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The Megaformer-Inspired Pilates Workout to Sculpt and Tone

This workout is based on the moves you do on the Megaformer—a more souped-up version of a traditional Pilates reformer that looks like an elevated gliding platform with lots of moving parts and springs. It’s also the hot new way to get the toning benefits of Pilates with the added strengthening and aerobic work you might expect from boot camp class. “The Megaformer effectively combines strength, endurance, cardio, balance, core, and flexibility training— in not only one session but every move,” says Tracy Carlinsky, the lead trainer at SLT, a popular Megaformer studio with locations across the Northeast. (You need to watch Instagram sensations @GirlWithNoJob and @BoyWithNoJob attempt an SLT class on camera.) 

Here, Carlinsky has distilled one of the Megaformer’s most effective muscle-firming tricks—the ability to stretch out the burn of a rep by forcing you to do a slow-motion contraction—into a resistance-band workout with gliding disks (or a set of hand towels). When muscles contract slowly through their entire range of motion without using momentum, it can help activate your slow-twitch muscle fibers, which are notoriously hard to tax, Carlinsky says. (Next up: more need-to-know muscle facts.)

The gliders mimic the moving portion of a Megaformer by providing an unstable surface, forcing you to focus on core stabilization as you move. The resistance bands re-create the tension of the machine’s adjustable spring coils. “Controlling the band slowly as you lift as well as lower places more emphasis on both the concentric and eccentric—or shortening and lengthening—phases of muscle contraction,” Carlinsky says. “That’s because your muscles have to contract not only to create movement but to resist the rebound of the band while they lengthen.”

Her eight-move sequence is designed to “burn out” one side of the body first and then be repeated on the other side. By challenging one side at a time with compound exercises, you’ll maximize your results, because each muscle will be effectively stimulated, Carlinsky says. Instead of counting reps for each exercise, you’ll focus on what she calls “time under tension”—the amount of time your muscles are continuously working. Then you’ll move immediately to the next exercise without resting. If your muscles shake at the end of a set, you’ll know you’ve tapped their limits, and that’s where the results really get started. (Obsessed? Next, try these at-home Lagree exercises inspired by the Megaformer's big sister, the Supra.)

How it works: You’ll do each move on the right side for the length of time indicated before repeating the moves on the left. Each should be performed on a slow 4- to 6-count pace in both directions.

Total Time: up to 30 minutes

You will need: Resistance band, Sliding discs

1. Bear

A.

Start on the floor in plank on palms with toes together on a glider or towel.

B.

Keeping back flat, bend knees and pull thighs forward on a slow 4 to 6 count, then reverse the movement, keeping thighs together. Continue for 60 to 90 seconds.

Sets:

1

Reps:

Repeat for 60 to 90 seconds

Mistakes and Tips:

Scale it down: Place knees on gliders
Scale it up: Add a push-up between reps

2. Hamstring Curl

A.

Start on floor in bridge with each heel on a glider, legs hip-width distance apart, feet flexed.

B.

Extend legs out on a slow 4 to 6 count, dropping pelvis, pressing into heels, and engaging glutes. Reverse the movement, lifting pelvis back to bridge. Continue for 60 to 90 seconds.

Sets:

1 per side

Reps:

Repeat for 60 to 90 seconds

3. Super Lunge

A.

Start kneeling on floor with right foot forward and left knee directly under hip. Place resistance band under arch of right foot and cross the band, one end in each hand. Lift left knee, hovering 2 inches above ground. 

B.

Straighten both legs while squeezing elbows toward waist and pull hands away from each other on a slow 4 to 6 count. Return to start on a slow 4 to 6 count, drawing hands back in toward each other on the way down.

Sets:

1 per side

Reps:

Repeat for 2 minutes

4. Donkey Curl

A.

Start on all fours (tabletop position) on floor. Loop a resistance band around arch of right foot, then place ends of band under right hand, keeping band taut.

B.

Lift right thigh parallel to floor, foot flexed, heel over knee. 

C.

Keeping the thigh lifted, straighten leg on a slow 4 to 6 count. 

D.

Bend leg back in on a slow 4 to 6 count bringing heel in toward your glutes, then lower right leg next to left to return to start.

Sets:

1 per side

Reps:

Repeat for 90 seconds

Mistakes and Tips:

Scale it up: Lift arm opposite working leg straight out in front

5. Skating

A.

Tie resistance band around shins, keeping band taut. Stand with feet hip-width apart, then lower into a squat. Maintaining squat, step right leg out to side. Reverse movement, controlling band on its way back in while maintaining tension in the band and depth in the squat.

Sets:

1 per side

Reps:

Repeat for 2 minutes

Mistakes and Tips:

Scale it up: Place a glider under the right foot

6. Scrambled Eggs

A.

Start on all fours (tabletop position) on floor. Loop a resistance band around arch of right foot, then place ends of band under right hand, keeping band taut.

B.

Straighten right leg out to side.

C.

Sweep right leg back, bringing it in line with torso on a slow 4 to 6 count. Reverse movement, bringing leg out to side. Keep right leg straight and lifted throughout.

Sets:

1 per side

Reps:

Repeat for 90 seconds.

Mistakes and Tips:

Scale it down: Limit range of motion during the sweep.
Scale it up: Lift arm opposite working leg straight out in front.

7. Oblique Pike

A.

Start on the floor in single-leg plank on palms with left toes on a glider or towel. Hook the left foot over the right ankle.

B.

With straight legs, lift hips up into a pike position and pull the glider or towel toward chest on a slow 4 to 6 count. Reverse movement.

Sets:

1 per side

Reps:

Repeat for 60 to 90 seconds

Mistakes and Tips:

Scale it up: Add a push-up between reps

8. Oblique Thread

A.

Start on floor in plank on palms with resistance band under hands. Cross right leg behind left and position feet heel to toe. 

B.

Grab band with right hand, sweeping straight right arm up to the sky and turning torso open to the side on a slow 4 to 6 count. Reverse movement. 

Sets:

1 per side

Reps:

Repeat for 60 to 90 seconds

Mistakes and Tips:

Scale it down: Drop to knees with left knee stacked on top of right and hips turned open to the side.

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