Solidcore Workouts Are As Hard As TikTok Says They Are
Here's what it's like to take a class.
Solidcore has over 5.1 million views on TikTok, and what feels like even more comments from people saying it’s the hardest workout they’ve ever tried. The class is a high-intensity, low-impact full-body strength training routine that’s done on a reformer-like machine, aka a gliding contraption similar to the ones you see in traditional Pilates classes. But the fitness studio isn’t like other serene, relatively chill Pilates places you may be used to. Rather, the exercise class takes place in its “blue room” underneath dim lights and features muscle-shaking moves designed to create muscle failure. (Gulp.)
In essence, Solidcore is Pilates’ evil stepsister (just kidding, sort of). While both are low-impact body-sculpting workouts, Solidcore takes the traditional modality to a much more hardcore territory — think Pilates on steroids. You’re moving through a grueling sequence of so-slow-it-hurts exercises on a resistance-based machine rather than gliding and floating through more restorative stretches in a regular Pilates class.
Because the workout is tricky, the studio asks first-timers to show up 15 minutes before their first class so the instructor can introduce them to “sweatlana” the reformer. This platform is spring-loaded, and throughout the workout, you’re supposed to add and remove them to adjust the intensity level as you squat, plank, and lunge your muscles into oblivion. I got the rundown and, with visions of TikTokers swirling in my head, found myself maneuvering into my first plank. Read on for what it’s really like to take a Solidcore class.
I walked through the doors of the blue room fully ready to exercise and sweat through my Target tank top. As a newbie, though, I’ll admit I was a little overwhelmed by sweatlana, even after the intro. Even if you can do a reformer-based workout in your sleep, this baby is decidedly different. As I stared it down, a trainer walked by and said that it might look complicated, but it’ll start to make sense as the class goes on. Much to my relief, that did end up being true.
Turns out there are numbers written down the side of the machine that cue you for exercise placements. While it can be tough to focus on the instructor with everything going on (i.e. holding your body in muscle-burning positions) they do say things like “put your knees at one!” or “keep your elbows at two!” over a loudspeaker so you can plank and lunge with perfect form. I was lost from the jump, but the instructor immediately came over to help (probably because I looked like a true damsel in workout distress).
What A Solicore Class Is Like
A typical Solidcore class includes 25 different exercises that stem from Pilates-inspired planks, lunges, and squats. It lasts for 50 minutes, and the goal is to move through each exercise in a slow, controlled way, usually to a count of four. That may sound simple, and it is — but it’s certainly not easy. Moving through these moves so slowly will literally make your entire body vibrate or shake as your slow twitch muscle fibers reach “muscle failure,” which is what helps your abs, arms, glutes, and obliques build back stronger.
As the class went on I quickly realized that understanding the mechanics of each move — like a gliding full plank into a half plank — doesn’t necessarily mean your muscles will cooperate. I was already shaking and quaking and sweating all over sweatlana before the end of the very first exercise, which made maintaining planks and lunges extra tough. Imagine holding a lunge as your quads and glutes burn and beg you to stand back up — the entire class is basically centered on this sensation.
On the upside, I definitely wasn’t alone in my struggles. I had strategically placed myself between two other people so I could look to my left or my right for moral support, and I noticed that they were also having a tough time even though it wasn’t their first class. Solidcore ain’t easy, you guys.
Over the course of the 50-minute class, everyone collectively struggled through things like high planks and side planks, lunges and squats, and eventually a couple of Bulgarian split squats where we (somehow) put one leg on the floor while keeping the other on the glider. Beyond that were other exercise moves that hit all muscles of the body, each seemingly more challenging than the last. The class finished with chest presses using cables attached to the reformer for good arm-burning measure.
Much to my relief, the instructor kept ensuring us that it was OK to take breaks, hold onto the reformer’s handles, or modify a move, which I definitely did towards the end of each exercise. In the mirrored blue room, I noticed that’s what everyone else did, too: Try a few rounds, then collapse onto the machine before getting up and taking another whack at it.
By the third exercise — a slow, slide-y lunge — all of my limbs were officially done. I was also so focused on rising up steadily on the platform that I noticed I was no longer hearing the top 40 music playing through the speakers. It was just me, sweatlana, and my slow twitch muscle fibers trying to survive.
But you know what? I did it. And, just as Solidcore had promised in their introductory email, I kind of loved the burn. As I stepped back into the light of day with jelly legs and tired arms, I could already tell I’d be sore in a good way, and that I’d be back to visit soon.
Santanielo, N. (2020). Effect of resistance training to muscle failure vs non-failure on strength, hypertrophy and muscle architecture in trained individuals. Biology of Sport. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7725035/
Wilson, J.M. (2012). The Effects of Endurance, Strength, and Power Training on Muscle Fiber Type Shifting. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e318234eb6f