Will Malibu Pilates Help You Achieve a Bikini Body?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Have you seen the infomericals for Malibu Pilates, the exercise chair endorsed by Susan Lucci? I've seen them, and they make some big promises: "Drop a dress size in 10 days! The most innovative blend of Pilates and aerobic exercise!" While I watch any fitness or weight-loss commercial with a healthy dose of skepticism, I do keep my eyes out for cool fitness products that look like they provide a good workout. As a Pilates instructor and enthusiast, I was immediately drawn to Malibu Pilates. I admit, I though it looked cool! But that's partly because I was already familiar with Pilates and the special "chair" at the center of this program.

While most people are familiar with mat Pilates, they might not know that Joseph Pilates also designed several pieces of exercise equipment. The Pilates Reformer is probably the most common and widely recognized piece of Pilates equipment, but the Wunda ("wonder") chair is another. These pieces of studio equipment are pricey. Most cost $1,000 or more (not exactly cheap exercise equipment for your house). If you don't want to buy one, but want to try one, you can expect to pay AT LEAST $20 per class (usually more) to use this equipment with a certified instructor at a studio or gym.

That means these amazing pieces of equipment—and the exercises you can do on them—are unaffordable and inaccessible to most people. Few gyms and studios have them, and even fewer people have the cash (or the know-how) to purchase and use these items at home. But more affordable versions of these classic designs are reaching the market for fitness enthusiasts to use at home; the Malibu Pilates chair is one of them.

How does it compare to the real thing? And what kind of results can you expect? I contacted the company to review their product and they were happy to send it to us. Before you drop the cash to buy one yourself, find out what I thought of the Malibu Pilates chair and its workout DVDs.

The Malibu Pilates chair and workout system was developed by Carroll Krieff, a certified Pilates instructor with more than 20 years of teaching under her belt. Not only that, she learned from one of the few "Pilates elders"—people who learned directly from Joseph Pilates himself. There are not many instructors in the world with that distinction. Knowing that Carroll was so experienced made me feel that this program was credible—not just another infomercial or "quick fix" like we see every day. She really knows her stuff!

The Malibu Pilates chair itself folds up and takes up about as much space as a large stability ball. However, I think it's worth noting that to follow the workout DVDs, you need a decent amount of space in front of and behind the chair, too. For example, sometimes you lie on a mat (if you have one) in front of the chair, so you'll need space for that. But then a few minutes later you'll be standing behind the chair and then lying on it on your stomach with your legs extended behind you. This would be difficult to do in a small or crowded space without stopping the DVD to move your chair.

The Malibu Pilates chair is lightweight but solidly built. I thought it was slightly awkward to move around because of its size but far from difficult. While you can fold it up (pictured above) to carry and store it away more easily, I think that could result in unnecessary wear and tear over time, so I'd recommend keeping it set up if possible. I thought the chair, which is padded, was comfortable to sit, stand and lie on—all of which you'll do during these workouts (more on that later). At first glance, I assumed that it wouldn't be very easy to use, but I was happy to discover just how simple it was to adjust the resistance (springs) and the footbar (you can use it as one long footbar for both feet/hands or two separate ones to work each side of your body independently). This dual footbar is a plus, as not all "wunda" chairs have this feature. The printed materials that came with the chair made this easy to learn, and the workouts on the DVDs always explained how to do it (without assuming you'd remember), which I liked. So right off the bat, I felt comfortable using the chair at home in my living room.

Malibu Pilates comes with four workouts (in 3 DVDs), all of which I tried.

  1. Malibu Pilates Basic Fundamentals (10 minutes): You'll find this same introduction on each DVD. It goes over some of the basic Pilates principles that you'll need to apply to your workouts: explanation of your "powerhouse," Pilates breathing, the C-curve, and a few basics and modifications you can use when you follow the workouts that follow. This one is much less of a workout and more of an instructional segment, but it's a must-watch if you're going to follow the workouts. If you've done Pilates, a lot of this will be review to you. If you haven't, then I'd recommend watching and following this several times (over time) so that you're really able incorporate these principles into the workouts themselves to get more out of them.

  2. 20-Minute Malibu Pilates Makeover: I tried this DVD first and thought it was a good introductory workout to using the chair. It targets your abs, triceps and shoulders (for the most part) and moves at a slow pace. You perform 10-20 repetitions of each exercise and do lots of footwork, which may seem repetitive since it's not well explained how the small changes you make in foot position actually change the focus and intensity of the exercise. Some mat Pilates exercises (single leg circles, corkscrew) are also included as part of this workout, which bothered me a little bit since I really just wanted to use this fun new chair as much as possible!

