SLT Review: Strengthen Lengthen Tone (Shit, Legs Tired)

If I’m going to spend money going to a boutique fitness class, I want to leave the studio feeling like I just kicked-ass. This usually means that the class left me dripping sweat with wobbly legs or spaghetti arms, huffing and puffing. That’s why yoga’s not my jam (although I have yet to try hot yoga – I know I’d be sweaty after that!) And I’ll only take a Pilates class on a day that I’m trying to take it "easy."

That being said, I’m not entirely sure what sparked my interest in SLT – Strengthen Lengthen Tone, a class that I believed was a yoga/Pilates fusion.

But hold on. Their website describes SLT as “If Cardio, Strength Training and Pilates Had a Baby.”

Huh? Now I needed to check this out.

SLT has been in New York City for 3 and a half years.  There are now four SLT studios in New York City (Midtown, SoHo, Flat Iron and the Upper East Side). The class is based on using a machine called the Megaformer – created and franchised by “fitness guru” Sebastien Lagree in L.A. in 2010.

This machine is SO crazy.

(The MEGAformer)

But let’s rewind a little. I visited SLT’s Upper East Side location, which shares a building with Flywheel and Flybarre on 67th Street between 2nd & 3rd Avenues.  SLT’s studio is on the 4th floor, and had I known what was in store for me, I may have taken the elevator.
When you walk into SLT it’s a little confusing at first because you’re already in the studio. It’s just one big space, and when you walk in, you might be walking in while another class is already in progress.

I let the receptionist know it was my first class and started to give him my name until I realized the iPod stand where I was supposed to click on my name. Hi-tech! The receptionist let the instructor know that it was my first class, which was greatly appreciated because this meant that I got a little run-down on the slightly (ok, really) overwhelming looking torture-device that is the Megaformer.

My instructor, Jacob, set me up at a machine with regulars on either side so I could follow along with them if I got lost or confused and proceeded to point out all of the main components of the Megaformer that I’d need to be familiar with for the class. Thank GOD for this little introduction – I would have been flopping around like a fish out of water had I not had a little knowledge about the different parts and pieces of the Megaformer. Megaformers are picked out as you arrive to class – they’re not assigned through the registration process, but since the instructor doesn’t have a machine of their own and floats throughout the class, there’s really no “good” or “bad” spot.  The entire front of the room is mirrored.

(As Seen From My Megaformer)

The entire back of the studio is a wooden bench with cubbies with some coat hangers too. No lockers, but you can literally put your stuff right behind whatever machine you’re working on so having anything stolen would be pretty ballsy.

We got started and the first thing we did was some ab exercise where we put our hands on the slider with our knees on the platform and pushed out as far as we could while keeping our hips up. I can pretty easily plank for a minute. I can do pretty difficult ab exercises. First of all, I started out doing this completely wrong. Luckily, Jacob came over and adjusted me.  As soon as I did one rep with the right form, I think I cursed to myself. This wasn’t going to be a relaxing class by any means.

Jacob led us through some ab exercises before moving on to a variety of different lunges that had me dripping and quivering and wanting to give up, in all honesty. This shit was HARD! 

Jacob was great at explaining it, great with encouragement, and great with counting. We also did an entire section of obliques.

Going into class at SLT, the core work was expected. But I didn’t realize how great of a leg workout you could get using the Megaformer! We even did Megaformer Burpees! OUCH.

The machine is awesome because you can change how much resistance is on the slider. Watching videos of people doing moves on the Megaformer makes it looks so elegant, smooth and graceful – I assure you I felt none of those things as I struggled through some of these moves.

SLT has its own language – with exercises called things like The Bear, The Catfish and The Mermaid, but I barely even realized those terms were being used because Jacob was so great at breaking each one down into manageable steps and movements.

(The wall full of words I don't understand in terms of SLT exercises...)

Unlike the workouts I’m used to – SLT wasn’t about seeing how many reps I could fit in a certain amount of time. The slower and more precise you are with your movements on the Megaformer, the more you’ll feel the burn, the more you’ll work your muscles, and the more you’ll want to take a baseball bat to this torture device!

One thing that was a little weird to me was the music. The class is high-paced, moving quickly from one thing to the other, but the movements themselves are slower and so it was a little weird to be listening to typical workout music and also weird when a slower song would come on – because I was still dripping with sweat and needing to be pumped up.

We did a really brief portion of arm work at the end, but as someone who lifts weights fairly regularly at the gym, this part wasn’t particularly challenging or exciting.

A few more things about the studio – no showers. But the bathrooms are stocked with some things to help you freshen up!

Each class promises to be different – there were tons of aspects of the machine that I didn’t even get to experience during my first class – there’s even some dumbbells hidden under each one! I definitely thing I could go to SLT classes regularly and never be bored.

(Hiding underneath!)

These classes are pricy, even by boutique fitness standards. SLT isn’t on Class Pass. You can get your first SLT class for $20, but after that, you’ll be paying around $40 per class.  My first thought was, “Oh, NYSC has reformer Pilates classes, I’ll just take one of those!” But these Megaformer machines are so much more than a regular Pilates reformer machine. And if the rest of the instructors are as good as Jacob, you’re paying for a really put together class (he even went around adjusting all of our machines resistances’ while we were on the other end for lunges).  SLT was listed as one of DailyBurn’s Priciest Fitness Classes Worth the Splurge

At the end of this class, I was certainly sweaty, and I certainly felt like I had given my muscles a GREAT workout. I could feel every single muscle I had worked during the 50 minute class. 

Understandably, $40 may not be something you can shell out for a routine fitness class. But do yourself a favor and take your first class for $20 before you write off SLT as a trendy waste of money. Find out for yourself why SLT owner Amanda Freeman describes it as “Pilates on crack.”