The first branch of F45 in the UK opened its doors in London Bridge as recently as late 2015 – but by the end of 2017, there are expected to be over 50 franchises all over the UK, adding to the more than 800 worldwide. When a new fitness trend gets this popular, Coach would be remiss not to check it out.
F45 is short for Functional 45, and the chain offers HIIT classes built around 45-second intervals of functional exercises that recruit several muscles and joints at once. So instead of spending 20 minutes doing laser-focussed biceps drills, you’ll be squatting, throwing, lifting and jumping, among many other things.
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The timetable at F45 is different from those at most studios. Each day features just one repeating workout class, and these have names like Panthers, Romans and Athletica, which do little to reveal the theme of the class. However, if you manage to hit each day’s class in a week, you can guarantee every part of your body has received some attention.
“Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays are cardio-based, so higher-intensity and predominantly bodyweight exercises,” says Luke Armstrong, global sales director at F45.
“Tuesdays and Thursday are resistance-based, so lower intensity but incorporating weights to add load. Then Saturdays and Sundays are hybrid workouts where we like to really mix things up.”
The entire global network of F45 studios does the same class each day, with the schedule changing every couple of months.
“We break the year into ten-week blocks and within each phase, we target different areas,” Armstrong explains. “The theme of phase one might be agility and upper-body strength. We then draw on classes like Quarterbacks, Athletica (agility), Romans, Panthers and Bears (resistance). Within those workouts we use our exercise encyclopaedia to focus on the muscle groups we’re targeting.”
Although the global schedule is set for weeks at a time, the individual exercises in each F45 class will change every time you try it. F45 has a bank of 3,000 exercises with 250 more added every month along with new equipment, so you shouldn’t get bored with the same old moves.
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Membership of F45 is to a specific studio so you should see the same faces regularly and – perhaps – strike up some friendships. As everyone at any F45 studio is doing the same workout, you have a whole world of fellow F45ers to discuss your class with over social media. If nothing else, the Instagram hashtags should see some fearsome levels of activity.
Although the classes are all HIIT workouts full of functional movements, the variety of strength and cardio work you do in each means F45 will help towards most fitness goals, whether you’re looking to lose weight, build muscle, or cross-train for a different sport.
“Loads of research has confirmed the efficacy of high-intensity training with regard to body transformation, particularly fat loss,” says Armstrong. “Professional athletes from all disciplines use functional training to prepare their bodies for their specific discipline as the exercises draw on multiple muscle groups, energy systems [both aerobic and anaerobic] and joints.”
One thing you can’t do at F45 is rock up and bash out 20 minutes on the treadmill or bench press – your train the F45 way or hit the highway. This raises the question: why would someone join an F45 studio rather than a regular gym, most of which offer plenty of classes of their own? Especially as is F45 pretty pricy – classes cost £20 in bundles and a monthly membership can top £200. We asked Armstrong exactly that.
“F45 is a third way between a gym membership and a personal training package. They are group sessions, led by fitness instructors that come priced at the midway mark,” says Armstrong.
What is an F45 class like?
Keen to see what all the fuss was about, Coach headed to the Tottenham Court Road branch of F45 to try out the Athletica class, which focuses more on cardio than resistance training.
The class consisted of nine different exercises, which you did in groups of three. For example, the first three stations were battle ropes (while lunging), burpee press-ups (including single-leg press-ups) and medicine ball slams (with shuttle runs), all of which we tackled four times in total, doing 45 seconds of work with 15 seconds’ break before the next exercise. Then you get one minute off before starting on four rounds of the next group of three exercises.
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The best aspect of F45 is the coaching you get both from the screens that play videos of every exercise throughout the class, so you always know what you’re doing, and from the instructor, who seemed to have mastered the knack of being at every station at once to provide advice and encouragement. He even jumped on the rower himself to pace us through one of our 45-second stints. He also was on hand to turn up the resistance on our bikes every time we used them, which admittedly felt less welcome at the time.
It’s a punishingly fast class which flies by at a rapid rate, no matter how tough you’re finding it (we found it very tough), but it was refreshing to find agility drills using things like a speed ladder included. Although we weren’t working as a team during the class, there is a sense of camaraderie in all of F45’s workouts, even for us newbies.