  3. Total Dream Body Sculpting Workout (45 minutes): This DVD says it'll combine Pilates with "cardio blasts" to blast fat, torch calories and help you lost fat and inches. I was hoping to try some new exercises, but it's mostly the same exercises in the 20-minute routine—you just repeat them more often. There were a few new moves, which I appreciated, but it was a lot of the same. As for the cardio blasts, I'm not sure I buy it. My heart rate did not elevate to an aerobic level and the "blasts" only lasted a few seconds. It's a good workout, but really isn't a cardio workout.

  4. Mari's Dynamic Sequencing Workout (30 minutes): This was my favorite DVD in this set. It included a lot of the same exercises as the first two workouts, but it moved a little quicker from exercise to exercise and I really liked Mari's (that's Mari Winsor of Winsor Pilates fame) teaching style and creativity, which helped some of the same exercises seem new and different.

Overall, these DVDs provided good, classic Pilates workouts using the chair. They did offer some modifications (one person in the DVD was always modifying, which Carroll and Mari both pointed out throughout the workouts), but a few of the exercises, I think, are still way too intense for beginners to attempt; that could make some people feel defeated, but Pilates is challenging and with practice, you CAN work up to the full exercises over time. I liked the exercises and the workouts—I thought they were challenging for the core and the other muscle groups, too. Plus they were fun and different than your usual strength-training and abs exercises.

My co-worker Tami got to try Malibu Pilates, too. "Honestly, I tried it and I actually love it!" she said. "I get bored with dumbbells and crunches and this actually has motivated me to do these exercises and spend more time on my core, which is generally hard for me to do."

Teaching Pilates isn't easy, especially when you're on a DVD and not at home with the person, helping to explain and correct them in a way that they can understand. I think the DVDs did a good job explaining some of the important concepts and setting up each exercise. For example, Carroll would start every exercise with reminders to sit tall, engage your powerhouse, relax your shoulders down, and more. This is very important, and I'm glad these cues were included, because if you don't do these things, you won't be doing the exercise correctly or benefiting from it as much. However, it also slowed things down a little too much for me—and definitely takes away from any type of "cardio" that this workout plan promises. As you progress, you'd know to do these things and you could probably move from exercise to exercise more quickly to avoid downtime. Better yet, once you really learn the exercises and the proper form, you could blast through these workouts on your own and be more likely to elevate your heart rate than by following the DVDs.

Overall, I'd recommend Malibu Pilates to a Pilates enthusiast who wants to use a Pilates chair at home without breaking the bank. Malibu Pilates is pricey—over $300 for the chair and the DVDs (when you read the fine print upon ordering at www.MalibuPilates.com, you pay $14.95 plus $29.95 S&H, plus six additional monthly payments of $49.95). But that's a fraction of the cost of the studio equipment ($1,000 and up) and it'll save you money if you don't want to pay for classes at a studio.

As to whether it'll help you lose inches fast and flatten your belly, I'd say to exercise your best judgment. Infomercials make lots of claims to entice you to buy and this one is no exception. The results you see on the infomercial might not be typical, but I firmly believe that if you commit to this exercise program, coupled with a good diet, additional cardio and consistency (all of which are recommended and detailed in the Malibu Pilates package you'll receive), you could very well reach your goals. After all, we see people reach amazing goals all the time at SparkPeople by incorporating these same principles.

Do you think the Malibu Pilates infomercials are enticing? Would you like to try the Malibu Pilates chair?

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Awesome article! Report
It sounds interesting, but too expensive for me. Report
I just read your review of the malibu pilates chair - susan's variety. I purchased one some time back but haven't used it. I closed it and somehow locked the foot stand and now I can't get it to extend out for use. I also lost the original papers/instructions for assembling it so I don't have anything to refer to. I'm wondering if there is anyplace online that I can get that information. Otherwise the chair will be a complete loss as I can't use the pedels at all. I really hope you can help me. Thanks! Report
I have one of these. I personally love it. I like the 45 min workout. Great if you like pilates. As for wear and tear, I've been taking mine up and down for over 5 years now. No signs of weak structure. This is a well built chair. Report
I bought 2 of these @ the thrift store. 1 for 5 dollars (without springs, 1 for 10 dollars w/springs) I found similar springs that work just fine. So they are out there for very cheap prices. I absolutely love both of them. I can now work out w/a friend. Then ordered the 20 min. makeover dvd for 20 bucks. What a deal...what a great workout. Report
I have this chair. I can't say that I really like it. I bought it a long time ago and thought it looked wonderful on the comericals, but the peddals hurt my feet. I now utilize it for a workout bench. Report
I think it's something I would like but I can't see that I would like it enough to justify the cost, especially since the "unnecessary wear and tear" would be necessary for me, in our little space, thereby increasing the likelihood it would break. Report
I have a malibu pilates chair and bought the sculpting handles to add intensity. I LOVE IT!! Report
ALERT *** I considered buying one of these chairs, but before I did I read customer reviews online. Over and over their customers listed the chair as cheap quality and mentioned that the springs break. One reviewer said that when she called Malibu and was told how much she would have to pay for the broken spring when she complained the Malibu rep told her that they make no promises that their chair will not break. I chose not to waste my money. Report
Maybe before I purchased my Total Gym. Report
While I have no experience with Malibu Pilates, I imagine that their chair is to a studio-quality stability chair what the Pilates Performer is to a really good Stott Pilates or Balanced Body reformer. ...Which is to say that it's perfectly serviceable and you can get a great workout if you are self-motivated (and also don't expect it to feel like a high-end piece of machinery.)

