Long mistaken for a lie-down in Lycra, Pilates is now beloved for its full-body benefits and fast results. Here are the top reformer Pilates classes in the City of London.
If you’re looking for a workout that tones your limbs, tightens your core and increases flexibility and co-ordination, it’s hard to go past Pilates.
This method of training was invented to rehabilitate dancers and injured soldiers returning from the First World War, using low-impact, controlled movements to strengthen and lengthen your muscles while helping restore natural spinal alignment and creating a strong core to support the back.
Long mistaken for a lie-down in Lycra, Pilates is now beloved by athletes and celebrities for its full-body benefits and fast results, particularly when performed on a reformer. This long, low, spring-loaded carriage looks like a torture device and, when used correctly, will feel like one too.
Here are five of the best reformer Pilates workouts in the City of London.
‘Rhythm on a reformer’ is the best way to describe the Tempo method, which uses the beat of music to establish the pace for Pilates sequences and breathing patterns to match. The result is a dynamic, flowing workout with a yogi-like focus on mind and body movements that will leave you calm, centred, but also breaking out in a sweat.
The first half of the class is a choreographed sequence of single leg presses, crunches and flowing glute bridges that, once mastered, feels like a horizontal dance routine with the Pilates ring as your partner. Instructors somehow manage to keep impeccable time to the music, counting in cues and making adjustments as they move throughout the room. The second half is at the will of the instructor, with a focus on toning exercises for specific body parts.
First timers should bear in mind that this is a fast-paced method of Pilates, so starting off with a Beginners Only class is recommended, particularly if you’re unfamiliar with the reformer machine. Instructors spend more time demonstrating moves and shaping technique to ensure you are activating the right muscles. Standard classes pick up the pace, with fewer corrections, while the advanced Up-Tempo class breaks away from the routine altogether with flowing full-body manoeuvres that challenge your core, flexibility and stamina to capacity.
How much? £30 per class or £170 for a block of 10. First timers can try a class for £15.
Tempo Pilates E1, Unit 10 Avant Garde, 6 Cygnet Street E1 6GW
If you are the type to dismiss reformer Pilates as a ‘lie-down in Lycra’, try Bootcamp Pilates on for size. As the name suggests, classes are far more dynamic than traditional Pilates, as instructors add extra resistance and weights to the sequences to challenge your stability and burn more calories.
There are just 10 beds in the small studio off Brick Lane, so expect plenty of hands-on attention and correction from instructors as they take you through a vigorous warm-up sequence, followed by a series of targeted isometric manoeuvres that isolate and strengthen different sets of muscle groups on both sides.
Bootcamp runs beginner and standard classes, as well as Cardio Pilates for those looking to break a serious sweat. The HIIP (High Intensity Interval Pilates) method alternates exercises on the reformer machine with High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) moves like burpees and box jumps.
Adding calorie-burning HIIT to body-sculpting Pilates burns fat as it tones, while the HIIT concept of short bursts of high impact cardio followed by recovery benefits from Pilates as an ‘active rest’, lengthening and toning the muscles while you get your breath back.
How much? £27 for a single class or £190 for a block of 10. First timers can try two classes for £25.
Bootcamp Pilates Shoreditch, 63 Princelet Street E1 5LP
Traditionalists would probably argue that Lagree shouldn’t be on the list at all; conducted, as it is, on a specially-designed, souped-up reformer machine known, rather comically, as the ‘Megaformer’.
But there’s certainly nothing funny about Lagree’s 55-minute ‘Fusion’ workouts, which have been described as ‘Pilates on crack’ and reportedly count Meghan Markle among its devotees.
Founder Sebastien Lagree developed the Megaformer after spotting women hitting the treadmill after a Pilates class to keep up their cardio. Convinced he could deliver a Pilates class that got the heart rate up enough to burn some serious calories, he tricked out a reformer machine with an extra platform and bars at the other end, plus additional weights and pulleys for extra resistance.
Classes start with a core-shredding abdominal sequence of dynamic plank manoeuvres, followed by a series of targeted leg and arm exercises and a final core finisher. All moves are performed at a slow and controlled pace with constant tension and zero rest periods to keep the heart rate up and work muscles to the point of failure.
Beginners might struggle with the pace of the class to start off with – there really aren’t any rest periods, but classes are quite structured so you will get the hang of the quick changes eventually. The workout itself, on the other hand, is always a challenge – according to one instructor, the core sequence ‘never gets easier’.
How much? £30 for a single class or £240 for a block of 10. First timers can try a class for £15.
Studio Lagree Shoreditch, Nobu Hotel, 10-50 Willow Street EC2A 4BH
Studio Lagree City, 35-37 Chiswell Street EC1Y 4SE
Super slick boutique fitness studio Frame has more than 50 different classes on its timetable, including cardio, strength, dance, and pre and post-natal workouts, but its reformer classes are certainly no afterthought.
There are six in total; three levels from basic to advanced, plus a Power class with more energetic sequences and two express 45-minute classes that target key areas.
The Arms & Abs workout has a strong focus on the upper body and core, toning up the arms, nipping in the waist and building strength and stability to improve your posture – perfect for those who spend most of their time hunched over a desk.
Ass & Abs switches up the focus to the lower body, combining glute bridges plus inner and outer thigh work.
How much? Unlimited membership during peak times is £199 per month, or £99 per month off-peak.
Frame Shoreditch, New Inn Yard EC2A 3EY
Frame Farringdon, 35 Farringdon Road EC1M 3JB
Functional training principals make up the foundations of this popular Pilates operator, which has studios in Liverpool Street and Farringdon, as well as West London.
Rather than isolating certain muscle groups, Ten Health’s physio-led approach to Pilates integrates arm and leg movements to reflect the way we move in everyday life. These can range from plank press ups – sliding the carriage away from the footbar and sinking down to hover above the platform – to skaters: balancing one foot on the platform and sliding the carriage away with the other, all while doing tricep kickbacks with hand weights.
Instructors are great at explaining each of the moves, as well as their impact, going beyond the obvious benefits to muscle tone and strength to explain the impact of certain moves on your posture, balance and co-ordination.
Ten Health also has physiotherapists running some classes on the timetable, which are perfect for those recovering from injury and need a bit more attention.
Otherwise start with a beginner class, and the slightly slower pace will have you graduating to intermediate and advanced levels in no time.
How much? £30 for a single class or £230 for a block of 10. First timers can try a class for £15.
Ten Health & Fitness City, 119-121 Middlesex Street E1 7JF
Ten Health & Fitness Hatton Garden, Lower Ground Floor, 36-38 Hatton Garden EC1N 8EB