BY TISHIN DONKERSLEY, M.A.
Known for making the inflexible flexible, having trained over 12,000 clients including celebrities Nicole Kidman, Rebecca Romijn, Jennifer Aniston, Liz Hurley, and the current Mayor of Los Angeles, Sebastien Lagree’s fitness program blends resistance training with slow and steady movements to provide a complete workout that will get you fit and fabulous.
Growing up in France, Lagree had a passion for fitness starting from when he was 14 years old and idolizing Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jean-Claude Van Damme. “I grew up in the ‘80s watching Arnold and Jean-Claude, and I started to emulate what they did, and do as many weights as possible. I became obsessed with working out – so much so that I had insomnia, and at one time anorexia, because I obsessed about the last 6 percent of body fat and worked out 40 hours a week. What happened is that I ended up gaining weight, but thought I was doing the right thing.”
Lagree said that the mindset at the time (and oftentimes still today) was the more weights, the better – that was considered fitness. It wasn’t until he moved to Los Angeles at the age of 24 and began working in a chiropractor’s office that he began to witness the aftermath of this traditional fitness mindset. “I saw tons of men, regular good-looking muscular guys that you would consider ‘healthy,’ and they all had back problems, neck degeneration, and low mobility – some even had back surgery,” Lagree recalls. “They had been lifting the ‘traditional way,’ lifting for the larger muscle groups, not for the smaller muscles, and now they were all messed up. I started to envision myself in the doctor’s office 15 years later with these problems and didn’t want to end up like that. I wanted to look good and feel good, and started to recognize that high-intensity is important but it has to be effective.”
About 12 years ago, Lagree began developing his fitness program, which embraced resistance training that reduced stress on the joints. His program incorporates slow and steady movements and blends cardio, strength, core, flexibility, and balance. “When I moved to Los Angeles, I had to retrain myself, unlearn the stuff from the ‘80s, and be open to training methods. I learned that instead of counting repetition, it was more important to keep track of time – duration is very important and your body responds better to time, tension, momentum, and velocity. If you can manipulate those variables, it will trigger an adaptive response in your body,” he says. Over time, Lagree adjusted his training program to minimize the amount of time spent training (40 minutes three times per week), lessening the need to add weight lifting to one’s routine by using resistance equipment, provide a complete low-impact experience and allow time for the body to recover.
Lagree developed special machines for his program – the Proformer™ and Megaformer™ – by simply observing how people moved and their biomechanics. The machines are designed to work multiple muscles with slow and controlled movements and constant tension, to effectively burn more calories through muscle elongation and deconstruction or “failure.” Muscular failure occurs when the muscle can no longer move or contract concentrically, resulting in greater metabolic response. “I want to make every minute count,” says Lagree.
Once people caught on to his method, his clientele rose exponentially. “In LA, everyone wants to be in and out for the workout, so it has to be effective and efficient. When people, including celebrities, started to feel sore in all the right places, it was the perfect workout for them,” Lagree said.
Health advice for men
Lagree shares some fitness advice for men related to building muscle, weight loss, and overall health.
Excessive gym time is a no-no
Going to the gym or slinging around weights every day is not exactly the best way to reach your goal. In fact, Lagree says, “It’s a good way to quickly break down your body. Men, especially between ages 25 to 35, tend to work out too often, overwork their muscles and not allow enough time for the body to recover – and more often than not, they turn around and head back into the gym, risking injury or degeneration.”
Lagree explains that “the workout is catabolic, and you release energy when you move your muscles. After the workout, the body goes into an anabolic recovery stage – in this stage, you burn fat and produce a hormone to build the muscle. The problem is that guys work out too often, fall into an ‘overtraining syndrome,’ develop this chronic catabolic muscle state, and very quickly over-fatigue the muscles. By staying in the catabolic state, the muscles will degenerate instead of building because there is no anabolic/recovery time.”
Lagree believes the solution lies in strengthening the core. “If you want to get stronger, strength comes from the core, and people need to incorporate more intrinsic strength training. This will allow the bigger muscles to function,” he says.
Losing weight & H2O
“A guy can lose weight by drinking water. Water is a fat catalyst and breaks down fat. The misconception is to drink a gallon at a time, especially while working out, [not true], you should sip water throughout the day – the body can only hold so much water.” Drinking water certainly is one element in a good weight loss strategy, but the key lies in a combination of diet and strengthening, says Lagree. “You can lose weight by paying more attention to what you eat and developing a core workout. If you work the trunk muscles and the smaller muscles, this will also help keep the spine healthy.”
Get a workout partner
“I’m 38 and can’t work out on my own anymore. I need someone to workout with and push me. By having the right trainer or friend to work out with, he/she will encourage you and help you get those extra reps. It’s the emotional support you need, and some workouts are intimidating. That extra support can push you through the barriers.” Sometimes knowing that your workout partner will be there waiting for you is enough inner motivation to get you to the gym.
Depression can happen
Fitness and losing weight takes time, and one needs to remember it’s not a race – it’s a healthier lifestyle. When people decide “I’m going to lose weight” or “I’m going to be healthy,” and they set their fitness goals, Lagree said depression could develop. He says it’s common for people to over-train during the first two weeks, and because they don’t see immediate results and their body hurts, they begin to doubt themselves. “Stress [to reach fitness goals] happens when people lose the motivation and psychologically break down. If your body hurts, it’s telling you to give it a rest.”
Lagree is developing a program for teens that focuses on postural alignment. He believes that the low-impact method is healthier because their spine is still developing, even into their 20s. The program doesn’t add a load of weights onto their joints, and it institutes positive training habits toward a healthy lifestyle. “It’s better to train correctly earlier in your years and set precedence for your exercise routine,” Lagree said.
To learn more about Sebastien Lagree’s program, visit lagreefitness.com or, for Phoenix residents, start today at thebodylab.com.
*Before any strenuous exercise, please check with your healthcare provider.