It’s no surprise Kirsten King has good form. In her busy Sydney studio, King – the pilates powerhouse behind Australian fitness brand Fluidform – is leading me through an hour-long workout routine on the “cadillac”.

The cadillac is an elevated bed-like pilates machine she uses to train her clients, who include British singer Rita Ora and PE Nation designer Pip Edwards.

The Harry Styles song Watermelon Sugar is playing in the background, as one of King’s instructors – wearing a hoddie with the slogan “Feels like Fluidform” on it – runs a private reformer class nearby, in the bright and breezy warehouse-style Surry Hills studio.

Welcome to Fluidform, which – in nearly 12 years – has grown into a multimillion-dollar pilates empire.

It was founded by Sydney-based King, who has been a pilates instructor for more than two decades. Her first studio was in Waterloo (there are now seven operating in Sydney and Melbourne, with more to come), before expanding to Darlinghurst and Clovelly, making her one of the industry’s most prominent fitness identities.

On any given day, you might find King training Ora (while she is based in Sydney for The Voice), Edwards on the cadillac – or a member of the Sydney Roosters NRL team, on the “Wunda chair”.

Ora regularly posts her Fluidform workouts to her 16 million Instagram followers, describing King as her fitness “angel”. As for how the pair approach these sessions? “It was about balancing her [Rita’s] body out, showing her that she doesn’t need to flog herself to get a great workout and to really achieve the body she wants,” King says, of her sessions with Ora, who she trains 5-6 times a week. “We always work the total body – on one day, it might be more focused on the arms, the next it might be more hips and legs. The beauty of private sessions, or the small group, we’ll adjust the program to suit you.

“When the body is balanced, everything does its job – and what appears is, for that person, their perfect body, their most aligned. Then you work on strengthening these muscles in a lengthened way.”

As for the difference between a “pilates body” and one honed in the gym, King says it comes down to the mind, and “the ability for the mind to connect, to really feel those areas [of the body] work, the results are double”.

“If you’re just doing a workout, throwing your body around, being flogged, but you don’t really understand what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, you’ll just thrash your body. There’s no specific result that’s going to come out of that.”

Of course, Fluidform’s success doesn’t just stem from its A-list fans.

Two years before Covid hit, King launched Fluidform At Home – an online platform which now has 65,000 users in 90 countries (last year alone, King’s videos were viewed 15 million times).

King and her team are putting the finishing touches on a Fluidform app, to launch within the next month, marking the business’ next move into the digital space, following the success of Fluidform At Home.

“The objective was never to have an online platform that was in 90 countries around the world, playing over 20 million minutes last year. That was never my driver,” King says.

“My driver was to create a program that my current clients in the studio could have access to when they travelled or people regionally who didn’t have access to studios could use, and I could help them. It’s never been about opening more studios. It’s really important to say no, I am good at saying no – I’m not ready, or we’re not ready, let’s look after what’s in front of us.”

What King is ready for is the next phase of Fluidform’s expansion. There are six studios in Sydney – including Surry Hills and Clovelly – and one in Melbourne (on Glenferrie Rd in Malvern), run by Roxy Ogier, whose classes are in high-demand. Martha Kalifatidis from MAFS has raved about the studio, as have Nadia Bartel and Rozalia Russian.

In Malvern, clients can select from semi-private “studio” classes (limited to four people per session), and mat and reformer classes (“lengthen and lift” and “sculpt” are the common themes), with its newly-introduced pilates/barre hybrid, “Barre x Strength”.

King says the success of its first Melbourne studio is a key part of taking Fluidform to the next level.

“We would look to open about 10 [studios] more in Sydney, greater Sydney, New South Wales, in the next couple of years,” King says.

“And we’d like to have a super strong presence in Melbourne, within the next 12-18 months, [open] probably three to five more studios in Melbourne.”

Whether it’s in Surry Hills or Malvern, a lot has been said about the “pilates body” that Fluidform hones. So what does it mean, for King?

“The shoulders open and sit nicely on top of the ribcage. It’s the side profile of the client – their tummy is activated, and they’re standing that bit taller,” she says.

“Then, around the bottom, you can tell when they’ve hit 15 sessions – some of the key muscles we work are the high-hamstrings and then we work into the major stabilisers of the pelvis, and that help sculpt and pull in the bottom.

“You can tell a pilates girl. She stands taller, you can tell she is fit and strong but she doesn’t look fatigued.”

To achieve the pilates effect, King suggests “realistically, to see change you want to be doing three sessions a week”. “Two is fine, you’ll feel good and start to see things happen, but it won’t be as rapid as the three times a week,” she says.

“Three sessions in a studio is where we see the transformation. The equivalent of three sessions in the studio is about five 20 minute sessions at home, with Fludiform At Home.”

The growing success of Fluidform has meant King only sees a small number of private clients per week – occasionally, filling in as a teacher and taking classes. “I call myself the cover girl,” King says. “I step in and cover [classes]. I was teaching a lot until two years ago and I couldn’t continue to teach 30 hours a week and run all the businesses.

“I had to work on the business because Fluidform At Home is huge, the amount of planning is massive – the workouts, EDMs, comms, there’s a lot of work that goes into it. Coming back into the studio and teaching when I cover, I actually love it.”

Fluidform Your Body 3.0 – the six week fitness and nutrition challenge – starts on August 21. Register here.

Originally published as Meet the ‘it’ girl of pilates: Kirsten King on training Rita Ora, Pip Edwards and building her fitness empire

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