Beyond Prancercise: Group Fitness Classes for Women

Assessing the crop of group fitness classes marketed to women
Kaiser, founder of AKTinMotion, demonstrates a move Photograph by Meredith Jenks for Bloomberg Businessweek

Celebrity-trainer-turned-entrepreneur Anna Kaiser opened her flagship studio in November in New York along with pop-up shops in Connecticut and the Hamptons. Suggestively named classes—such as S&M and 4Play—are led by professional dancers and alternate between shimmying and moves such as plank push-ups for 10-minute circuits. It’s a dancer’s workout, with lots of small movements focusing mostly on your arms and core but with more cardio than a traditional ballet bar regimen. Fans include Kelly Ripa and her 12-year-old daughter. Classes, heated to make you sweat, are kept at less than 15 people, so there’s no way to hide in the back.
$35, 60 minutes
Difficulty: 8/10

An underwater spinning class at Aqua Studio NY
Meredith Jenks for Bloomberg Businessweek

Aqua Studio NY
The submerged cycling class—a French workout trend that landed stateside last year—feels fresh out of Paris: low impact, low heart rate, more of a spa experience than a gym. This spin/swim class takes place in a 4-foot-deep pool, so your chest is above water while your legs pedal against resistance. A particularly hard move involves hands-free pedaling while leaning backward and treading in the water behind you.
$40, 45 minutes
Difficulty: 3/10

Focus Integrated Fitness
Bring your man friends
Virtual trainers demonstrate exercises on iPads at this small circuit-training studio in New York, but the sleek appearance doesn’t make up for a lack of creativity. For nearly an hour, real-world trainers guide guests through five or so different stations—including kettlebell swings, hamstring curls, and shoulder presses—followed by a shorter “finisher” circuit that feels like filler. The TRX suspension bands that hang from the ceiling offer difficult core and stabilization moves, but the optional exercises between sets could be more challenging.
$40, 50 minutes
Difficulty: 5/10

Explicitly for women, this New York club features shampoo by Malin & Goetz and plenty of blow-dryers. Its three signature classes focus on strength, cardio, and yoga. The Uplifting-Cardio fuses 5- to 7-pound dumbbell exercises with movements such as jumping jacks and toe touches; think an updated take on Jane Fonda’s aerobics. Pulsing the light weights will make muscles burn, but the calisthenics alone aren’t worth paying for.
$32, 55 minutes
Difficulty: 6/10

Vixen Workout
Wedge sneakers encouraged
Janet Jones started the official Twerk School of the East Coast this year with studios in Miami and Manhattan. Her method is a booty-popping dance-off that’s set almost entirely to Beyoncé remixes. Freestyle moves are encouraged, and there are no weights or structured body shaping. Instead, the Vixen Workout includes motivational female empowerment speeches, with mantras such as “Damn, I look good!” and “Pay my bills.” You can probably afford them, though, because the class is cheaper than most.
$15, 60 minutes
Difficulty: 4/10

Barry’s Bootcamp
Endorsed by Jake Gyllenhaal and Kim Kardashian, the boot camp company expanded last year, taking its clubby vibe—loud pop, dim lighting, crowded rooms—to England and Norway. Each session alternates between 12 minutes of grueling treadmill sprints and an equally quick weight routine relying on squats and curls. Even these basics feel impossible when you’re out of breath from running.
$34, 50 minutes
Difficulty: 8/10

Mini trampolines for participants fill the space at this New York upstart. Following the instructor and keeping the beat of the music while bouncing is awkward, but the workout itself isn’t very taxing. There are no weights or intense cardio, just small jumps and running in place. For those who are less coordinated, an optional balance bar is available.
$28, 45 minutes
Difficulty: 4/10

305 Fitness
This cardio-heavy workout delivers on its South Florida roots with a live DJ and pulsing neon strobes. Unlike traditional dance, the hip-hop classes don’t teach specific choreography; instead, teachers demonstrate a series of body-weight exercises disguised as dancing. Body rolls work on contracting your core, and quick-popping squats tighten your rear and quads. Spots are mostly filled by young women—though men are welcome—but this isn’t a butt-kicker as much as a good time.
$24, 55 minutes
Difficulty: 5/10

Circuit of Change
Will convert yoga haters
If a combination of “martial arts, cardio core strengthening, gymnastics, plyometrics, yoga, and meditation” sounds confusing, that’s because it is. The signature Mindbody Bootcamp at this Manhattan gym tries to do it all by juxtaposing warrior poses with Superman kicks and jabbing sequences. You’ll use only your body weight as resistance, a plus if you dislike weights, but the sequences get repetitive. Temperatures rise above 90F to help you shed some water weight, and a calming Shavasana resting pose ends the workout right.
$27, 60 minutes
Difficulty: 6/10

A B|Xer digs in at Brick
Meredith Jenks for Bloomberg Businessweek

B|X at Brick
Best overall workout
An update of the original CrossFit—a cult workout that began in 2000 and involves Olympic weight lifting—this high-intensity interval version uses lighter weights and is more beginner-friendly. Offered in Los Angeles and New York, sessions typically include two or three circuits that combine arm, leg, and ab movements by throwing medicine balls or doing squat jumps or single-leg planks. There’s no rest between exercises, so don’t eat too much before or you risk nausea.
$32, 60 minutes
Difficulty: 9/10

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