“If cardio, strength training, and Pilates had a baby…it would be SLT,” runs the tagline for a new type of fitness classes.
SLT stands for “strength, lengthen, tone,” which sounded a bit too good to be true, but after taking one class, I am a firm believer that a 50-minute SLT class can give you a workout that encompasses all three modalities.
Born on the West Coast, SLT fitness now has five locations in the New York area, including Soho, Midtown, Hamptons, Rye Brook, and Short Hills. The basis of the workout is the megaformer, a machine that resembles the Pilates reformer machine—a raised sliding platform with handles and straps—except that the megaformer has even more bells and whistles.
I arrived at the SLT studio in Soho with only five minutes to spare before the start of class. Students were exiting from the previous class, but since there is a maximum of 10 students per session, there wasn’t too much chaos.
The studio has a changing room, bathrooms, cubbies for your belongings, and just enough space to fit the ten immense megaformers, which are rather intimidating looking pieces of equipment, especially if you have never taken a Pilates class. However, with a brief tutorial from the instructor, Allie Schwartz, they proved to be very beginner friendly with no adjustments needed for height or weight.
With each student on their own megaformer, the class started with a gentle warm-up targeting the abdominals, shoulders, triceps, and upper and lower back muscles.
Next, we moved on to multiple strength exercises targeting the deep, core muscles in abdomen, and mid and lower back. These exercises are much more taxing on the megaformer because of the instability of the moving platform. Then Schwartz showed the class a series to strengthen the side-abdominals (obliques) with challenging variations of a holding exercise known as the plank, called “teaser,” “corkscrew,” and “mermaid.” A basic plank is holding the ‘up’ position of a push-up.
According to Schwartz, oblique exercises on the megafomrer “are truly fatiguing” because they “force [the] shoulders and supporting muscles to hold you up” while also demanding “movement from the obliques.”
Even your legs are engaged to maintain body alignment on the megaformer, and if it sounds hard, that’s because it is!
After years of yoga and surfing, I thought my core could handle just about anything, but my abs were spent after these exercises and they definitely felt sore the next two days.
Fortunately, we moved on to legs, and not a moment too soon! Working the legs on the megaformer is economical because you are continuously working to keep your deep abdominals and back muscles stabilized during leg lunges and kicks while fatiguing your largest leg muscles (glutes, hamstrings, and quads).
We started with a series of lunges and finished with inner thigh and glute exercises. Throughout the entire leg sequence, my abdominals were engaged in order to maintain stability and allow my legs to work slowly and maintain control through the full range of motion.
Another fitness technique used throughout class was isometric holds and pulses. Isometric exercises are contractions of particular muscles done while the rest of the body is still (such as holding a push-up, or doing bicep curls). With its slow and controlled pace, SLT effectively works the slow twitch muscle fibers, which are the last muscle fibers to tire in isometric movements.
Throughout the class, Schwartz did a great job of correcting students’ alignment as well as modeling the exercises. People of various experience levels took the class, from first-timers (like me), to advanced students.
At $40 per class, SLT is by no means a cheap fitness class; however, when you research what a private Pilates session costs, you will find that SLT is rather economical. Plus you get your cardio in during the 50-minute class, making it a one-stop shop exercise class.
There are many ways to lose weight via exercise and diet and for those who are unhappy with their bodies even at their ideal weight, you might want to try SLT. From my past experience with Pilates, and now SLT, I believe that the megaformer machine can change the shape of the body in a way that very few exercise classes can as effectively. Needless to say, I am eagerly awaiting the opening of the new SLT studio near my home!
Elena Marks is a freelance writer specializing in health, fitness, fashion, and adventure travel. She is based in Port Washington, N.Y.