Every fitness method has its master, and the Megaformer’s is LA-based Sebastien Lagree.
The former French bodybuilder (and Fabio doppelganger) is the visionary and architect behind the re-imagined Pilates Reformer machine. He also choreographed the muscle-quivering, super-sculpting cardio workout that goes with it. And in the past 12 years, the machine and workout have exploded in popularity on the West Coast, prompting expansions across the country, in New York, and around the globe.
But unlike Joseph Pilates, Lagree hasn’t attached his name to the Megaformer style workout, so the many women obsessed with training on his machine have probably never heard of him.
Birth of the Megaformer
Lagree moved to LA as a personal trainer 15 years ago, and while he was a bodybuilder at the time, Pilates was hot and in-demand, so he agreed to teach it. “Right away, I noticed that clients were taking Pilates and then going to the gym for their cardio,” he says. “I said ‘I could incorporate cardio into this,’ and I did.”
It sounds simple, but the machine he created, the Megaformer (the first version was called the Proformer), is anything but. It’s an upgrade on the standard Pilates Reformer, but it also carries an entire system of new movements with it.
And while his method is called Lagree Fitness, he left his name out of the expansion formula, choosing to license the method and sell the machines to individuals, rather than franchising or owning studios (he has just one in West Hollywood.) The result is a variety of locations that most people don’t realize are teaching his method—from Pilates Plus to SeaFit to SLT.
The decision was strategic on a couple fronts. “I think the owner works so much harder at promoting the workout if they feel that it’s their own,” he says. And he hates the day-to-day grind of running a studio: “Fuck it, man, it’s not for me.”
The method takes off
Many others, however, are lining up to open Megaformer studios. Since 2001, Lagree has licensed 135 locations across the country, and in Australia and Canada. In New York, SLT just opened a second Manhattan location and will head to the Hamptons and New Jersey soon. Classes can cost up to $40. He’s also licensing to studio owners on new continents, so pack your grippy socks when you’re next in France, Sweden, or Brazil.
“Within the next three years, we’ll have over 500 locations. The demand is there,” he told us on a recent visit to New York to celebrate the opening of Brooklyn Bodyburn, the first outer-borough Megaformer spot, where he looked at floor plans, helped with spacing of the machines, and was always available to answer questions, says founder Tracy Carlinsky. “For such a busy guy, he’s very easy to get in touch with.”
His real passion, though, is the machine itself, and while he’s upgraded it three times since he created it, he’s currently working on three new iterations of the Megaformer. Like Apple, he seems to debut a new version each year.
“Sebastien’s never complacent or happy to just stick with what he’s created,” says SLT owner Amanda Freeman, who previously worked in trend forecasting. “His vision and focus on the future, I find very inspiring.” —Lisa Elaine Held