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Fuse Ladder introduces students to a new Pilates apparatus (and forgotten muscles)

Students never just hang out at Fuse Ladder, a new class at the 14th Street Pilates studio. (Teddy Wolff/For Express)

At the just-opened second location of Fuse Pilates, get ready to climb. The 14th Street studio is up a flight of stairs, and devotes a room to its newest class: Ladder.

What it is:
Founder Mariska Breland never imagined she’d build “anything other than Legos.” But the buzz about barre workouts had her sketching schematics in search of a new twist to offer. For a tough standing routine, Breland wanted to incorporate spring weights for strength training. And she wanted students to be able to grab the apparatus at several heights — and dangle from it, too. “That’s a ladder,” explains Breland, who tapped a local contractor to turn her vision into a solid-maple reality.

Senior instructor Addie Ungaretti installed a prototype in her garage this summer, and collaborated with Breland to develop a repertoire of exercises. “My neighbors could overhear me working out and probably thought I was crazy,” Ungaretti says. The results, however, were crazy effective, Breland adds. The upright design allowed them to toy with balance challenges and hanging moves not possible on other Pilates equipment. So they had a dozen more ladders made for the new studio.

At Fuse, instructors begin all 55-minute classes by asking which three body parts students want to target. Ladder is no different, but legs and forearms always get extra attention thanks to the warm-up — a heart-pumping, 15-minute climbing series, followed by climb-and-leg-lift combos. Palms get sweaty, which is why the studio has pot holder-like pieces of rubber to help hands stick to the rungs. Then it’s time to attach springs to the sides of the ladder on a series of numbered hooks. (Higher — in height and number — means harder.) They add resistance to up the difficulty of squats, bicep curls, abdominal roll-downs and more.

“I was sore for days after my first class,” says Jen Yeh, 32, who’s worked out at Fuse for four years but isn’t used to so much climbing and dangling. As Colleen Sanders, 31, walked out of Ladder last week, she noted, “My legs are still shaking.” The culprit? Lunges on her tiptoes with one leg on the floor and the other on the ladder. “You know it’s a challenging class when pushups are the easiest part,” she added. (Breland told her that future pushups with feet elevated on the ladder won’t feel so easy.)

Watch out:
The springs are modifiable, and students can choose to use a different rung if they’re hurting. But those with severe shoulder injuries may want to stay away — or, at least, not try to hang from the top and tuck their legs into their stomach. (At a recent class, most students were too clumsy to pull that off anyway.) Also, grippy socks might help those with sensitive feet.

Details: Fuse Ladder is offered exclusively at the studio’s new location (1401 14th St. NW, New students can try two classes for $25, which is the price of a single drop-in.

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