Meet the Megaformer, a Pilates workout that slays even the fittest

Here are a few places where you can try this fitness craze in metro Atlanta

Six people doing sideways planks at Stellar Bodies
Sideways planks at Stellar Bodies

Photograph by Heidi Geldhauser

It looks like a device intended for torture, and those who have spent time on the contraption will probably tell you that description is right on the money. Meghan Markle does it. So do Khloe Kardashian and Chrissy Tiegen. Victoria’s Secret models swear by it. It’s apparently Michelle Obama’s favorite workout. It’s the Megaformer, and it seems like it’s everywhere in Atlanta these days.

Originally created by trainer and Chief Executive Officer of Lagree Fitness Sebastien Lagree, Megaformer Pilates takes the original Pilates reformer machine—sliding beds that use springs for resistance—and soups it up.

The Megaformer features two stable platforms on the front and back, with a carriage that moves in between. The springs underneath the carriage are used to control the resistance and difficulty of the class. Handlebars on each end help with balance, and also for some elevated moves. Some machines also feature bungee cords and various other straps to amp up the workout, which tends to focus on very slow and deliberate lunges, crunches, core extensions, squats, and upper-body strength-training.

When I was approached about three years ago to teach a version of this workout at Solidcore in Midtown and Decatur (don’t call it Megaformer Pilates, though—Solidcore was in a legal battle with Lagree about that), my first reaction was: I’m not really a Pilates girl. I don’t go for graceful workouts. I prefer exercise that brings me to exhaustion, and maybe near throwing up (yup, I’m a nut). Try it out, they told me. So they flew me to their headquarters in Washington, DC, to take a class. And it absolutely crushed me—my core was on fire, my legs were shaking, and I broke form several times while working my arms. I was sold.

The goal of Megaformer Pilates classes, in general, is to dig into your slow-twitch muscle fibers by moving very slowly, holding and pulsing. This allows the fibers to break down, creating muscle fatigue and failure. The muscles heal after class, and come back stronger.

Solidcore certainly isn’t alone on the scene here. Megaformer Pilates and related studios are popping up at a rate like we once saw with spin studios (which are now shuttering almost as quickly, due to fierce competition from at-home indoor-cycling company Peloton). On the growing list: Sculpthouse, with Buckhead and Sandy Springs locations that offer a workout that alternates Megaformer and Woodway Curve Treadmill drills; Stellar Bodies, the first Megaformer studio in town, which has studios in Buckhead and Midtown; Reformed by Lagree, in Dacula; Pace, on Northside Parkway; and Third Eye Tribe in Buckhead. (Others, like the Daily and Club Pilates, use more traditional Reformer Pilates machines.)

Third Eye Tribe Megaformer Atlanta
Third Eye Tribe

Photograph courtesy of Third Eye Tribe

Megaformer classes are, understandably, intimidating—they’re challenging for even the most fit. But many of the studios in Atlanta have patient coaches who offer modifications that allow beginners to complete the workouts and not get discouraged. Third Eye Tribe, in particular, is a good option for newbies—the music is typically quieter and the lights stay on, allowing for better mimicking and comprehension of moves and transitions.

I don’t coach at Solidcore anymore, but I still sweat there every week (for full price now; yup, I’m a nut). Because even after three years of Megaformer workouts, the classes still slay me. That’s the beauty of this fitness concept—you can always amplify it with more springs or advanced moves, it’s almost impossible to plateau, and it never gets easy. Call it torture or call it a revelation—Megaformer Pilates is a huge hit here.