Week 19: F45

F45 seems to be springing up all over the place. Australia’s latest export, it was established in 2012 and is taking the world of fitness by storm with new franchises opening every week. Their branded workouts are claiming cult status and I wanted to see what it was all about.

What They Say:

F stands for Functional training
45 stands for the total time of all of our classes

The concept is simple: our studios all over the world offer a 45 minute High-Intensity, Circuit Training workout class for our studio members. We have developed 27 different 45 minute workouts, with more currently in development. Our studios offer the same class at different times throughout the day. Every day throughout the week offers a different 45 minute workout. The workouts are created by the F45 Athletics and Peak Performance Department from a database of over 3,000 different exercises, so our members never get the same workout twice.

My Experience:

I logged on the F45 website and was amazed at how many studios there are… 14 and counting in London and starting to spring up outside the M25 too. On the home page the first button you see is “own a F45 franchise” and it’s clear to see F45 is ambitious about growth.

Each day a different workout is done at every F45 gym worldwide. Monday, Wednesday and Friday are cardio focused, with the other days incorporating resistance work too.

Each of the 27 signature workouts has a specific number of stations and work:rest intervals, with the movements varying each time. For example, if you go on “All Star” day, you’ll be doing 4 stations of resistance based exercises, with 3 movements on each station at intervals of 40 seconds on, 20 seconds off. You’ll find out which specific exercises you’ll be doing on the day. The workouts have catchy names like “Panthers”, “Firestorm” and “Angry Bird” and F45 aficionados can even buy vests and tees emblazoned with their personal fave. On the day I booked in, “Athletica” was the workout du jour: 9 cardio stations of tabata style circuits (20 seconds work/10 seconds rest).

The website claimed this particular class would make me “leaner, faster and more agile” whilst burning “820 calories”. WTF? How anyone can claim a workout will burn such a specific number of calories is beyond me, but I won’t harp on about that… I chose to interpret this statement as “it will be a sweat sesh”, and I’m a big fan of those!

The studio in Kingston is tucked away above a garage. On arrival I was warmly welcomed by one of the owners, shown around and told what to expect. The studio is an open floor format with an astro track down one side and a wide range of gear including kettlebells, dumbbells, slamballs, plyo boxes, concept2 rowers, prowlers and trxs dotted around the room. Everything we needed for our workout had been laid out neatly for us in advance.

The first thing you notice – and F45’s USP – is a row of screens all the way down one side of the room. These display all the information you’ll need throughout the workout: how many seconds work/rest you have to go, demos of the exercises, how far through the workout you are overall and how long till you get a water break.

Before we started, our instructor gave us a demo of the movements and explained what was coming up: 9 stations of exercises, each repeated twice, with 4 x 20 seconds work, 10 seconds rest at each station. Every 24 rounds we would get a minute rest. The stations were things like single arm kettlebell swings, squat jumps, rowing, weighted v-ups, squats on a bosu board and burpee broad jumps on a bungee cord (my personal fave!).

There were 10 people in the class (all gals) and we were paired up on stations. The exercises were all scalable, with a range of weights laid out and the instructor moving around the room to help people out as needed. With tabata you make it as hard as you want to. You could cruise through this just to get moving or hammer it and get a great sweat on. I went somewhere in the middle.

At the end of the class there were high fives all round and there was a real sense of community here; everyone was very friendly and it’s a welcoming space for all abilities. There’s quite a lot to pack into 45 minutes and I’d be interested to see how this is managed when the weights get heavier and technique becomes more important.

In terms of the concept of every F45 gym doing exactly the same workout on the same day, I’m torn. On the one hand, they’re building a community and it’s pretty cool that tens of thousands of people worldwide are all doing the same workout each day. This creates a sense of buy-in and is a great way of getting – and keeping – members motivated. On the other hand, it takes all control away from the individual studio owners… with programming dictated from HQ there’s no opportunity to work on the specific needs of members or utilise the specific strengths of coaches. Even the music is F45 branded (with subliminal “F45” voiceovers dropped in here and there).

In Summary:

The F45 concept is a great one: high intensity, constantly varied functional movement (oh wait… that’s CrossFit’s slogan!). It’s slick with the screens, demos and branded workouts, and you would definitely get fit if you did this regularly.

It was great for a conditioning circuit and I’d be really interested to go back and see what one of the heavier sessions is like… given the demanding time-frame, I’d be surprised if there’s sufficient time for coaching and correcting movement at heavier load – but I may be wrong.

On balance, I think the worldwide programming makes things a bit generic, but that’s kind of the point I suppose – go into any F45 gym in the world, and you know what you’re going to get.

Where: F45 Kingston. Other studios all over London.

Cost: 2 week free trial, then monthly membership £160.

How to book: http://www.f45training.co.uk

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