The NYC Workouts You Need To Know About

Photo: Courtesy of 305 Studios
In New York City, fitness studios are like restaurants: you have your go-tos, the top-reviewed places you're willing to spend your dollars on, the hidden gems, the spots your friends drag you to, and the trending scenes where you can’t get a primetime reservation for the first year. Even if you’re not a foodie, surely you understand the comparison. If you live here, you know that this city has to offer just about everything.
But unfortunately, there's no Zagat for workout classes. So to ensure you don’t end up on the elliptical for the third straight time this week, we’ve created a handy guide to exercise classes to help you navigate the NYC fitness landscape.
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Why take a class? From the motivating, upbeat playlists to mashup formats that test your physical limits, group fitness classes offer tons of physical and mental health benefits that your home gym simply cannot.
Studies show that doing something new can keep you interested in exercise and make you more inclined to repeat that activity again.
Additionally, working out in a social setting can push you past your perceived limits, as you’re surrounded by others working towards a similar goal. Being coached throughout the workout can help you understand the importance of what you’re doing and push you to complete the class. If intimidation is keeping you from signing up, know this: everyone in your class was, at one time, at a first-timer. And more often than not, friendly competition is outweighed by camaraderie in a class, adding another dimension of motivation. In other words, it is totally worth it to cough up $30 for a one-time class.
Ahead, tried-and-tested workouts with brutally honest reviews so you know exactly what you’re getting when you sign up.
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Yoga Spark - BlacklightSpark

yoga-spark.com

Location: Tribeca

Workout Type: Yoga

Best For: Modern yogis who like to party

What To Expect: Many hot yoga studios in Manhattan can get pretty disgusting. Dirty carpets, overcrowded classes in which you're sweating on the person next to you (and vice-versa!), and filthy showers (or no showers at all) are not uncommon. Plus, a 90-minute Bikram class can be too much to bear for some people. There are few studios these days with clean, modern facilities that cater to the trendy, ClassPass-type crowd. Enter YogaSpark, a high-end Tribeca studio that offers innovative classes for every type of yogi, from the athletic gym enthusiast to the zen type. It's the perfect place to get outside your comfort zone without abandoning it completely.

Having tried both the SuperSpark and BlacklightSpark, I appreciate the ways in which this studio mixes up traditional yoga formats without feeling completely foreign. Whether they employ candles or strobe lights, most of their hour-long classes involve the same warriors, lunges, and sun salutations in a hot (but manageable) 92-degree heated room. The biggest difference? Speed and lighting. Unlike SuperSpark, which started out slow under white light, and then picked up the pace once the lights went out, BlacklightSpark was consistently challenging and taught entirely in blacklight.

The freedom to flow in such a dark space diffused the competitive nature of power yoga, making it far less intimidating for beginners. I made several attempts at complicated poses I would usually shy away from, and I wasn't embarrassed about being drenched in sweat 20 minutes in. I also felt that it was easier to concentrate and focus on my own form, since it was hard to see other people. And there's definitely something deeply sensory about being illuminated by your own body.

Instructors were very helpful, providing individual attention and offering modifications so that everyone in class was challenged. The music was energetic in both classes, though I enjoyed the eclectic, magnetic playlist in BlacklightSpark more. There really is something for everyone at this studio, so check out the class descriptions on their website to find the one best suited for your practice.

First Time Tip: Wear white, neon, or both to enhance the black light effect.
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RUMBLErumble.com

Locations: Chelsea, NoHo (coming soon)

Workout Type: Boxing, Strength Training

Best For: Learning boxing basics and building confidence

What To Expect:

Let me preface this review by stating that I am not being paid to write it — I am just seriously enthusiastic about Rumble. This class is fun. And that’s their "secret sauce," according to Rumble co-founder and instructor Noah Neiman.

"We know that most clients aren’t boxers, so the principle wasn’t to reinvent the wheel but be authentic," says Neiman, a former Master Trainer at Barry’s Bootcamp. "Everything is reflective of our personalities." Neiman co-founded Rumble with three entrepreneurs from the hospitality, tech, and dining space, each with their own impressive resume and a collective vision of presenting their own interpretation of boxing that would attract beginners and pro boxers alike.

So how’s it different from other boxing classes? First, the format: Switching between strength-training circuits and cardio, just feels more effective. The floor combinations consist of basic compound moves that incorporate weights and a step. The cardio portion utilizes a teardrop-shaped punching bag that’s filled with water, making it lower impact and more fun to hit than traditional bags. Plus, there are only six boxing moves for you to memorize — no advanced technique required. You do two rounds of each, alternating between floor and bag, while the instructor leads both. Though the room is dark with loud music, instructions for sets, reps, and combo punches are projected onto the walls so you can focus on exerting yourself, rather than memorization.

