Don’t get us wrong; home-workouts are brilliant, and they were the saving grace of the fitness world over lockdown. But gyms are reopening, and we couldn’t be happier — there’s just something about being part of a crew, isn’t there? Even if you’re all sweating uncontrollably, muscles screaming and on the point of giving up: just knowing that everyone around you is feeling the same can help you find those last pockets of energy you didn’t know you had.
But if you’re serious about honing those abs (or even just shifting those extra work-from-home pounds), then you’ll know that overcrowded gym-chains which reek of sweat and desperation are not the place to be – especially if you’re just taking tentative steps back into working out post-lockdown. Thankfully, the capital boasts some seriously exclusive gyms; so we’ve curated a list of London’s most luxurious gyms that you need to know about this summer. Just be sure to mind your gym etiquette…
Best for efficient workouts: Un1t
UN1T are all about the science; and every class will focus on the functional basics of strength, muscular endurance and mobility. Sound good? Well, we’ve got good news: their brand, shiny new Holborn site opened this week: and it’s about as state-of-the-art as they come, with a new smoothie bar supplied by KIN Nutrition and brand new kit courtesy of BLK BOX.
But back to the workouts. Efficiency is the name of the game here. Strength classes have a focus on progressive overload, with a 12-week training programme (four weeks of hypertrophy, four of strength and four of power). The conditioning classes are all about teamwork (perfect for those who’ve been missing feeling part of a squad over lockdown, or for anyone who thrives on some light competition); and the mobility element emphasises the importance of freedom of movement, as well as speed and endurance. Why not try a SW1TCH class — a “strength class with a twist” — or an ALLY class, where you’re paired up with a partner, with the aim of getting stronger together? The choice is yours.
Locations: London Bridge | Holborn
Best for total body training: Barry's Bootcamp
A true stalwart of the L.A. fitness community, Barry’s Bootcamp launched on our shores in 2013 and has been delivering The Best Workout in the World® to a super-loyal following, including A-list celebs, models and Olympic athletes. Workouts are an hour long, alternating between high intensity interval training on treadmills and strength training with free weights, resistance bands, medicine balls and a whole heap of other equipment, and promise to burn up to 1,000 calories per session. Plus, its Fuel Bar offers a significant range of post-workout smoothies (we’ve got our eye on the Barry’s Brunch shake).
Not ready for the in-house experience just yet? Barry’s expert trainers are running regular at-home workouts to get you back in shape, with a whole range of offers ranging from £12 for a starter 2 pack to £210 for the At-Home Legend membership (30 classes in 30 days).
Locations: Canary Wharf | Soho | St. Paul’s | Euston | Shoreditch | Victoria | Kensington
Best for Pilates: Equinox
Housed in a series of beautiful buildings across London, this gym packs quite the punch – literally – classes across all locations cover yoga, boxing, running, weight training, barre, TRX, cycling, cardio and dance. But it’s the Pilates that we’re really excited about. Joseph Pilates himself famously said that “Pilates is complete coordination of mind, body and spirit” — and after multiple lockdowns, that’s certainly an approach we can get on board with.
Equinox got the memo, and they offer an in-club experience which utilises unique equipment and a range of over 500 exercises. If home workouts have become your thing, though, never fear: the Virtual Pilates offering gives the opportunity to be guided one-on-one by a top Pilates instructor, working to build strength, flexibility and mobility. Who could say no to that?
Locations: Kensington | St. James’s | Bishopsgate
Best for the time poor: 1Rebel
As work schedules become increasingly lengthy, there has been a move away from indulgent lunches to intense workout sessions. At the forefront of this is 1Rebel. Founded by James Balfour in 2014, the chain offers short (45 minute) classes called Ride, Rumble and Reshape (spinning, boxing and HIIT respectively). Classes are often dark and accompanied by seriously loud live bands, so there’s equal emphasis on the social element as well as the punishing workouts. Their reopening parties look especially tempting; we’re talking live saxophones, live violinists and a live glitterbox ride. We’d never have thought you’d catch us saying workouts are fun; but at 1Rebel, we’d have to make an exception.