As a pilates instructor, I can tell you that the stability chair is fabulous. Clients who struggle with mat exercises LOVE working out on the reformer because it provides support and feedback, but also yields results. The chair is like that, but in some instances, even more so. It's a great tool for pregnant women, the elderly, and those who are overweight because many exercises are performed sitting or standing. And for individuals who don't have difficulty lying down, being upright actually adds to the workout, since the core is constantly engaged, trying to maintain that tall, vertical position.

Also, the versatility of a chair is hard to beat. When I was doing my instructor training and was first learning the exercises, I had countless "a-ha!" moments: no body part will feel neglected if you are willing to get creative and think outside the box. Report
I've wanted that chair for a long time but would only buy it on its own, not with an expensive set of DVDs. I just want the chair.

Thanks for the review. Report
i am so glad that there is someone out there reviewing these things so i have an idea of what to buy and what to pass over. Report
I have a pilates reformer that I bought from QVC....it is a great piece of equipment and I paid $300.+ for it 5 or more years ago. I loved the workout and the DVDs that came with in ...it also has a rebounder that is like a trampoline that you jump on to do cardio. Check them out on QVC. Com Report
I happened upon this article just this morning, having researched the Pilates Chair yesterday morning on Craigslist. Thank you Nicole for your informative review. I have been mulling this over for a few months. It looked like such a wonderful way to change up my routine. I found one yesterday for $75. if I am willing to travel to pick it up...about 30 minutes away. Now, I need to get downstairs this morning and reconfigure my family room for the much needed room it takes to follow the instructional DVD. Still deciding. I'll get back to you on how it works! Report
No, I wouldn't be interested in buying this Wunda chair. I don't own much equipment (an elliptical, a weight bench with several free weights, and a stability ball), and use the elliptical the most. I prefer my bike and the outdoors! Still, very good review, Nicole, as always! Report
I just called the 1-800 number and the girl who answered said the weight limit was 300 pounds. Report
I bought one. The first time i used it i was impressed. You really put muscles to work that you don't use . I haven't been faithful in the use of it. but reading your post. I think i will start using it again to see if it will help me reach my goal weight.. Report
What is the weight limit for this product? Does anyone know? Report
I actually think it could put a 'real whoop' on the standard Pilates done without the Machine that they were done for! I'd love to try it!
I don't think I would invest the $ into this. I have a lot of exercise equipment and sooner or later, it gets put away and not used. Report
Great article - seems intriguing. We don't have the room in our cabin so thanks for that tip... I'll just keep working out in the space we have. Report
I want to say that I like to find out what is out there to help with exercise. I can't afford to buy it but it's good to know. Thanks to Spark for the information.
Ouch. $300 IS pricey! Sounds like a GREAT product, but just too much $$.
I think I'll stick with YOUR youtube workouts, Nichole!
THANK YOU and THANK SP for making exercise not only fun but also accessible!
P.S. - when are you going to make up a new 10 minute workout for us? :) Report
Would love to try it. But, as others have said ... too pricey for my wallet. Thanks for the detailed review. Report
I don't have the space - or the money - for this kind of equipment, but am looking forward to taking my first Pilates class on Monday night at the gym. Report
I never watch infomercials. I love the product reviews SP does, thanks so much! Report
Informative evaluation of the product (and I like the very sensible conclusion that if you follow this program after your investment in buying the chair and DVDs, you may reach your own goals) but I must object to the sensational headline. Objectively there is no such thing as a "bikini body." Labels like this encourage us to judge our bodies and others' as worthy or unworthy of a bikini, something I don't think Sparkpeople promotes. It's about reaching your own fitness goals and a healthy lifestyle, not just looking hot in a skimpy swimsuit, right? A "bikini body" is, really, a body that feels comfortable in a bikini, regardless of specific aesthetic criteria or the judgment of others, so let's take this term (and the judgment it implies) out of circulation altogether. Report
Thanks so much for the review!!! I just ordered the Malibu Chair!! I've been wanting a Wunda Chair for a long time...but it was just too expensive. Report
Your reviews are always useful, Nicole. You balance the hype with good sense and experience. Thank you for that.