Then there's the studio, which is a modern, super Instagrammable space that exudes power and energy. Strength, hip-hop, street style, art, and pop culture nostalgia are reflected in the cutting-edge space, and it makes you feel pretty badass. "Trickledown swaganomic" is what Neiman called it. "The swag of the ownership bleeds into everything," he said. This is even true of the music, which blends house and hip-hop classics with customized remixes that motivate and empower.

Also, Rumble has motivating instructors and helpful staff. Everyone here is very knowledgeable, friendly, and down-to-earth, unlike some NYC studios that can feel intimidating, especially for a first-timer.

First Time Tip: Make sure your phone is charged, because you’re going to want to ‘gram!
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Tone House - tonehouse.com

Locations: NoMad, Upper East Side

Workout Type: Strength-Training, Sports Conditioning

Best For: Competitive athletes, or feeling like a competitive athlete

What To Expect: At the beginning of TH 101, the entry-level version, the instructor asked us what we’ve heard about Tone House. “Hardest workout in New York,” someone replied without pause. The trainer just smiled; He knew it was true. Some call it CrossFit on crack, and Tone House is all it’s hyped up to be. You truly feel like an athlete when you're focusing on essential sports training principles, like speed, whole-body strength, endurance, and teamwork.

The warmup (if you could even call it that) consisted of sprints, bear crawls, moving burpees — all performed over hurdles at a pretty fast pace. Next, we were paired up with someone of equal physical stature for resistance training exercises using what I can only describe as CrossFit Games equipment: harnesses, weighted sleds, battle ropes. Everything after this point was a blur. I faintly remember sit-ups, jump squats, and a rowing machine — normally very do-able, easy exercises for me if the 40 minutes before them hadn’t occurred. Had it not been for the high-fiving instructors and “everyone’s watching me” feeling, I would never have reached the 5-minute cool down.

Perhaps the biggest turnoff about Tone House for some people is the biggest turn on for others, and that’s the intimidation factor. Because the majority of training is partner- or group-intensive, going at your own pace can slow down your classmates. But similarly, having others depend on you can also push you to go harder, longer, and stronger.

The studio itself is a cross between an elite collegiate facility and a nightclub: modern and bold with black astro-turf that’s soft on your back for sit-ups but agonizingly prickly on your hands for bear crawls. The latter move is what landed me in the ice bath of the Tone House locker less than two minutes after class ended. That felt awesome. So would I go back? Probably not. But I don’t regret trying the cult workout that keeps NYC fitness instructors in exceptional shape.

First Time Tip: Take the TH 101 class before the regular classes, no matter how fit you are.
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Exhale
Exhale – Core Fusion Extreme
exhalespa.com

Locations: Central Park South, Flatiron, Gramercy, Meatpacking, SoHo, Upper East Side

What To Expect:
Exhale, a cross-country fitness studio known for its swanky spaces and signature Core Fusion classes, has always attracted a certain clientele. But, with their introduction of Core Fusion Extreme, a challenging bootcamp-style workout, they’ve transformed the mind-body studio into a one-stop shop for every type of exerciser. That’s because Core Fusion Extreme, or CFX, is a tough, no-nonsense routine that builds strength, boosts endurance, and really brings on the sweat. The workout focuses on big movements that target multiple muscle groups at once — making it a far cry from their other classes that isolate smaller muscles.

Following an active warm up, the class is divided into smaller groups that rotate to five different stations, each with a unique piece of equipment. Usually included: TRX suspenders, medicine balls, gliders, heavy dumbbells, and a plyo box. And the routine is changed up each month. You’ll perform two sets of exercises per station, and visit each station twice.

Moving so quickly can be a bit exhausting, but every time you feel depleted, a motivating instructor counts down and pushes you to finish. The class finishes with a thorough abdominal session and stretch. No muscle goes left untouched, and you feel totally complete.

First-Time Tip: Pay very close attention to the instructor walking you through the stations and exercises at the beginning of class. They’re not all so simple.
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Brandon Tobin
Y7
Y7-studio.com

Locations: Brooklyn, Flatiron, SoHo, Union Square, Upper East Side
Workout Type: Yoga
Best For: Millennial music-loving yogis

What To Expect:
Set in cool, contemporary spaces with an urban edge, Y7 proves that yoga doesn’t have to be earthy to be effective. With locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn, the flourishing fitness studio just opened its fifth location and is now expanding cross-country, first to LA.