Locations: Holborn | Angel | Broadgate | St Mary Axe | South Bank | Bayswater | Victoria
Best for interiors: Core Collective
Each of Core Collective’s three locations (Kensington, Knightsbridge and St. John’s Wood) is an architect-designed, state-of-the-art studio space; so if your muscles are being pounded beyond belief and you feel like you just can’t keep going, take a look around and find distraction in the chic, stylish interiors. Each space features a carefully curated selection of artwork from the famous Maddox Gallery — and, if you can tear your eyes away from the artistic surroundings, you’ll find ample opportunity to get fit, toned and strong.
These classes are split into four distinct categories — sweat, strength, sculpt and recover — and they focus on circuits, rowing, yoga, cycle and TRX, among others. There’s even a brand new class called LIFT, focusing on sculpting, toning and endurance building, utilising dumbbells and kettlebells (hence the aptly-named class title). To get your sculpting summer started, there are reduced summer rates available for all class packs, starting from 5 classes for £97.50 (just £19.50 per class). Plus, there’s a smoothie bar and cafe; both of which are just as stylish as you’d expect.
Locations: Kensington | Knightsbridge | St John’s Wood
Best health club: Third Space
Designed as an antidote to the stress of everyday life, Third Space health clubs offer a unique luxury aesthetic complete with all the latest equipment. There’s a huge range of classes, with tantalisingly tempting names like “Lift”, “Exhale” and “Afterburner”, focusing on weight training, yoga, spinning, HIT and strength and conditioning – as well as swimming pools, climbing walls, martial arts and dance.
There are also spas to rival those of five star hotels (think saunas, steam rooms and ridiculously inviting swimming pools, lit by low, luminous lighting), on-site medical services, restaurants and even a gym kit laundry service, all of which help Third Space challenge the monotony of standard gyms and make working out a pleasure.
Membership also includes access to a dedicated app where you can take on hundreds of exclusive at-home workouts, online classes, nutrition advice and meditation sessions.
Locations: Tower Bridge | Soho | Marylebone | Canary Wharf | Islington | City
Best all-rounder: The Fore
More a fully fledged lifestyle concept than a straightforward gym, The Fore packs a fitness studio, personal training room, therapy room, cafe and co-working space into one chic location in King’s Cross. You can opt for a group session (Foretitude, which is termed as “your fastest way to fit”; and Noga, described as “yoga without the yoga” and creates better posture and core strength — and there’s a Forebox class coming soon, which is presumably fairly self-explanatory), or a personal training session. The classes combine TRX with a range of elements, including free weights, Skillmill running machines, rip trainers and cardio, to create full body classes uniquely suited to your goals.
And once you’re done? Forget sweaty changing rooms. The Fore’s elegant changing space boasts private showers, in-house products and all the grooming essentials you need to leave ready for whatever your day holds.
Location: King’s Cross
Best for flexibility: FLEX Chelsea
The clue’s in the name, really; but flexibility’s the name of the game here. Increased flexibility is always a big win — it broadens our range of movement when exercising, and just generally allows for more freedom of movement in everyday life. And FLEX has got you covered for all your flexibility needs, with its huge range of yoga classes (for which it is renowned — hence our flexibility emphasis), to say nothing of its Pilates, HIIT and spin offerings. It also prides itself on its airy, light-filled studios: a real tonic for anyone who’s feeling slightly bombarded by the amount of basement gyms on offer.
They’ve also just launched ‘FLEX Phoenix — The Ultimate Reset’, which gives you 21 days to form a habit: for just £300, you’ll get six pair personal training sessions, unlimited group classes, a personal assessment, personalised daily challenges, a body composition analysis, nutritional advice and even more. Frankly, we don’t know what you’re waiting for.
Location: Fulham Road
Best for boxing: Kobox
Boxing is brilliant for all round fitness – and it’s incredibly fun – but if you’ve always shied away from the punchbag at your usual gym for lack of knowledge then it’s definitely worth investing in a few classes at Kobox. The premise at each of the high-end chain’s three sites is the same: each 50-minute class is split into two parts. Half the session is spent at the punchbag, and the other half has you working up a sweat with a range of functional training exercises.
At the beginning of each class trainers run through the basic boxing moves with first timers: then the lights go down, the music comes on and suddenly you’re working out in a basement rave. There’s nothing guaranteed to get you pumped faster.
Locations: Chelsea | Marylebone | City