What have Rochelle Humes, Dame Kelly Holmes, and Kate and Rio Ferdinand got in common? They’ve all fallen for the charms of Chris Richardson and his Zero Gravity Pilates online workouts that have taken Instagram by storm. Back in March, the Zero Gravity Instagram account had 38,000 followers but since uploading daily workouts this has soared to more than 80,000 – and counting.
Around 10,000 people regularly now tune in. If you love Joe Wicks' workouts for his upbeat vibes and cheeky persona, you're going to love Chris, the 35-year-old co-founder and one-time trainer of Claudia Schiffer. He's not afraid to poke fun at the celebs he films with and he's such a charmer you can't even hate him when he has you pulsing in an already excruciating position.
What is Zero Gravity Pilates?
Up to now, Zero Gravity Pilates was mainly known for its results-driven Reformer workouts. When it had to lock down its five UK studios in London and Hertfordshire, the founders had to find a way to take workouts online. They came up with the 45-minute 'Pilates Ultra Mat' workout to give clients almost the same results as using the reformer bed – think long, lean muscles and six-pack abs.
The celebrity clientele followed them online and Chris persuaded them to star in his lives from their homes. Scroll through the studio's IGTV workouts and you'll see familiar faces including Strictly pro Diane Buswell and her influencer partner Joe Sugg, Rochelle Humes, Rio and Kate Ferdinand, Lisa Snowdon, Kimberley Walsh and Dame Kelly Holmes.
It's not every day you get to do a workout knowing famous faces are sweating it out with you; 70,000 people turned into the Instagram Live co-hosted with Rochelle Humes.
“The virtual classes were originally a stop-gap for our studio-based members until we reopened after lockdown,” explains Chris. “The success of our virtual classes, the following, and the endorsements from many celebrities has now given us a new business plan. The virtual sessions, which anyone can join, will now be the driving force of our business.”
The sessions promise to deliver serious abs and judging from the before and after shots (and the agony my core was in after about two minutes), this isn’t an empty claim.
Why is Ultra mat Pilates so good? We tried it
I tuned into Chris’ workout with Apprentice star Luisa Zissman (which has notched up over 35,000 views) and felt the burn in my abs within minutes. Chris explains that they first isolate the muscle they want to work and activate it so it's firing up. Then they 'fatigue' that body part with a high number of reps (this bit you will really feel). Lastly, they guide you through stretching and elongating the muscle to increase the length and range of movement.
The IGTV workout I tried, which Chris films from his living room, spent 20 minutes focusing on core and waist work, then 20 minutes on the glutes and legs and had me performing flutter kicks, side pikes, half-rainbow planks, along with donkey kicks, chair squats, and pigeon lunges. I hadn’t heard of half of the moves before and Chris admitted to naming the half-rainbow planks himself, with the moves scientifically placed together to work the body in ways it might not have worked before.
How can I join in?
Each day there’s a new class on Instagram Live (normally at 10am), some are saved to the IGTV channel to watch back. There’s also a subscription service for £3.96 a month (99p a week) for four Ultra Mat Pilates Zoom classes with the recordings of each live being sent to subscribers to do in their own time to work around their schedules. An app will be launching in August/September too, for on-demand classes.