Founders Sarah Larson and Mason Levey were turned off by the New Age clichés and granola types at New York City yoga studios, and saw an opportunity to attract the previously-untapped market of Millennial yogis in Manhattan — men just as much as women. It's a brilliant concept, really, and one that is long overdue.

Taught in a toasty 90-degree room with zero mirrors or light, Y7 instructors lead flowing sequences will make you sweaty, strong, and maybe even a little emotional. While you’d think the absence of mirrors would make it more difficult to practice, the reverse is true: The dark setting limits distractions and encourages a more internal, uninhibited practice.

The class feels a bit more fast-paced than traditional yoga while still maintaining the basic teachings and spirituality aspect. Motivating hip-hop music pushes you through Vinyasa sequences and, let’s face it, holding a plank feels more do-able with Drake serenading you in the background. The sultry playlists plus refreshing instructors translate yoga into a language younger generations can relate to and be inspired by.

First-Time Tip: Arrive early. Doors close as soon as the class starts —no exceptions!
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Jaimie Baird
The Class
http://taryntoomey.com/

Location: Flatiron, Tribeca
Workout Type: Cardio + Strength
Best For: Stressed out New Yorkers in need of a sweaty therapy session

What To Expect:
Combining aspects of meditation, yoga, and heart-pumping moves like squats and burpees, The Class is almost like a New Age-y cousin of CrossFit — as in, it couldn't be more different in terms of rules, but it's still a really hard workout.

After some opening mantras and warm-up squats, I found myself in down dog, repeatedly lifting and pulsing one leg to what seemed like the entire Florence and The Machine album. Then came burpees, heart-opening postures, and tumbling exercises, in no particular order, each one repeated for uncomfortably long increments. In fact, I was so sick of each exercise by the time we finished that when the instructor announced jumping jacks as a “cardio flush,” I was actually ecstatic. The euphoria was short lived, though, because five minutes later my legs felt like jelly.

Then we moved on to more cardio (excuse me, I mean another "cardio flush") in what I can only describe as a cross between tribal dancing and a toddler having a temper-tantrum: jumping, arm-swindling, and yelling to open a floodgate of emotions. More muscles were fired. There was a lot of huffing and grunting ensued, and the experience was then sealed with a seated meditation.

While I am still trying to wrap my head around exactly what happened in those 65 minutes, I did find a bit of clarity on the website, which reads “challenging movement creates contraction and release that cleanses age-old emotional habits stored in the body.” So, I guess creator Taryn Toomey is going for emotion release?

I have to be honest and say I couldn't really get into The Class. I'm sad that I didn't reap the same cathartic benefits that bring followers like Naomi Watts to tears, but it just wasn’t my thing. Still, I would recommend it to anyone in the anti-group fitness crowd: those with an IDGAF attitude, with an aversion to structure, and who absolutely hate being told what to do and how to feel doing it. The Class forces you to check your inhibitions at the door and channel those emotions into physical exertion — and animal noises.

First-Time Tip: Shoes are optional, an open mind is not.
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Photo: Courtesy of The Fhitting Room
The Fhitting Room
http://fhittingroom.com/

Location: Flatiron, Upper East Side
Workout Type: HIIT
Best For: Training outside your comfort zone

What To Expect: Lively trainers play off one another in this high-intensity interval training class that falls somewhere between Crossfit and bootcamp.

The routines (which make use of a wide variety of equipment) change every time, but you can expect 50 minutes of great strength and endurance training in every session. After warming up with cardio circuits and Tabata intervals, the 20-ish-person class changes gear and is divided into smaller “teams” for a round-robin-style workout. Individual stations are equipped for strength-training exercises that you’ll perform for a certain period of time before moving on to the next. TRX suspension trainers, plyo boxes, kettlebells, rowing machines, dumbbells, and medicine balls (it’s amazing how the room stays organized) are incorporated in varying exercises at each station. Culminating the rotations is the aptly-named final “FHIX,” a few mostly-bodyweight moves performed at an “all-out” effort that leave you panting and feeling an after-burn effect.

What pushes you to finish it is the sense of camaraderie and infectious energy in the room. The often-witty instructor duo tag-teams the class and emphasizes group fitness; you may even make friends with the person sweating beside you. Also: Whether it’s posture correction or modifying exercises based on an injury, having two trainers present ensures extra attention for each participant.

If Fhitting Room sounds a bit intimidating, take your workout to the FHITpit, an alternative class that follows the same structure but with one instructor in a max-10-person class.

