original method, which is based on strength exercises using your own body weight, is supplemented by resistances based on a spring system, so that your muscles are maximally activated and have to work even harder.
When training on the Megaformer, you work against the traction of several springs. © Benjamin Pahnke
At first glance, the megaformer looks relatively monstrous and complicated. The machine is 3.30 meters long, consists of several platforms and also has handles and straps at both ends. Once you have been trained in the machine, you will immediately understand how it is constructed.
Studio owner Kaya Ahrens, who was the first to bring the Megaformer to Germany in 2014, describes the device as follows: “The Megaformer has two fixed platforms at the front and back and a flexible middle section in the middle, the so-called sled. This is connected to the front platform by springs that can be individually adjusted. In addition, the platforms have different and adjustable handle bars and cables that function as cable pulls.
How does the training with the Megaformer work?
The best way to explain Lagree Fitness is with an exercise, such as the well-known Plank. Imagine kneeling at the front end of the sled. Now bend forward and reach for the handles on the front platform. In the next step, move your buttocks slightly upwards and push the sled out with your feet backwards so that you get into the plank.
In contrast to the training without equipment, here you work against the springs that connect the front platform with the carriage. Next, pull your feet towards your hands so that your knees come under your body. However, do not lower your bottom and try to remain stable in the middle of your body. This is strenuous enough, but becomes even more intense on the Megaformer because you “train” against the force of the springs. Thus, additional body strength is required by the resistors.
Sebastien Lagree even claims that muscles are trained to the point of complete exhaustion by these push and pull exercises, so that the deep muscles also have to cooperate. The most important thing when doing these exercises is to keep the pace as slow and controlled as possible so that you don’t lose the desired body tension.
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The great thing about the Megaformer: depending on the fitness level of the user, the intensity of the workout can be determined by the spring system. So for the first unit on the sled, no “pre-trained” muscle masses are needed. Anyone can train on it – provided there are no injuries.
Which muscles do I train especially on the Megaformer?
The training on the sledge demands the whole body, especially the middle of the body. © Benjamin Pahnke
Whoever does Lagree Fitness on the Megaformer strengthens the entire musculature. It is the absolute full body workout. But as with Pilates, it is the “powerhouse” that is demanded the most. “The core – the entire abdomen – is trained particularly intensively,” says Kaya Ahrens, who has a total of 22 megaformers in her two BodyMethod studios and regularly “sleds” on them herself.
“Every exercise, including arm or leg exercises, is stabilized and supported on the Megaformer via the middle of the body. Accordingly, the core is often trained along with it, without being directly noticed,” explains the Hamburg native.
Why do supermodels and stars love Lagree Fitness so much? In Hollywood they say “time is money”. In most cases the workout should not take too long. That’s why stars try to get the most out of their workout or find a sport that achieves the best possible result in the least amount of time. “When you train on the Megaformer, you only train for 40-55 minutes and that 2-3 times a week”, explains Kaya Ahrens, who has also welcomed supermodel Toni Garrn to her studio.
In addition, the Megaformer fulfils the desire of many models to look fit and healthy, but not inflated. The slow pace and the isometric strain on the muscles strengthen them but maintain their slim shape.
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When will you see the first results?
Even if really everyone can climb the Megaformer, the results achieved still depend on the fitness level. From her years of experience, Kaya knows: “Generally speaking, you should do 10 sessions in a period of about a month. Then you will definitely see the first results. A firmer feeling, more waist, a more contoured leg and bottom area – the whole silhouette changes. It’s worth sticking with it: If you can keep up a frequency of 2 units per week, you can achieve a lot within 3 months.
The best thing about the Megafomer workout: You save a lot of time. © Benjamin Pahnke
The 5 best known exercises on the Megaformer
The hands are on the lower handlebars of the front platform, the knees are on the sled. The arms are stretched out, the hips are lowered, your gaze is directed downwards. Now push the sled out backwards without losing the tension in your stomach. Your body stays in line, only the angle between your arms and your upper body changes. Now slowly pull the sled back in.
The hands are on the lower handlebars of the front platform, the arms are stretched out. With the balls of your feet you stand on the sled, your knees are below your hips and slightly bent. Now push the sled out backwards so that you come into a plank. Your shoulders remain above your wrists. Only the lower body moves. The strength and stability comes only from your stomach.
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3rd Plank to Pike
The name says it all: the starting position is a plank. The hands are on the lower handlebars, your feet are on the sled. Now you pull it up to the front platform with the strength of your abdominal muscles and push your bottom up. Legs and arms remain stretched out, the back long. You move like a jackknife. Then slowly push the sled back out again.
4. elevator lunges
The left foot is on the front platform, the right foot on the sled. Your upper body is upright, the left heel gives you support. Now bend your left knee and use your right leg to push the sled out backwards. Your upper body remains straight, your hands rest on your hips. As soon as your left thigh is horizontal, pull your right foot forward again so that your legs stretch and you return to your starting position. On the Megaformer, there are different variations of the lunges.
On Express Lunges, for example, you still take the rope pulls in your hand.
5. spider kicks
You kneel parallel to the front platform on the sled in a four-footed position. You lift your left leg and place your foot against the handlebar. Your leg is bent. Now push yourself away from the platform by stretching your leg. Your thigh takes over the work, the rest of your body does not move and remains under tension.
Where can I test a Megaformer? What are the prices?
There are now over 300 studios worldwide offering Lagree Fitness. Outside the USA the number is, however, relatively small. The Stockholmers will be the first Europeans to offer the workout on the megaformer in 2013. In 2014, the Swiss will also get a taste for it.
BodyMethod in Hamburg is finally the third studio in Europe in the same year. And the first in Germany. Today Kaya Ahrens has two locations in Hamburg and has received competition from Munich. You can also test the Megaformer in London. But the workout is not really cheap: a single hour of 50 minutes costs around 30 euros.
If you are looking for a sport where you can get the most out of your body in the shortest possible time, you should take the step to the Megaformer. In less than an hour, the entire body is trained and all muscles are strengthened. It only takes a few times until you master the exercises perfectly. Then the workout is as much fun as “real” sledding.