Meet Michelle Obama's New Favorite Workout

The First Lady has been tightening up her core using the MegaFormer. We break down the exercise machine with experts at Solidcore and SLT studios.

Solidcore; Win McNamee/Getty Images

It is no secret that our very own FLOTUS is a fitness nut: she reportedly wakes up as early as 4am to hit the gym, does 90-minute workouts and launched national initiatives encouraging kids to start an active lifestyle early. Michelle Obama's exercise routine is always a point of interest, and lately, she's been spotted returning to Solidcore, a fitness studio based in Washington DC. While it only opened last October (yet is rapidly expanding across the city), the studio follows the Lagree Fitness Method, which has been around since 2001. The 50-minute sessions use the MegaFormer, a machine Solidcore describes as "a cross between a Pilates reformer and Total Body Gym." You burn around 600 calories per class and can bet on being sore for the next 24 hours.

For folks not in DC looking to follow Mrs. Obama's example, you're in luck. There are MegaFormer-based workouts all over the country, and we talked to Meg Bradshaw, a rep at Solidcore, and Amanda Freeman, the owner of SLT (Strengthen, Lengthen, Tone), a MegaFormer-based studio in New York, to break down the method.

What is the MegaFormer?
The MegaFormer is similar to a Pilates reformer but provides more options in springs, handle bars and pulleys, providing constant resistance in the hundreds of possible moves. It is a no-impact workout but provides a cardio blast, thanks to the ease in smoothly, quickly transitioning between slow-moving exercises. There are hardly any breaks, so your heart rate stays up. There's no cheating or being lazy. "Like any workout or piece of equipment, the MegaFormer is only as good as the workout you have on it," says Bradshaw.

What makes the MegaFormer a challenging and effective machine?
"Most of the workout done on the machine requires the use of multiple muscle groups, thus a more efficient and effective use of time," says Freeman. "The machine's resistance is controlled by various springs that add either instability or weight to every move performed during a class. The workout is done slowly, negating any momentum, and moves are performed until muscle failure is achieved. You get very, very sore!"

It's important to always be pushing your body further and further each time you workout. By adjusting your position or adding more resistance each time, you can constantly be getting stronger, leaner and more toned."

–Amanda Freeman, Owner of SLT

Which areas are you actually working out?
"At Solidcore, you get to reach all of the hard-to-reach muscles, including the stabilizing muscles in the hips and the small muscles in the core, like the obliques," notes Bradshaw. She describes an oblique-targeting move called the "French Twist," which is best described as pulling your legs straight up in the air in line with your shoulders on the machine.

Do you have to be of a certain fitness level to try the workout?
As intimidating as the machine may sound, the MegaFormer can work for you no matter where you land on the fitness scale. "There are modifications and variations for every move to make them appropriate for everyone from a fitness newbie to someone who's been on the machine 200 times," explains Freeman. "The workout tends to be very core-focused, so the stronger the core, the more comfortable someone will be on the machine from the start."

What tips do you have for someone new to the MegaFormer?
"Let go of expectations," says Bradshaw. "Solidcore is one of the hardest things you will ever do in your life no matter what fitness level you come in with." Freeman adds, "One of the keys to the workout is limiting the number of breaks taken between each move. Fast transitions are the key to keeping your heart rate up and burning calories." Another note for newbies: stick to your own rhythm. "It's important not to do what the person next to you is doing if it doesn't feel right for you," advises Freeman.

What common mistakes should you avoid?
"Sometimes we see our clients coming back a little too often," says Bradshaw. "We recommend three to four days a week maximum in order to allow your body to rest and recover. We love to push our clients to work hard but we also stress the importance of taking care of yourself and loving your body."

Find a MegaFormer studio near you, here.

Associate Editor at StyleBistro. I'm most likely writing, indulging my sweet tooth, or pretending to be Beyoncé. Follow me: Google
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