First-Time Tip: Check out the FHIT Fundamentals section of the studio's website for how-to demonstrations of the signature exercises.
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Photo: Courtesy of SLT.
SLT
SLTnyc.com

Locations: Flatiron, Midtown, SoHo, Upper East Side, Upper West Side
Workout Type: Pilates
Best For: Type-A people

What It’s Like: Many people who’ve taken SLT describe it as, “Pilates on crack” — and the description isn’t too far-off (it was owner Amanda Freeman who actually coined the term). SLT is a 50-minute cardio-meets-strength-training Pilates class that makes use of the Megaformer to add tension to the total-body exercises. You move around the machine fairly quickly (giving you the cardio component) doing compound moves that work multiple muscle groups to the point of failure. You’ll leave sweaty, sore in weird places, and with an understanding of how this supremely effective workout has developed a cult-like following.

First-Time Tip: Grab a machine next to the most experienced-looking person in the room. Transitions between moves can happen fairly quickly so you’ll want to have someone nearby for posture check. Instructors aren’t as hands-on with adjustments here.
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Photographed by: Justin Steele.
Flywheel
Flywheelsports.com

Location: Astor Place, Chelsea, Flatiron, Lincoln Square, Midtown East, Tribeca, Upper East Side, Upper West Side
Workout Type: Cycling
Best For: Competition lovers

What To Expect: Like other cycling studios, Flywheel classes rely on dynamic instructors with motivating playlists, structured routines, and group energy to keep riders engaged and sweating through 45-, 60-, or 90-minute workouts (which include a short weighted arms segment). But it’s the stadium-style seating and a performance-based metrics system that measures rider performance in real time that truly sets Flywheel apart. Utilizing resistance and cadence (RPMs) to quantify power, data packs, or small screens on each bike, measure participants progress through a points system. Competitive cyclers may choose to opt-in to the class TorqBoards, displayed on large screens behind the instructor, so they can race against one another. In the end, you’re left with a number that can help motivate your next ride. Another perk? Free shoe rental and water bottles.

First-Time Tip: Arrive early for assisted bike setup.
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Photo: Courtesy of 305 Fitness
305 Fitness
305fitness.com

Location: Midtown East, West Village
Workout Type: Cardio/Dance/HIIT
Best For: Dance junkies looking for a healthy alternative (or addition) to clubbing.

What To Expect: Get sweaty shaking your money-maker with this high-energy, Miami nightclub-inspired dance class that feels more like a party — seriously, there’s even a live DJ. Don’t expect 55 minutes of hip-hop choreography, though, as each class fuses high-intensity exercises, sports drills, and strength training with dance-cardio routines for a total-body experience. While the heart-pounding class is definitely cardio-heavy, you’ll reap muscle-strengthening benefits from the toning component. No prior dance experience required, only an open mind. As a notoriously clumsy dancer with a total lack of coordination, I find I get the best workout by letting go and forgetting all about form.

First-Time Tips: Hydrate before class and keep your phone nearby for a post-workout Instagram in front of the studio's unique mural art and neon signs that give 305 its Miami flair.
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Photo: Courtesy of Barry's Bootcamp
Barry’s Bootcamp
Barrysbootcamp.com

Locations: Chelsea, NoHo, NoMad, Tribeca, Upper East Side
Workout Type: Running/Strength Training
Best For: Working your butt off — and feeling it for the next few days

What It’s Like: Hardcore, intense, intimidating, painful — ask anyone about Barry’s Bootcamp and you just might not go. But there’s a reason Barry’s is one of the most successful fitness studios in the country and so popular in New York: it really makes you feel like you've accomplished something afterward. Each class is divided into 25-30 minutes of interval training on the treadmill, 25-30 minutes of plyometrics and weight-training, plus a cool-down stretch. Upon sign up, you’ll reserve a starting spot either on the treadmill or the floor. Personally, I like to boost my heart rate and get my energy up first, so I always reserve the treadmill.

The instructor directs both the treadmill and strength portions at the same time and it's up to him or her how much you switch positions — sometimes it's only once, but usually you switch several times. For example, you might do 7 minutes on the treadmill, 7 minutes on the floor, and switch throughout. Or you might have an instructor who has you do 30 minutes straight on the treadmill, followed by 30 minutes of weight training.

So what makes this class so hard? First, the speed and incline at which you run may resemble that of an Olympic sprinter. Second, the floor exercises usually involve heavy weights and high reps, making the strength-training portion more intense. Nonetheless, you can definitely go at your own pace and the instructor will not shame you if you do. You’ll leave feeling sore but very proud of yourself.

