In December 2020, Well+Good predicted as part of our annual Wellness Trends report that studio-quality fitness equipment would hit it big in 2021. And while at-home treadmills, bikes, and rowers are the usual suspects that come to mind for promising a good sweat, no single piece of equipment holds the potential to shake things up quite like the Microformer. The latest addition to Sebastien Lagree‘s hurts-so-good line of equipment is designed to blend slow-and-steady movements with bodybuilding principles.
The Megaformer—Lagree’s first and most well-known piece of equipment—which is most commonly found in-studio at places like SLT, Club Lagree, and Studio Lagree collapses an entire gym into one machine, according to Lagree. “You could have 5,000 square feet of machines, and the Mega will be able to replicate all those moves,” he says. Clocking in at 10 feet long, a couple hundred pounds and with a price tag of upwards of $9,000 for a restored (a previously used, but a refurbished) machine, however, renders the Mega less than practical for most home gyms.
That’s why Lagree created the Microformer, an at-home companion. “I thought: Why don’t I make a machine that operates like the Mega, but something that is smaller and easy to store? Something that is light, something that a [person] can actually just wheel in and out of [their] house and then just put it wherever [they] want?” Lagree tells me. He wound up doing just that. Here’s what to know about the new Lagree machine.
What is the Microformer?
In 2019, Lagree sketched out the Microformer and handed it off to his engineer to construct, but when the machine arrived, and he saw it in real life, his first thought was that it was too small for people to be interested in it. So, the Microformer sat in a warehouse for a couple of months until Lagree’s son saw the machine and urged his dad to sell it; the Micro was officially announced to the public in May 2020. “I had been wanting to be in the home market for many years, and so I planned to release the machine last year, before COVID-19 happened,” says Lagree. “COVID has catapulted the demand for the Micro, and people are actively looking for machines like [it].”
The Microformer is roughly six feet long, 50 pounds, and starts at $890. You can add accessories, like a back platform, back handlebars, and foot straps to customize yours for the workout of your choice, and each addition raises the price. It’s also on wheels, and the handlebars easily come off, so if space is an issue for you (read: you had to store a treadmill under your couch at the start of the pandemic, like moi, it’s a solid bet).
Much like the Megaformer, the Microformer works on a spring-loaded system of color-coded cables, but it offers a unique experience. While you can buy foot straps and arm handles to get in arm work or do isolation exercises, Lagree really envisioned that the Microformer workout would be used for macro-movements, like core moves (think: bears, saws, and plank-to-pikes), lunge moves (elevator lunge, runner’s lunge), wheelbarrow moves, and skaters. “I want to focus on the exercise that people can do on the go, and the exercises that activate the most amount of muscle fibers,” he says. “The workout is similar, but it’s not identical [to the Microformer], and that’s exactly what I wanted.”
The carriage on the Microformer is on a single rail and it’s much lighter weight than the carriage on the Megaformer, which means that the sensation as the bed opens and closes feels different. Oftentimes, different is harder because the body needs to exert more effort to stay stabilized, which activates intrinsic muscles. “When you get on the Micro, it’s all about keeping the constant tension,” says Lagree. “Your body is going to be way more challenged balancing itself on the Micro than on the Mega because of the light weight of the carriage, and because now we’re shifting to a monorail system.”
And because the Microformer is closer to the ground than the Mega, you can utilize the space to the sides of the machine for planks in a way that the Mega doesn’t allow. “With the Micro, you will not be able to all the isolation exercise you can do on the Mega,” says Lagree. “But you will be able to do more core exercise that you can do on the Mega.”
What is a Microformer workout like?
When COVID-19 closed studio doors in early 2020, I missed Megaformer workouts most of all, in large part because it’s a modality that’s hard to replicate at home. So, when I hopped on the Microformer and turned on a workout on YouTube led by Lagree, I was quickly transported back to my first day on a Megaformer at an SLT studio in Brooklyn. With my hands on the high handlebars, I pushed back into a plank and my core and arm muscles activated in a way that I hadn’t felt since being in a studio. By the end of the 50-minute class, my muscles were quivering and I’d had one of my best workouts of 2020 to date.
By the end of the 50-minute class, my muscles were quivering and I’d had one of my best workouts of 2020 to date.
Lagree is right that the Microformer provides a completely different sensation than the Megaformer—I found aspects of the Micro more challenging. Because the carriage is much smaller, it’s not designed for your body to fully lay down on it, so when the moves get really difficult as a result of cumulative effort, you can’t really phone it in. I also needed to engage my muscles to balance more than I did on the Mega, both because the Micro’s front and back platforms are smaller and because the monorail configuration necessitated more control from me. All of this translated to ample next-day soreness.
My favorite feature of the machine, though, is its proximity to the floor. When I was a beginner, unfounded fear of falling off the Mega sometimes keep me from going all-in on particularly muscle-quaking exercises, but I didn’t experience that same hesitation on the Microformer, which allowed me to consistently challenge myself. As the video instructed me to do floor movements like side-to-side planks, I also found my core and obliques activating in a way that I’d ever felt on the Mega. However, the experience is still close enough to the original that you can feel like you’re consistently getting the benefits of the core strength and endurance workout.
Ultimately, if I had to look five years into the future to guess how we’d all be working out post-pandemic, I’d put a hefty bet on Lagree’s vision. Lagree is working on sliders, an abs wheel, and an even lighter machine called the Nanoformer to make his low-and-slow workouts accessible to even more price points and spaces. Those innovations, knowledge that Megaformer studios are primed to open in all parts of the country whenever COVID-19 subsides, and new equipment like the Microformer now being available, all leads me to believe Lagree is about to be a household name. “I am always pushing forward,” he tells me. And our workouts—at home or in the studio—are better for it.
Try these Microformer workouts
50-minute full-body Lagree workout
40-minute training session with Lagree
Before you begin, perfect your plank
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