London's best extreme fitness classes
Are you ready to feel the burn? These hardcore workouts take no prisoners
Mon Dec 29 2014
Keen to become a lean, mean fitness machine? Some say that the best – and most effective – way to whip that bod into shape is via an extreme fitness class. Luckily for you pain-seekers London's brimming with them – and Time Out's done the legwork and picked the most hardcore of the lot. Warning: not for the faint-hearted.
Popular with Hollywood starlets, a class at Barry’s sweat dungeon – a basement gym with just one room, fitted out with a long run of state of the art treadmills and lit like the Ministry of Sound – is said to expend 1000 calories. If you find normal gyms a bit too sissy for your tastes, there’s no doubt you’ll be stretched to your limits by a turbo hour of synchronised sprints and matwork sessions chez Barry. The music is loud, the work varied, and the sessions pass in a flash. What’s more, they are fiendishly effective.
- 16, Upper Woburn Place, (Entrance 163 Euston Rd), WC1H 0AF
Spinning class + nightclub? Boom! Inspired by US spinning cult SoulCycle, which counts Lady Gaga and the Beckhams amongst its A-list fans, classes at BOOMCycle’s Shoreditch and Holborn branches are sweaty, high-octane affairs. Here, the soundtrack to a cycling session is anything but an afterthought. Playlists are carefully curated to get the endorphins pumping, and some of London’s biggest DJs and record labels have been called upon to host special edition classes.
- 2-8 Scrutton St, EC2A 4RT
So you wanna be a boxer? Training like a prizefighter is not for the faint of heart, but the fitness benefits are manifold. No two classes are the same at this punch-packing Shoreditch gym, and you can expect to cover an assortment of fighting techniques from across the world over the course of an intense ninety-minute session. With core work, sparring, weights and cardio circuits all on the agenda, you’ll be stinging like a bee in no time.
- 16 Hewett Street, EC2A 3NN
Yes, a Pilates reformer looks suspiciously akin to a medieval torture instrument, but the results achieved after a few sessions on this mean machine are not to be sniffed at. A high-octane class set to an upbeat soundtrack, an hour-long session at Tempo Pilates combines weight training and dynamic movements with stretching and posture exercises on the reformer. Painful but effective.
- Studio 204, Netil House, 1-7 Westgate Street
Delete the ‘c’ and add a ‘ps’ and your standard gym-based cycle becomes part club night, part dance class, part spinning session. As the lights go down and the lasers flash, you’re told to get ready to ‘bounce to the beat’, make rave arms and move weights, all while cycling on and off the saddle. The instructors have the boundless enthusiasm of a ‘Fame’ kid: if you’re the type that can ‘lose yourself in the music’, this class is fun-filled cardio. Like the sound of a boogie in a bike-filled basement, instead of the usual strip-lit slog? Give Psycle a spin.
- 76 Mortimer Street, W1W 7SA
An intense, multi-disciplinary exercise programme, CrossFit aims to ‘prepare trainees for any physical contingency.’ No session is the same: classes consist of a series of short, but super-intense, circuits, taking in kettlebell swings, body-weight work and a heck of a lot of squatting. It’s painful, but the endorphin rush is worth it. Hooked? Sign up for the CrossFit Games, a gruelling test of endurance and fitness that was dreamt up for those who thought the Iron Man triathlon series was a walk in the park.
- 56/57 Ewer Street, SE1 0NR
It sounds like a Peter Andre B-side, but it’s worse – a workout from LA which claims to be harder, stronger and faster than any other. The fitness guru behind it is Shaun T, who says things like ‘You can never be the ideal person that you crave to be if you are not 100 per cent fully invested in being real and true to yourself.’ The session mainly consists of a fast paced series of leaps, bounds, springs, burpees, jumps, jumps and more jumps, but the instructor’s skill lies in stopping your jumps turning to shuffles when you run out of steam. It’s frantic, sweaty and very funny to casual observers. After 30 days, you’d be stronger than the other Mr T. You can try Insanity at all Soho Gym locations.
- Soho Gym, 193-199 Camden High Street, NW1 7BT
It’s easy to see why City types love Speedflex. It’s brutal and efficient. Less than ten minutes in, you can expect a face redder than a baboon’s bottom. The room is dominated by seven intimidating gym machines which calculate resistance based on your own force. The point is high intensity training without next-day soreness. Speedflex is about leanness rather than muscle building, so you won’t end up with Madonna’s arms.
- Plough Court, 33-36 Lombard Street, EC3V 9BQ
With a manifesto that includes ‘reaching to the deepest places in yourself’ (mightn't that pull a muscle?), Fierce Grace sounds extreme. The reality is a lot like Bikram, though not as sweltering, with postures that flow more smoothly. The classes range from 50 minutes – ‘The Fix’ – to 1 hour 46 minutes – ‘The Beast’ and involve a series of yoga positions in a 38C hot room.
- 200, Regent's Park Rd, NW1 8BE
Skinny Bitch Collective
London’s prettiest exercise clique counts the likes of Daisy Lowe, Suki Waterhouse and Millie Mackintosh among its devoted fans. Devised by personal trainer Russell Bateman, Skinny Bitch Collective classes fuse traditional conditioning exercises with moves that are a little less conventional. Crawling around the floor like an animal? Upside down burpees against a wall? Flick through the Instagram profile of any self-respecting It-girl to see the hashtag-friendly workout in action. This might be as close as you’ll get to the real thing, though – lesser mortals can take part in Bateman’s Saturday sessions by invitation only, with the waiting list longer than a supermodel’s limbs.
- Venues across London