First-Time Tip: Go at your own pace — don’t try to compete with your neighbor on your first visit.
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Photo: Courtesy of The Mile High Run Club
Mile-High Run Club
Milehighrunclub.com

Location: NoHo, NoMad
Workout Type: Running
Best For: Goal-setting

What It’s Like: At MHRC, running is the new spinning. Walking into the studio is an experience in itself: rows of treadmills bask in dim, neon lights that change on-tempo to music. A lot of serious runners fill MHRC's classes, but don't be intimidated. The athletic coaches are sympathetic to all levels and encourage all classgoers, regardless of speed. A handy RPM guide is attached to each treadmill monitor with speeds to match beginner, intermediate, and advanced runners. Despite how close you are to your neighbor, this class feels less competitive than group fitness studios, because it’s equally designed for marathoners seeking a better PR and cardio newbies who just want to learn how to run without stopping.

MHRC even offers three types of classes catering to different runners: DASH 28, a short duration intervals plus kettlebell class, HIGH 45, interval-based running, and THE DISTANCE, one hour of sprints, hills, and nonstop effort ideal for race training. There’s also an outdoor running program in case you really get into it.

First-Time Tip: Unless you have all the time in the world, don’t plan on showering there — at least if you’re female. The locker rooms are small and overcrowded.
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Photographed by: Jay Sullivan
Flex Studios — Flex Pilates
Flexstudios.com

Locations: NoHo, Union Square
Workout Type: Pilates and Strength Training
Best For: People who want to try a trendy workout without being in a scene.

What It’s Like: Flex Studios offers three types of classes as well as hybrid classes that can seriously change your body. Its signature Pilates classes are taught on FLEXformers, customized fitness equipment that resembles a torture device but in the best possible sense as the machines lets you do countless exercises that focus on core strength and conditioning muscles you never knew you had.

Each class accommodates 12 students, making it ideal if you want individual attention and form correction throughout class. As the most offered class type, FlexPilates also has a less-intense old-school version called Flex Pilates Pure; FlexPilates Prenatal for expecting moms; and Flex 30/30, a Pilates-barre combo.

First-Time Tip: Tell the instructor you’re new in the beginning of class so he or she can demonstrate how to use the equipment and adjust your form during class.
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Photographed by: Jay Sullivan
Flex Studios — FlexBarre
FlexBarre

Locations: NoHo, Union Square
Workout Type: Cardio/Barre
Best For: Multitaskers who want to get sweaty and strong in less than 60 minutes

What It’s Like: Just when you think you’ve exhausted that muscle entirely, the class changes pace and you’re doing lunges, planks, or another heart-revving exercises that challenges you in a whole new way. One of the more cardio-intensive barre classes out there, FlexBarre fires up your your lower-body muscles without neglecting your arms and core. Planks, push-ups, and burpees are done in-between ballet barre and floor exercises.

Dumbbells, balls, and bands are incorporated into compound moves that target specific muscles by contracting them with higher reps and no weight. While that can sometimes mean pulsing for a very long time, it doesn’t feel that way in Flex, since the pace changes so often. And keeping your body guessing is a surefire way to reach deep, hidden muscles you often neglect.

First-Time Tip: Arrive on-time — the warm-up routine is crucial to getting the best workout.
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Exhale
Exhale – Core Fusion Extreme
exhalespa.com

Locations: Central Park South, Flatiron, Gramercy, Meatpacking, SoHo, Upper East Side

What To Expect:
Exhale, a cross-country fitness studio known for its swanky spaces and signature Core Fusion classes, has always attracted a certain clientele. But, with their introduction of Core Fusion Extreme, a challenging bootcamp-style workout, they’ve transformed the mind-body studio into a one-stop shop for every type of exerciser. That’s because Core Fusion Extreme, or CFX, is a tough, no-nonsense routine that builds strength, boosts endurance, and really brings on the sweat. The workout focuses on big movements that target multiple muscle groups at once — making it a far cry from their other classes that isolate smaller muscles.

Following an active warm up, the class is divided into smaller groups that rotate to five different stations, each with a unique piece of equipment. Usually included: TRX suspenders, medicine balls, gliders, heavy dumbbells, and a plyo box. And the routine is changed up each month. You’ll perform two sets of exercises per station, and visit each station twice.

Moving so quickly can be a bit exhausting, but every time you feel depleted, a motivating instructor counts down and pushes you to finish. The class finishes with a thorough abdominal session and stretch. No muscle goes left untouched, and you feel totally complete.

First-Time Tip: Pay very close attention to the instructor walking you through the stations and exercises at the beginning of class. They’re not all so simple.
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