Boot camps and high-intensity training are all the rage as more women step up their fitness game. Just reference Khloe Kardashian's "Revenge Body" and Gigi Hadid's boxing routine. It's no longer a men-only arena. These four gyms provide intense training that will push you to new limits. I tried out four different training programmes to test my limits.

 

1. Endurance training at F45 Novena

Class size: 27

Duration: 45 minutes

Toughness level: 5/5

The classes here are a mix of cardio and strength training. On the odd days of the work week, they offer high-intensity cardio workouts and switch to strength training for the other two days. The workout routine is being played out on large television screens around the gym and trainers are present in the gym to assist the participants.

I picked *Firestorm Monday. I was definitely not expecting the intensity of the warm-ups. Rapid high knee lifts and jump squats got my heart rate up even before the actual workout started. The trainers then demonstrated the different stations to us and explained that we had to complete two rounds (there were 22 stations). The sheer number seemed daunting at first, but because they were timed for 30sec with a 15sec break in between, we could perform the exercises without expiring too quickly. 

Weighted jumping lunges came first and just as my quads started burning, it was time to move on to the mountain climbers. It didn't take much thinking, if any, for me to transition to the next exercise. I mean, the room was filled with military encouragements and booming music. It just wasn't possible to feel sluggish and unmotivated.  

Photo credit: 123RF

Although many of the stations did seem like the typical HIIT (high-intensity interval training) exercises, there were small variations to target specific muscle groups. For example, one variation of the battle ropes targeted stamina training as we were required to do short and fast waves in a kneeling position. As for the second set, we had to execute large waves in a standing position - your arms won't thank you after this. 

Verdict: 30sec is much longer than you think it is. I was panting during and after the class. Although this isn't the most beginner friendly class, the trainers are always there to assist you and they are not hell-bent on forcing you to complete the entire workout in tip-top condition. As for the circuit regulars, you will definitely enjoy the multiple stations.

*class schedule changes every 10 weeks.

 

2. Toughening your core at Core Collective

Class size: 20

Duration: 60 minutes

Toughness level: 4/5

Unlike most gyms, Core Collective rents out its gym facilities to independent instructors who specialise in different types of training. One of their more popular classes is a Calisthenics class by Start Station (headed by independent trainer Haziq). 

Having attended other types of bodyweight training, I decided to give this class a go. If you think that slower paced classes are easier than high-intensity workouts, you're wrong. Starting out slow, the warmup included the typical jumping jacks and high-knees.

Then, we moved to the core warm up - a series of plank exercises and slow push-ups. In this class, it's crucial to warm up the arm and back muscles as many of the stations rely on them. Also conducted in a circuit format, my first station was the inverted pike stretch: I had to get into a bridge stretch and transition into a front pike. The hardest part was pushing my hips as far back as possible, resulting in a strong abdominal crunch.

Photo credit: 123RF

Pull ups and knee ups at the rings added to the tough factor. I struggled a lot at the rings and especially with the pull ups because I am no Olympic gymnast. Well, just because I couldn't do a pull up did not mean that I should give up. Trainer Haziq gave me great tips on maintaining a good position - staying in a pull up position and holding up your body weight isn't as easy as you think it is.

Haziq decided to end the class with a series of core exercises. These exercises were variations of yoga movements that targeted my core and upper body strength. Unsurprisingly, most of the class did not manage to hold themselves up for any decent amount of time. 

Verdict: Strength is key in this class and if you aren't strong enough on your first try, keep going for the class. For fitness junkies, this is the class you should add to your routine.

 

3. Spike your stamina at Virgin Active

Class size: 12

Duration: 30 minutes

Toughness level: 3/5

The gym has an Altitude Studio - a room where oxygen levels are lowered to simulate an environment 3,000 meters above sea level (almost as high as Mount Kinabalu). Less oxygen means more effort, and you'll sweat much faster.

I picked the Beginner Circuit Class inside Altitude Studio thinking that it wouldn't be too difficult. I was wrong. After a basic warm up, I was assigned to the Jacob's ladder. This machine is an actual stairway to fitness heaven. Although it's basically a moving ladder (picture a vertical treadmill), climbing it fast proved to be a coordination challenge: The faster you go, the more you struggle to keep up. With my limbs scrambling to find a hold, my heart rate accelerated quickly. 

The lower air pressure really affected my breathing. I knew I wasn't going to collapse but it definitely got me panting before I was half done with the workout. In general, the stations were a good mix of strength and stamina training: The kettlebell swings and tyre flips were a true test of my upper body strength, while the ab-roller pushed my core stability. The stations were 30sec each and trust me, the burn bore through at the 20sec mark. By the third circuit, everyone in the room was breathless.

Verdict: It's a unique workout that takes up only 30min of your time - fit this into your lunch break and the feared food comas will no longer bother you.

 

4. Get stronger at UP Fitness

Class size: 10

Duration: 45 minutes

Toughness level: 2.5/5

A performance-based gym, Ultimate Performance (UP) specialises in functional training - with exercises to give you better agility. Though personal training is the main programme here, the gym has equally rigorous group training sessions.

The lower toughness rating isn't based on the quality of the exercises but rather, the flexibility of the programme. The trainers expect different performance levels and will push you according to what they feel is right for you. 

After a speedy warmup, trainer Chu assigned us to different machines. I started with the hanging leg raise, but the next exercise at the cable machine was the toughest of the lot. Prior to Chu's class, I found face pulls (they target the smaller muscles in your real deltoids) not only intimidating but also awkward to do. Halfway through the set, Chu challenged me to use heavier weights. I complied and trust me, my arms and back were trembling.

Working out a smaller muscle does not require a heavy weight. Chu reminded us that endurance and a slow release are the key methods to fully activating your muscles. 

Verdict: The class was tough because the instructor set individual goals for everyone. If you're looking for a personalised training service but aren't willing to commit to a set of classes with a personal trainer, this is the place for you.

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This article was first published in the November Issue of our magazine.