Gym Review

Philly’s New Australian HIIT Workout Is So Insanely Hard

F45 Training, now open in Bryn Mawr and Ivyland, will definitely kick your butt.


Photograph courtesy F45 Training.

Look, if I’m going to spend 45 minutes of working out, I want it to be hard. I ain’t got time for some half-hearted, I-barely-broke-a-sweat workout — I’m all about the classes that make every minute count.

Related: Meet the Australian HIIT Workout That’s About to Take Over Philly

So that’s why I am of two minds about F45 Training, the Australian-based high intensity interval training gym that recently opened in Bryn Mawr. While I appreciate that it worked me out — hard — every single second of the 45-minute session, I also thought I was going to die, like, the entire time.

Here’s how it works: The gym floor — which is littered with all kinds of fitness equipment, from dumbbells to slam balls to battle ropes to stationary bikes to rowing machines — is divvied up into different stations, each pre-set with different workout gear.

Photograph courtesy F45 Training.

The magic of F45 is in the fact that every workout draws on a massive database of exercises which use different pieces of equipment. Some workouts focus more on cardio, and others on strength, and because each workout pulls together a different collection of exercises for each “station,” no two workouts look the same.

I tried one of the more cardio heavy F45 classes. For this particular class, there were three stations, each set with three exercises. The workout ran on tabata intervals, which means that you do 20 seconds of intense work — like burpees, jump squats on a BOSU, or turns on the rowing machine — and then catch your breath for ten seconds.

Photograph courtesy F45 Training.

Sure, 20 seconds may sound like a very short amount of time, but for each exercise, we did four sets. After doing one exercise four times for 20 seconds, we moved on to the second exercise, then the third, doing each exercise four times. By the time we’d reached the third exercise at the station, I was ready to move on — but, nope, we went back through all three exercises (again, four times for 20 seconds each) for a second time.

So, yeah, 20 seconds may sound short — but believe me, by the time you’re doing your 24th 20-second interval, your muscles are dead and your lungs are burning.

The workout was brutal — 45 minutes is a long time to be working at that intensity. But, for a HIIT workout, it was incredibly well organized. There wasn’t any downtime wasted spent wondering what you’re supposed to do next, an issue with many a HIIT workout.

At F45, there’s a television screen on the wall near each station that shows videos of a fitness model doing the same exercises you’re supposed to be doing. The screens also show a clock counting down each 20-second interval and ten-second break to keep you moving. It also ticks off each of the four intervals, so you know when to move onto the next exercise.

Photograph courtesy F45 Training.

The studio itself is spacious — classes can hold 30 or so students at a time, depending on how many stations are running at a time — and the equipment is all new and high-quality. There are also locker rooms and showers in the back, plus a small kitchenette where class-goers can grab a Keurig cup of coffee, refill a water bottle, or pick up a sports drink after the workout.

While F45 is currently only open in Bryn Mawr and Ivyland in the Philly area, the chain is set to open eight (eight!!) additional franchised locations around the city this summer. These new locations will be in Manayunk, Northern Liberties, Radnor, King of Prussia, Meadowbrook, Morestown, Greentree, and Gwynedd.

In the meantime, you can try out the Bryn Mawr and Ivyland locations with a free one-week trial. Sign up for a trial membership here.

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