It's like Pilates on steroids. It'll make you so sore you can't breathe. It changes your abdominal muscles like crazy. These are some of the ways that people breathlessly describe Megaformer workouts: difficult, mysterious, but worth your time. Celebrities like Meghan Markle, Khloé Kardashian, and Chrissy Teigen, have said they swear by Megaformer workouts. So, what's the deal with this glamorous torture device and why are people so obsessed?
The equipment was invented in the early 2000s, by a fitness expert named Sebastien Lagree, and is used in a number of popular boutique workouts, including Studio Lagree, Pilates Platinum, SculptHouse, and SLT. At its core, the Megaformer is a spring-based resistance trainer, and it's designed to work your entire body from all angles, especially your core muscles, according to Lagree Fitness's website.
Despite the frequent comparisons, the Megaformer is definitely not a Pilates device, it's just Pilates-inspired, says Nicole Byrnes, instructor and manager of instructor operations at SLT. A Pilates reformer is also a spring-based apparatus, but it's primarily used to resist and assist your bodyweight to help find and strengthen your core and limbs, Heather Andersen, studio owner and director of New York Pilates told Refinery29.
The Megaformer, on the other hand, is built with two stable platforms in the front and back, plus a "gliding carriage" in the middle that moves back and forth, Byrnes says. In the undercarriage of the Megaformer, there are a number of springs that control the amount of resistance used, and can be adjusted throughout a workout depending on the exercise. Extending out from the platforms, you'll also find moveable handle bars that are there for balance. The Megaformer is mega intimidating at first glance, because it's a massive piece of equipment, and it can take a few classes to figure out how to use it properly.
The exercises that you can do on a Megaformer tie together strength-training, cardio, and "the most challenging elements of Pilates," Byrnes says. "You transition quickly from one move to the next, but the exercises move at a very slow pace," she says. Moving slowly is a way to build up stamina, and target slow-twitch muscle fibers, she says. The combination of slow movements, resistance, and unconventional exercises make Megaformers brutal. "It is an incredibly effective machine that works the body in a low-impact, but uniquely intense way," she says.
So, why are celebrities so into the Mega? Byrnes suspects that high-profile clientele are into it because it provides the "complete package." "It is a total-body workout that improves endurance, flexibility, and strength," she says. For people looking to get in a comprehensive workout in a quick session (classes are 35-50 minutes long), or see strength gains in a short amount of time, working out on the Megaformer is clutch. That said, it's not necessarily a workout that you can do on your own (most gyms do not have Megaformers), or without an instructor.
Despite the hype, there's nothing to fear about the Megaformer. If you can go to classes consistently — which might require a celebrity budget, as most classes are $36-$40 — you can "learn how to navigate this beast of a machine," Byrnes says. (There are also some ways you can mimic SLT moves using a towel on a slippery floor, but it's not exactly the same.) Given the specific exercises, emphasis on proper form, and complex equipment, there is a steep learning curve. "Here's the thing about SLT: it never gets easier," Byrnes says. "Even as an instructor, I am constantly being challenged and humbled when taking class."