It’s Saturday morning at Barry’s Bootcamp and class is packed for a newer workout called LIFT. There are no treadmills or running in this class. The entire 50 minutes is floorwork only, in the same circuit format Barry’s regulars know so well, but slower paced with heavier weights designed to work muscles to exhaustion. For people who don’t like to run, this class has become super popular, while those who don’t like to lift have found a fun and motivating environment to get that essential strength training done.
The benefits of strength training cannot be overstated, yet many of us, this editor included, choose cardio and HIIT classes, opting for what we assume is a better calorie or fat burning workout. The irony is muscle mass is more metabolically efficient, and research has shown our metabolic rate is boosted up to 72 hours after a strength-training workout. It can help decrease abdominal fat as well. (Healthline)
In addition, weight training supports all those cardio activities by building strength, improving mobility, and increasing range of motion to help prevent sidelining injuries. For women especially, as we age and become more susceptible to osteoporosis, strength training is essential to keep bones strong. Despite all this supporting information however, many women have stayed away from weight training for fear they would get too big and muscular — a myth the steroid filled heyday of bodybuilding helped propagate.
Lift classes have been introduced at other popular HIIT studios as well, like OrangeTheory, that have also taken the treadmill training out of class to focus on strength. Numerous boutique fitness weightlifting studios have opened across the country like Lift Society in LA, Lift Chicago, and Liftonic in NYC. Interestingly, these classes are as popular with women as men. “We naively thought we were launching this class to help bring more men into the studio,” says Phillip Mills, Les Mills CEO, about BODYPUMP, the brand’s total body barbell workout. “It did attract more men, but what really surprised us was that it became just as overwhelmingly popular with women.”
David Schenk, co-owner with his wife Dylan of Lift Society, attributes this to a cultural shift in the last few years that has changed womens’ perceptions about weightlifting. “Crossfit became the most popular group fitness class in the world,” Schenk begins. “It introduced a lot of women to lifting weights and they got in great shape. Another interesting element has been the women’s empowerment movement. Women want to be stronger.” Even women like Kim Kardashian have contributed to the popularity of strength training, he adds. “You have women wanting to get curves and looking for ways to develop their glutes, which they have discovered in bodybuilding and weightlifting.”
Lift Society was originally a HIIT training studio called Crosstrain LA. Schenk, an all-state middle linebacker, football state champion, and PAC 10 champion wrestler, always loved lifting weights but never felt the market supported opening a weightlifting fitness studio. When his wife started strength training, struggling to lose weight after their second child, she saw such great results that they decided to add a circuit weightlifting class. It exploded in popularity, and they rebranded it in 2016 as Lift Society.
Despite people’s misconceptions, weight training is a cardio workout as well. “While it is different from what we traditionally think of compared to the elliptical machine, running, or HIIT training,” says Schenk, “when you’re doing high volume lifting with say squats or lunges, the amount of work the heart has to do to pump blood, not just to legs but the entire body, turns it into a cardiovascular workout.”
Beyond boutique fitness studios, lift classes are offered at almost every gym chain these days like Crunch, 24 Hour Fitness, and even your local YMCA, with franchise programs like Les Mills Body Pump and Mossa’s Group Power. All are available streaming or on-demand too. Having now discovered these classes myself, even this cardio junkie is pumping iron — and seeing results!
THE BEST STRENGTH TRAINING CLASSES NEAR YOU:
BARRY’S offers both Double Floor and LIFT strength-based workouts, but LIFT classes feature slower paced technical moves to work primary and secondary muscles to full exhaustion. A small group, strength-based class using dumbbells, resistance bands, and bodyweight, LIFT is designed to improve body composition, build muscle mass, and rev your metabolism through focused, technical strength training.
As the name implies, LIFT 45 is 45 minutes of functional strength training with dumbbells, medicine balls, BOSU balls, TRX, and other equipment. Slower paced, with a focus on form (you won’t be getting all those splat points in the orange zone), Lift 45 is specifically designed to build or maintain lean mass, improve your form, and round out your exercise routine.
New York, NY
LIFTONIC is a fresh alternative in a fitness world dominated by high intensity cardio based workouts. Located in Manhattan’s meatpacking district, the raw but modern studio design reflects the aura of neighborhood. Liftonic classes are suitable for all strength and fitness levels, offering both full body and muscle group combination classes for those who lift multiple times per week. Programming changes monthly allowing time to master exercises and build strength.
New York, NY
AARMY offers both indoor cycling and bootcamp classes, the latter with a heavy focus – as in heavier weights – on strength training. An athletic based, total body conditioning program, Bootcamp is designed to tap your full potential and push towards a new level of strength every session. Choose from a complete lineup of Upper, Lower, and Full Body practices, as well as their core-focused Abs workout.
New York, NY
ATLETICA is a strength training class designed by Ilaria Montagnani over 10 years ago. “My goal has always been making people stronger, especially women. We haven’t been aware of the benefits of strength training and if anything have been discouraged and pulled away from it.” The exercises are multi-jointed complex moves (think Clean and Press, Farmers Marches, etc) designed to work the whole body as a unit rather than in isolation. This method makes it for a very efficient, demanding, and rewarding strength workout.
LIFT CHICAGO has two locations in Chicago that offer both private training and group classes in a boutique setting. Classes are open to all levels and feature strength training, conditioning, and mobility. With a class limit of 10 people, there is ample attention to proper form and personal goals while building strength in an uptempo format.
Los Angeles, CA
LIFT SOCIETY is a boutique weightlifting gym in LA with two locations and a full schedule of classes designed for strength and aesthetics. Class program utilizes progressive overload with barbells and dumbbells to create a lean, strong, and toned physique.
THE REFINERY is a state-of-the-art training facility in downtown Atlanta that features cutting edge equipment, integrated technology, and luxury fitness club amenities. There are two group fitness classes offered, Build and Burn and Pure Strength, the latter which focuses on functional strength training. Like private training at a fraction of the cost, Pure Strength is limited to just 4. Each participant has their own training space with a complete set of equipment: Keiser Functional Trainer, Bench, Dumbbells, and other accessories.
BODYPUMP is a full-body barbell workout designed to burn calories, build strength, and work your entire body with The Rep Effect. High repetitions with light weights exhausts muscles to deliver a total body transformation. BODYPUMP classes are offered at big box gyms nationwide.
GROUP POWER is a one-hour, cutting-edge strength training workout designed to blast every muscle in a total body weight training workout. Using an adjustable barbell, weight plates, and body weight, Group Power combines squats, lunges, presses, and curls with functional training exercises. High rep training and athletic movements are the key components of this results-driven workout. Find GROUP POWER at a YMCA near you!