From its heart-rate-spiking hills to its rabid bike commuter scene, San Francisco is a fit city. And if you’d rather get your workout in from the comforts of a gym, there’s no shortage of options. San Francisco is awash in boot camps, circuit-training programs, well-stocked weight rooms, Olympic-sized pools, and cardio and yoga studios. Whether your preferred calorie-burning method involves sparring, climbing, running, or barre, there’s a local gym to ramp up your routine. Here are the best of the bunch.
Best gyms San Francisco
Basecamp is designed for those who want the most rigorous workout in the least amount of time—no mirror selfies or dawdling around the weight rack. The gym is known for high-intensity interval training that blends strength sets and cardio. You’ll rotate different exercises every minute for 35 minutes (with a gasping, 10-second break in between). The fast-paced group workout typically involves some combination of the assault bike, floor exercises, and props like barbells, sandbags, kettlebells, resistance bands, and pull-up bars. (Don’t worry, beginners: Every move is demonstrated on multiple flatscreen TVs, so you can follow along.) The result is full-body conditioning in the fraction of the time as other classes.
Originally opened in 1977, the Bay Club was the first co-ed club in the country. Despite its relatively advanced age, the 11,000-square foot private fitness center has been fully modernized in the ensuing years. In addition to two cardio rooms and a weight room, the gym touts squash and racquetball courts, a basketball court, and two heated 20.8-yard pools: one for laps, and one for recreation. Group classes run the gamut from zumba and barre dance to vinyasa yoga, tai chi, and bodypump. In addition, the club provides welcome perks like an in-house spa, child care, and free shuttles that circulate throughout FiDi.
Run by husband-wife duo Bryan and Justine Sharfi, this pair of gyms is best for those who crave one-on-one attention, whether that’s through personal training sessions or small group classes. The intimate classes—which range from TRX and boxing to functional strength training—are capped at eight people, so you won’t be crowded into a corner or up-close-and-personal with a sweaty neighbor. The gym’s team of trainers all have kinesiology or exercise science degrees and are skilled at tailoring workout regimens to suit individual needs. (Nutrition counseling and clinical bodywork is also available.) Both light-flooded facilities are equipped with showers, complimentary towels, dressing rooms, and free coffee and tea.
Live Fit is a great option for those who want access to machines and yoga classes without exorbitant membership fees or frills (read: showers). The chain operates six locations throughout the city. Each is stocked with rowers, bikes, TRX and cable systems, dumbbells, free weights, and more. The group yoga classes are free with membership, while Live Fit classes cost an additional $10 a month. Those max out at 10 people per class and are led by a personal trainer who gives individualized feedback. In addition to the basics, Live Fit also offers massage therapy, chiropractic care, facials, and acupuncture for an additional fee.
This inviting circuit-training gym has amassed a devoted band of regulars. It was founded by Simon Redmond in 2003, a boxer and one-time Golden Glove Champ. His philosophy involves a high-intensity combination of boxing, TRX, and strength training. The 5,000-square-foot space is lined with 20 heavy bags, 30 TRX stations, medicine balls, slam balls, dumbbells, climbing ropes, chin-bars, dip bars, and more, whether you want to train in a group or on your own. Redmond offers one-hour boxing and TRX classes, as well as a popular four-week boot camp that melds elements of boxing, cardio, strength, and circuit training. Both facilities include showers, changing rooms, free towels, and indoor bike parking.
This spacious neighborhood gym has a little something for everyone. There’s a three-story rock wall for climbing, an indoor cycling studio, a wide array of cardio machines, and a strength room with multiple squat racks and free weights. The so-called power-studio features TRX suspension systems and boxing bags, while the core studio is decked out with ballet barres, Pilates rings and reformers, and yoga mats. You can check out group classes like zumba, martial arts, cross-training, yoga, and cycling, or sign up for private Pilates sessions or one-on-one training. The locker rooms—already outfitted with a steam room, sauna, and showers—offer the added bonus of a Laundry Locker, which provides dry cleaning and laundry services.
You could be forgiven for associating the Y with bare-bones equipment and dated facilities. Not so at the Embarcadero YMCA, which completed a year-long renovation in 2018. The four-story building has always been a stunner, thanks to bay-facing windows overlooking the Bay Bridge. Now the updated digs have higher ceilings, an expanded workout space, new machines and flooring, and a retrofitted locker room. The facilities include a cycling studio with new Keiser M3 bikes; a cardio floor lined with machines and weights; a TRX/Pilates studio; a basketball court; and two group exercise studios for classes like body pump and yoga sculpt. But the biggest draw may be the pool area, which touts a lap pool, activity pool, and jacuzzi (all were drained and deep-cleaned during the recent renovation.) Cool down on the gym’s landscaped rooftop garden, which is dotted with lounge chairs and picnic benches.
San Francisco’s oldest climbing gym is still its best. The community-oriented space has a 50-foot-high lead wall and 23,000-square-feet of climbing terrain, spanning slab walls, steep overhangs, dihedrals, crack systems, and corners. (The five-story walls provide more than 200 top rope and lead routes.) In addition to climbing, the spot maintains a well-equipped weight room with free weights, rowers, and machines, as well as a number of treadmills, bikes, and ellipticals. Group classes include sparring, cardio boxing, yoga, and—of course—intro to climbing. The locker rooms have free towel service, saunas, and showers.
From the bass-heavy soundtrack to the moody red lighting, Barry’s more of a clubby experience—think Soul Cycle, sans bikes—than a standard gym. The high-intensity workout claims to burn up to 1,000 calories per class, through a combination of strength and interval training. Through every class is different, you can expect some of the same signature moves to carry over from day to day. The 50-minute class relies on a mixture of treadmill running and weights to keep you constantly moving. Check the schedule to see which muscle group the day’s class is targeting—whether arms and abs or butt and legs. Either way, you’ll be sore in the morning.
Founded by Irish boxer Paul Wade, this Dogpatch boxing gym has been a mainstay for over 15 years. With its concrete walls, low ceilings, and ductwork overhead, the 5,700-square-foot space may look intimidating, but it’s refreshingly welcoming to all fitness levels and skill sets. Those who prefer a solitary workout can train solo on the wide range of boxing equipment and exercise machines, while those who crave a communal atmosphere can sign up for the gym’s cardio-boxing-style group classes. Newcomers are required to take part in Beginner Boxing 1 and 2 (the first class is free), where they’ll learn basic footwork and punches. After that, the 60-minute classes typically combine cardio drills, mitt work, strength and conditioning, and boxing techniques. Some of the classes are more boxing-based—like Old-School Boxing—whereas others skew closer to circuit training. The gym includes men’s and women’s changing rooms and showers.