Have you ever heard of Lagree? It is a killer workout done on a machine inspired by the Pilates Reformer. There is pumping music and on occasion a live DJ. Sebastien Lagree, who became a self-proclaimed fitness fanatic in his 20’s (he is 43 now), is the guru behind the technique. He taught Pilates and intense weight training in his 20’s, and began building his first machines in the early 2000’s. According to Lagree, his method “brings to Pilates, what Pilates lacks”. In a word – intensity!
From my standpoint, while Lagree is not Pilates, the similarities are evident from the outset. And, if Pilates has been your workout of choice for a while, you will likely find that Lagree is within your grasp, not as brutal as the tabloids expound, with similar concepts and suggested outcomes. In fact, the deep core strength and long, lean muscles that Pilates creates are mirrored in the Lagree Method. The difference you will feel is in the speed, intensity and amount of resistance used. I like to think of Lagree and Pilates like stepsiblings. You can tell they are related and yet they are oh so different.
I first heard of Lagree from one of my clients who raved about this intense workout on a machine she said was similar to the Pilates Reformer. At the mention of the Reformer my interest was peaked. That night I signed up online, and the following Friday found myself on the ‘Megaformer’ ready to start my first Lagree class.
Without a doubt, this was the hardest workout I had ever done.
This proclamation may turn some of you off, but I implore you to read on. While my first Lagree workout was intense and exhausting, I left feeling more accomplished than I had in a while. The next day my body was sore from tip to tail, and walking was a struggle. Yet, I wanted more!
Historically I have not been someone enthralled by “gym style” workouts, and I am certainly not someone who believes in the old adage “no pain no gain”. However, Lagree’s slow movements, quick transitions and versatility of the machine, hooked me from the first class.
To be fair, I was also grateful that my Pilates mindfulness kicked in. As early as my second class I was happy to heed the teacher’s advice to change spring tension to suit my body, my strength and most importantly, my level of fatigue. Because of my background in Pilates, I had more control over the carriage and all the moving parts of the ‘Megaformer’. I was opening my eyes to so many advantages I had as a result of my Pilates background: good balance, a strong core, legs and arms that are integrated with my torso. When I think back to those early days I chuckle – if I had copied my fellow Lagree classmates, falling off the machine would have been likely. Or, at the very least, I am pretty sure I would have hurt myself in some way.
As I continued attending classes, making adjustments to my springs, and making my own modifications for each exercise, my confidence grew and I started to value my Pilates background more. I would look around the room and see that I was better supported, more in control and generally better off than many (if not all) of the other students. Pilates has taught me how to assess the value of an exercise in a personal way. It has taught me how to determine the appropriate spring tension so I fatigue my muscles effectively. And, my love of and experience teaching on the Pilates Reformer has led me to a deeper understanding and appreciation how to use the ‘Megaformer’ effectively.
That being said, the ‘Megaformer’ is not the Pilates Reformer, and nor does it want to be! It is it’s own beast and my word is it a beast! Bigger than the Reformer, with only two levels of spring resistance – either 10lbs or 50lbs. Each exercise has a catchy name like “catfish” or “spoon” that you revisit several times throughout the routine.
I had soon revved up to three Lagree classes a week and got to know people in my classes. As we spoke about our experiences, I came to realize that the Pilates I do between my Lagree classes, kept me less sore and incapacitated as them.
So what’s been the best part of doing Lagree? It has made me a better Pilates teacher. I am more creative and push the limits of the Pilates Reformer like never before. Using the Megaformer in ways I could use the reformer has given me great ideas to make my own classes more dynamic and challenging.
It’s also connected me to a large community of Pilates doing – Lagree people. Becoming a part of this community made me realize the relationship between the two movement forms is one made in heaven. The intensity of Lagree along with the precision and mindfulness of Pilates are great foils for one another. While Lagree can often make one feel ‘muscle bound’, Pilates has the ability to open ones body up, creating the feeling of length and space. Together, they create a highly-conditioned body, good cardiovascular exercise and muscle systems that are strong and very connected.
For me Lagree is an excellent compliment to Pilates. One is not better than the other because the focus is different. 50 minutes of Lagree and you are drenched, your muscles have achieved full failure and you’re ready for the end of session stretch. While this certainly may be true in some Pilates classes, muscle failure and elevated heart rate aren’t the goal in the same way. Because they are different with some innate similarities like the slower pace, and attention to breath, they become a dynamic duo for complete physical fitness! If you are looking to become stronger, leaner, perhaps lose some weight and gain muscle mass, doing both a few times a week will get you there in no time!