There are hundreds of fitness classes prepared to tell you how much they’ll make you hurt, sweat or smile, but which ones will actually ensure results? MF rounds up the best for any goal…
BEST FOR STRENGTH:
The Manor, London
Concrete. Metal. Sweat. OK, the Manor’s signature gym session sounds a tiny bit like prison, but then it’s designed to get trainees comfortable with the uncomfortable, pushing its participants with a blend of sled-pushing, tyre-flipping and load-carrying that’s designed to be manageable – if brutally difficult – for everyone.
Benefits: Grit / Strength-endurance / Athleticism / Fat-loss
Spartan Barbell Club
Spartan Performance, Consett
Deadlift. Squat. Press. Row. Learning good technique for the basic barbell lifts is an investment that will pay off for the rest of your fitness career, and there aren’t many better teachers than Spartan Performance, run by Natural Strongman Champ Jack Lovett. Chalk up, get strong and learn the basic biomechanics of moves every gym-goer should know.
Benefits: Absolute strength / Technique / Confidence on the gym floor
With a coaching team experienced in powerlifting, you’d expect this Belfast-based gym to prioritise big lifts – and they’re clearly good at it, with everyone from Hafthor Bjornsson and deadlift legend Benedikt Magnusson dropping in to teach or train. This session aims to improve grip, core and postural strength through a variety of loaded carries, sled drags and pushes, and animal movements.
Benefits: Muscle / Strength / Camaraderie
The Barbell Project
Power Athletics, Caerphilly
Learning the power lifts (back squat, bench and deadlift) and Olympic lifts (snatch, clean and jerk) can be intimidating, and programming for them – in a smart way that includes planned progression – is even harder. That’s why it makes sense to hand things over to the professionals with a class like this one. You’ll work in week-long phases to familiarise yourself before you really start pushing things.
Benefits: Technique / Strength / Explosiveness
BEST FOR MUSCLE:
Primal Gym, Edinburgh
Edinburgh’s Primal Fitness is big on bodyweight-based performance – featuring obstacle-race and Ninja Warrior-style gear, as well as adult gymnastics classes – but its strength-based calisthenics class focuses on some of the most challenging moves in fitness, building up from the basics to moves like the dragon flag, muscle-up and one-armed chin-up. You might never get to that last one, but the joy’s in the journey…
Benefits: Proprioception / Coordination / Core strength
CrossFit MTS, Edinburgh
There are CrossFit gyms hiding on industrial parks and under railway arches all around the UK, but CrossFit MTS is one of the most enduring, offering a blend of WODs and top-class coaching for the man in need of a better ‘Fran’ time. MTS30 is their get-it-done class: a 30-minute blend of bodyweight moves, gymnastics and lightweight lifting designed to energise you for the day rather than leaving you on the floor.
Benefits: Full-body / Time-saving / Variety
AGT x Nike
Fitness First, various locations
For this collaborative effort, FF’s standout HIIT session focuses on maximising athleticism with a blend of agility drills and metabolic conditioning circuits, taking place on the gym floor track so there’s plenty of space for carrying and sprinting. Dumbbells, kettlebells, box jumps and sleds ensure that no class is the same as the one before, meaning there’s always something to test you.
Benefits: Agility / Speed / Power
UFC Functional Fitness
UFC Gym, Nottingham
There’s plenty of scrapping on offer at the UK’s first UFC gym, but for non-contact physical conditioning its functional training class is the pound-for-pound champ, offering a blend of TRX training, high-intensity intervals and bodyweight moves designed to pack on lean, functional muscle.
Benefits: Fighting fitness / Agility / Joint health
BEST FOR FAT-LOSS:
Climb to the Beat!
If you’re unacquainted, the Versaclimber mimics the ‘natural’ motion of clambering up a near-vertical cliff (or ladder), taxing your lungs, heart and limbs to maximum while keeping impact non-existent. This session, designed to see just how high you can climb, isn’t for the first-timer – think of it as a stern challenge that comes with bragging rights as standard. One for the upwardly mobile.
Benefits: Low-impact / Cardio fitness
OrangeTheory Fitness, Various locations
One for the science-minded (and competitive) gent, OrangeTheory’s fitness-tracking tech displays your heart rate and performance data in real time, allowing you to theoretically keep yourself in the fat-burning ‘orange zone’… but also, er, to compare yourself to everyone else as you sprint, row and suspension-trainer yourself into shape.