I've never done Pilates. I would like a stronger core, but will continue to use other means to get one. Knowing me, owning exercise equipment does not automatically mean I would use it regularly. Report
I would be glad to try it, but then, there are few things that I am not willing to try. :) But I would be totally unwilling to spend $350 on something that I don't know that I would use frequently. Report
I will wait until I can get it at a YARD SALE or on Craigslist for about $20. I see "informercial" products at both places all the time. Report
No thanks. The floor and gravity are free. I've spent probably less than $50 on my ball, weights, and jumping rope combined, by watching local sales. Videos are easy to find at the library and rummage sales.

For $300, I can join the Y and go swimming! Report
I would love to try this. I honestly have a hard time losing weight with cardio, but pilates has helped get it started. I'm just kind of in a rut with the exercises that I've been doing without pilates equipment. Report
I just learned about a stability ball chair yesterday and with my sciatica, I think I'd get that before I got a pilates chair. Report
I bought this through e-bay and paid just about 100$ for it. I didn't find it hard to put together, but I have a difficult time with the springs.....moving them back and forth so I can fold the chair and put it away. Honestly, I have not used the chair enough times as of yet to tell whether or not I like it or not. I did find the exercises hard to do for me, though.
I am still using my lateral thigh trainer which has really helped me tone up my legs.....and I get my cardio combined with strength training for my legs....and it is easy to get in and out, and I also use my stationary bike.

Thank you for the detailed review of this product. :) Report
The one piece of information that is just about always missing is: IS IT CAPTIONED? speaking to access, that lack is the number one reason many people who could benefit from exercise, don't.
Kat Report
I would love to give it a try :) Report
I have the chair and I love it. I bought my at HSN. Report
wow! Sounds like something i might want to try! Report
I love Pilates. I have a bad back and this is one exercise routine that I can do without pain. I would definitely love to try this!
Pilates has not caught my interest yet, but I want to post to say how much I enjoy reading your articles. Content aside, what delights me about reading you is the grammar and punctuation are perfect and do not make me cringe. Thank you for knowing the difference between 'it's' and 'its', and for knowing that use of an apostrophe is for contractions and to show possessiveness, not for pluralizing words!

Chellie Report
It's cheaper than a gym membership but still a lot of money to try Pilate. One could achieve the same results by doing basic exercises using very inexpensive equipment. Just my two cents. Report
I have seen the infomercials and honestly thought " rhat sounds so good" but...
I cannot afford it so will stick to home exercise and doing my own thing. Report
I'm not at all tempted although I appreciate Nicole's very thorough evaluation of this, and other products. But I have a garage full of this stuff and every year there's a new "toy". I have found that a good healthy gym routine and a heavy dose of common sense works a lot better for me....and it's cheaper! BTW, anyone wanna by an Abs buster? *grin* Report
I love the in-depth, thoughtful review, the carefully balanced pros/cons, and the gentle caveat about price vs. value.
My guess is that Coach Nicole has done quite a bit of Pilates so the instructions are sufficient for her, but, having done only one trial Pilates class in my life, I bet I'd get permanently lost around the first C-curve. I think I'll stick to my ball, bands, weights, and feet. Report
LFINKENB: I'm interested in the Total Gym and I see that you have one. Do you recommend it? What's your opinion.
Thanks Sandra Report
My daughter bought one of these brand new on E-bay for $79 with free shipping. She loves it, but I am still too overweight to use it. I'll have to "borrow" it when I have dropped some more weight. Thanks for the review! You just never know when to believe an infomercial and reviews like this really help. Report
Thank you for the review. I saw the infomercial and I was curious as to what people thought about it. Thanks! Report
I never believe the hype infomercials peddle. Every late night infomercial has a gimic to help a person lose a dress size (or X inches, pounds) in ten days. I think that must be a catch phrase for "there's a sucker born every minute".

$300+ is an awful lot of money for a "pilates" setup. If I'm going to pay that much, I might as well go all the way and buy a reformer.

If the price was more reasonable, I would consider buying it. I've done pilates mat as well as reformer work. I've had results with both. So, adding the chair would be a good way for me to vary my routine.

Too bad it's too expensive.