No other group training is as hyped up across the board as high intensity interval training (HIIT). In the past two months, GLORY has covered the activity’s beauty benefits, and reviewed a popular HIIT franchise.
Writer Lara Ceroni was sent to test out Toronto’s 7 best HIIT gyms. Here, she reviews why these gyms including Bolo, Barry’s Bootcamp and more deserve all the attention they get.
Fit Factory Fitness
Voted the best bootcamp in Toronto by BlogTO, Fit Factory is not designed for the faint of heart, but trust us, it’s so worth the sweat. Inspired by Navy Seal-level training, the facility has two training rooms – a Drill Room and Skill Room –offering over 300 classes a month from intense HIIT-style bootcamps to athletic conditioning, plus cardio, tech boxing, strength training, mobility, core classes, as well as personal training and a full-equipped wellness centre. Instructors treat you like a trainee: they may yell and they will push, but know it’s all invented to bring your fitness to a level you didn’t think possible. Yes, 150 burpees may be in your future, and no, you can’t do your push-ups on your knees, but don’t be surprised that when you hit those goals, you may be hungry for some more. I’ve crawled (and sometimes almost cried) out of this place, but I never leave regretting I showed up. It’s that kind of place, it’s that kind of workout. Uh-rah!
Fuel Training Club
With locations from east to west, Fuel Training Clubs make it easy to fit in a workout with varied class schedules that run from 6am until 8pm most evenings. The beauty of this training is in its numbers: each class is limited to smaller sign-ups (12 participants max in strength-training), which means you don’t have to struggle for space in an overflowing class. With major emphasis on proper form and technique, each of Fuel’s strength and HIIT programs are carefully orchestrated to feel more like a one-on-one personal training session, which means all that work is in the focus. Expect an exceptional level of attention here: trainers want you to improve and get stronger, but it won’t come at the cost of over-training. For Fuel, building this kind of body awareness and understanding the strategy in training is what will drive your results. Want to do those badass pull-ups? They got me there, and they’ll get you there, too – with perfect form to boot. (P.S.: For new mothers, check out Fuel Moms: a postpartum personal training class that focuses on rehabilitative work, strength training, conditioning and muscle release techniques for new moms.)
Located in the heart of Riverside and Leslieville, FORME Fitness, owned by two brothers, Marty and Chris Smits, touts a reputation for shaping the bodies of many professional athletes and celebrities in town. FORME’s coaches lead small group fitness classes and personal training with a blend of high-intensity intervals, strength training and metabolic movement coupled with their state-of-the-art equipment, dynamic plyometric drills and an indoor three-lane turf track. You may lose your mind on the Assault Bike one day, while taking it out on the sleds the next. It’s an ever-changing class structure, and on Saturdays energy runs particularly high with their fun DJ-lead classes, while post-class don’t forget to grab your meal plan as you walk out the door: FORME offers comprehensive nutrition counselling, too.
Barry’s Bootcamp, otherwise known as “the best bootcamp in the world” is just as focused on the lifestyle as it is the workout. Toronto is home to the only two studios in the country, and at their Richmond Street location you can expect a swish space with Fritz Branschat artwork, Fuel Bar (offering bulletproof coffee and smoothies), as well as branded workout gear and spa-inspired change rooms proffering Oribe products and perfect lighting. Don’t let the posh vibe fool you, though: this is one hell of a workout, and their community is rabid for it. Feed off the group energy in their dimly-lit Red Room for 55-minute classes that combine HIIT exercises broken up into dogged treadmill intervals, along with hyper-focused floor exercises (think resistance bands, weights, steps and plyos) that will hit every body part you desire to tone. Exercises are rarely duplicated, and it’s that element of surprise that can drive your physique to change. The studio boasts 1000 calories burned per class, and although that’s a slight exaggeration (if you’re not a dude, that is), I still burned a solid 600 cals in less than an hour. Also a bonus: not that into cardio? Don’t sweat it: you can choose “full floor” for the entire time.
Toronto is a town built on variety, so down the street from Barry’s don’t be surprised if find yourself at Bolo. This 7,000 sq. ft. space is lifestyle-oriented too, but it takes it one step further with a salon (offering quick lunchtime blow-outs, makeup applications and brow tints), a café (full of everything from protein shakes to cocktails) to two studios: the HIIT room, which will have you lift, hit, slam, sprint and sweat your way through high-impact classes, TRX and weight lifting, or their HOT room, aimed to help you flow, plank, crunch, lunge and drip with Tabata burn, primal flow, glute grinds and core quenchers. For boxing enthusiasts (myself included) this is thoroughbred training at its finest: classes are taught by competitive and amateur boxers, so you can expect to work on perfecting a lot of your technique and fixing your bad habits (again, myself included). Eventually you could find yourself in the “advanced” ring throwing down some spar sequences that could bring you to your first K.O.
Be better than yesterday is Myodetox Performance’s motto, and stepping into their exposed brick-and-steel studio in the Port Lands, you can start to feel the low hum of competition start to burn. It’s no surprise ex-NFL’ers and pro basketball players come here given classes are built on a combination of functional patterns (to alleviate dysfunction and posture issues), structural balance (to improve basic human movements) and unilateral strength (to help resolve side-to-side muscular imbalances) to fully optimize each workout so you are burning calories long after you’re done. Sign-up for MP(fit), their signature, heart-thumbing circuit-training class built on functional and relative strength. Be prepared for anything, from medicine ball slams, battle ropes, manual treadmill sprints, to squats, bench presses, and sled “suicides.” It’s total body conditioning: wickedly hard and wickedly fun. My advice: book the Friday noon class led by former Cleveland Browns and Philadelphia Eagles player, David Sims. The only thing that will trump your pouring sweat is your smile when you finally finish his challenging sets.
Rowers are some of the fittest people on the planet, so I thought it was high-time I tested my burgeoning skills at one of the city’s best: Scullhouse Rowing. They’re revered for teaching members how to row properly, which is likely due to the fact their founder, Kristin Jeffery, happens to be a former Canadian National team rower. Rowing is undisputedly a total body workout (when done right) and each class serves up a myriad of challenges, from the 2K Training Row, a hellish 55 minutes that will push your max with repeated sprints; the Endurance Row, 75 minutes geared towards endurance athletes looking to improve stamina, and the Technique Row designed for newbies learning the stroke within a variety of drills. Because core strength is critical in rowing (as it is in a lot of training), the Core Row will hit that sweet spot with rowing intervals mixed with mat work focused on toning and strengthening your abs.