Benefits: Competitive spirit / Recovery
Third Space, London
All-round fitness means targeting different energy systems – after all, there’s no point being able to tackle a 26-miler if you can’t chase down a bus. This Third Space class hits a key triumvirate of them, aiming to improve your speed, strength and endurance with a blend of rowing, squatting, swinging and high-intensity movement. Vrrroom!
Benefits: Speed / Endurance / Energy
Burning 1,000 calories in 45 minutes isn’t going to be easy – or pleasant – but anyone up for a stiff challenge can crank their metabolism into high gear with a mixture of sprints, slams and seemingly-endless burpees in KOR’s nightclub-style environment. Plan to sweat. Lots.
Benefits: Full-bore calorie-burning / Pain tolerance
BEST FOR MOBILITY:
Yoga for Lifting
There are (at least) 40 flavours of yoga competing for your attention, but this one’s specifically designed to improve mobility in your shoulders, lower back and hips – letting you hit bigger numbers on moves like the squat and Olympic lifts, and ultimately making you stronger and healthier. Strength, stability and flexibility. What’s not to like?
Benefits: Mobility / Injury-proofing / Isometric strength
True Function, Swindon
Can you really call yourself functionally fit if you’ve never tried the ‘Salmon Ladder’ or ‘Jumping Spider’? Of course not, so get yourself to the UK’s most stacked Ninja Training Ground and hone your coordination, proprioception and parkour with the help of Ninja Warrior veteran Dion Trigg. ‘Warped Walls’, ‘Devil Steps’ and the country’s tallest ‘Jumping Spider’ mean you’ll work everything from your first-step sprinting ability to your core strength.
Benefits: Obstacle racing prowess / Instagrammability
David Lloyd, Various locations
Taking your workouts outside occasionally is a good idea – apart from vitamin D from the sun, there’s evidence that looking at greenery for a couple of hours a week can combat depression. The trouble with traditional bootcamp classes is that they’re often a bit light on kit, but David Lloyd has fixed that with Battlebox, which combines sleds, weights and an elaborate metal rig to clamber on, providing plenty of challenge as you enjoy (or brave) the British weather.
Benefits: Teamwork / Endorphins / Sunshine / Grip strength
BarreCorre, Various locations
Sure, a ballet-based workout with bands and balls sounds a lot easier than 10 sets of heavy squats, but just try to keep up that facade after your third set of leg-trembling isometrics. You’ll expose your own weaknesses, hit neglected areas like your core and glutes, and build stability in positions you’ve never even attempted before. Leotards optional.
Benefits: Glute strength / Isometric strength / Ab work
BEST FOR ENDURANCE:
Barry’s Bootcamp, London
Barry’s doesn’t offer many options, but its signature workout – a blend of treadmill runs and weights – is carefully calibrated to wring every drop of effort out of you, with booming playlists and red neon combining for an experience that’s a bit like being in the 90s version of Blade. FYI: the smoothies are worth earning.
Benefits: Camaraderie / Metabolic conditioning
For the chap who prefers casein to cocktails, Manchester’s V1BE gym offers a Friday night experience that you won’t regret the morning after – think loud music, intense intervals and, err, the occasional live sax performance. Most classes incorporate a hefty amount of treadmill sprints, but GA1N includes plenty of upper-body work as well, making it ideal for anyone looking to build and burn.
Benefits: Stress relief / Endorphins / Lean muscle
There’s something very primal and satisfying about thwacking a punchbag as hard as you can. Something that inspires you to give your best effort, or at least flail away until your arms are limp and your lungs are burning. Rumble incorporates all of that, but then mixes it with footwork and other S&C drills to teach you the basics of boxing while you’re sweating.
Benefits: Punching power / Footwork
Bristol Ariel Rowing Club, Bristol
Is rowing the new, improved spinning? It’s arguably more unpleasant, better for your upper body, and might do something to redress all the hunching forward you do over your desk. More and more gyms are offering classes, but a real rowing club will nail your technique – and give you a chance to venture onto the water once you’ve logged
a decent 2K time.
Benefits: Grit / Endurance / Pain tolerance
Words: Joel Snape