What is the difference between Lagree and Pilates?
You may have heard of fitness classes from brands such as SLT that use a machine called the “Megaformer” and thought, “Hmm that sounds very similar to the reformer. It must be a Pilates class.” You would be correct in that these machines sound similar!
These two machines can sometimes get confused if you are unfamiliar with them and their coupled methods. However, you would be wrong in assuming that it is Pilates. The Megaformer is a machine utilized in Lagree group fitness classes. It is not a reformer and Lagree is not Pilates.
Lagree even notes this on their website: “Lagree is not Pilates. Period.”
You may find yourself wondering, “How can they be so different with machines that sounds so similar?”
At a glance, I can see why one would think that: they are both forms of exercise, they are both performed on equipment that looks similar to one another, and both are done in groups (though Pilates can be done in a variety of different capacities, including popular individual sessions).
As someone who is a former Lagree instructor, a certified Pilates instructor, and three months removed from my Doctorate in Physical Therapy, I can tell you firsthand the differences in the methodology, machinery, and instructor/client training.
Lagree is a fitness method developed by bodybuilding professional Sebastian Lagree
Lagree created his own fitness method based upon bodybuilding principles familiar to him and with that, created his own machines to make the workout more effective. His machines have evolved over the years to include the Megaformer. In some ways, his machines are like the Pilates reformer. However, in other ways, they are worlds apart.
According to their website, The Lagree Method is “a high-intensity, low-impact exercise method” that incorporates “bodybuilding technique.” The Lagree Method removes breaks from the workout to ensure the participant is exercising for the majority of the workout duration. From the Instagram reels on the official Lagree Fitness account, you will see each exercise is performed at a very slow, intentional pace. And Lagree notes in his YouTube video, “What is Lagree Fitness,” each exercise is done for at least a minute which would mean there is not a set number of repetitions. Lagree classes do not typically have a categorization or a stated theme. However, this could vary at each individually owned studio.
The Pilates method is contrary in several ways
Pilates was developed by Joseph Pilates in the early 1900s. The original name of the method was “Contrology,” and Joseph believed the following six principles were imperative to each exercise in his method as well as overall health:
Joseph’s intention for his method of exercise was to be a system of movement designed to optimize human performance.
It was so widely popular that it continued after his death and was renamed “Pilates” to honor his legacy. Over the years, advancements in science have called for adjustments to some of the original exercises; however, the original principles still hold true today.
According to the Pilates Method Alliance, “Pilates is a method of exercise and physical movement designed to stretch, strengthen, and balance the body.”
Every Pilates class, despite the specific method, will try to encompass the above six principles in every class or session. The focus of a Pilates class varies based on your goals. Mobility, stability, cardio, and power are some of the adjectives that might be used to describe the theme of certain Pilates classes. Some studios may base the class on level of experience, and others may base it on the type of equipment being used (i.e., the Reformer or a chair). This shows a bit of the variety you can find in Pilates. With that said, Pilates exercises are performed at a variety of paces to challenge stability in different planes of motion.
The Lagree Megaformer itself is notably different from the Pilates Reformer
The Megaformer itself is notably different from the Pilates Reformer except for spring tension, foot/hand loops, and a moving carriage. The Megaformer has two standing platforms to perform exercises at both ends of the machine. One platform can be utilized for seated abdominal exercises similar to the box on the reformer. The Megaformer has several sets of “handlebars” that replace the footbar on a traditional reformer. These handlebars, along with a pole for balance assistance, are meant for standing exercises. From The Lagree Method social media, you can see very few exercises are performed on your back.
A reformer is equipped with the above-mentioned parts as well as shoulder blocks and a headrest to perform exercises on your back as part of the original Pilates repertoire and also new, contemporary exercises. At some studios, you may also find Joseph’s other equipment such as chairs, springboards (the “space-saving” version of his Cadillac), barrels, and a variety of props to perform exercises in a different manner, for a different focus, or for class variety.
Lagree is a fitness method, not a Pilates method.
Additionally, there are differences in the initial instructor training because Lagree is a fitness method, not a Pilates method. A typical Level-1 Lagree teacher training course will be over the course of two days to learn and teach the method. A typical Pilates instructor will likely have gone through a comprehensive certification. This includes learning to teach on the majority of equipment pieces that Joseph created (most often the mat, reformer, Cadillac, chair, and barrels), assessment and program design for the individual – and sometimes group, depending on the certifying body, as well as some sort of training embedded in the program on how to accommodate injuries or conditions during exercise. This is usually 450 hours of training over nine months (note: all training methods are different). Both Lagree and Pilates, however, do offer advanced teacher training for future instructor development.
The Megaformer may not be appropriate for everyone
From a physical therapy perspective, the Megaformer may not be appropriate for everyone. Lagree classes may require a certain level of independence to navigate the machine and a lot of the exercises are performed in a standing position, which may not be ideal for everyone. It may also not be the most specific training for some clients, such as those that need to work muscle power including sports and performing arts athletes. Remember that the pace of the exercises in The Lagree Method is slower with few breaks as noted above. The most updated guidelines from the American College of Sports Medicine require that power training be performed at a fast velocity with 3 to 5 mins of rest in between sets. (see reference below). Pilates does have the capacity to train power if accommodated in the proper situation.
I, too, thought Lagree was Pilates when I applied to work as an instructor. I enjoyed teaching Lagree for nearly four years and still enjoy teaching Pilates. I loved my Lagree regulars and loved my Lagree studio, but ultimately decided I loved the variety of equipment, bodies, and challenges Pilates gave to me.
If you are not familiar with either, Lagree and Pilates may seem very similar from afar. However, based upon origin, principles, equipment, focus, and training, they are strikingly different more than they are the same. I invite you to learn more about Pilates and how Reforming Foundations (my Pilates home), is changing Pilates for the 21st century.
Authors: Veronica Prieur, NCPT, SPT, Reforming Foundations Owner Brooke Alexandra, NCPT