The Crazy-Looking Fitness Class That Is Super Effective
At a recent Fitwall class in Newport Beach, California, Yahoo Health’s Amy Rushlow finds out what this growing fitness trend is all about. (Video: Amy Rushlow/Yahoo Health)
It’s like indoor rock climbing, CrossFit, Animal Flow, and strength training all rolled into one. Said another way, Fitwall, which currently has four studios open in California and another half-dozen locations opening this year in Michigan, Colorado, and California, is like no other workout out there. And as a fitness editor, I’ve pretty much done it all.
When I first heard about Fitwall, I admittedly thought it might just be another gimmick. But when I tried my first 40-minute class, the workout’s advantages became clear: Perching on the wall (think of doing a squat as you hang from a ladder) engages your lower and upper body, since you’re using both your arms and legs to support your weight. By slightly changing your body position — for example, moving closer to the wall or farther away from it — you can control the difficulty of the exercise and which body parts it targets most. You can also make exercises easier or more difficult — for instance, to make a row harder, you can use one hand instead of two.
Fitwall advisory board member Josh Zabar demonstrates a one-armed row. (Photos: Yahoo Health)
The idea for the unique workout initially came from an engineer with a passion for rock climbing. The prototype transformed from a wall with rock climbing handles and footsteps to today’s version with slats and accessories, such as a step and pulleys, which offer more versatility. After six months of programming development at the company’s test lab in La Jolla, California, the first Fitwall studio in Solana Beach, California, opened to the public in March 2014.
Since then, Fitwall has grown quickly. “I think Fitwall is expanding so rapidly because people are hungry for something that is fun, different, and actually works,” says Clifton Harski, Fitwall’s director of training and global head coach. Because the wall allows people to change their position easily, you can get an individualized, supervised workout, Harski says. The classes are kept small — a max of 16 participants — often with two instructors.
“The Fitwall also allows us to work the often-neglected posterior [back] side of the body better than any other tool,” Harski tells Yahoo Health. “Also, the Fitwall serves as a kind of Swiss army knife, where each station has a number of attachments allowing us to challenge the entire body safely and efficiently.”
Unlike other group fitness regimens, which typically switch up the workout every session, Fitwall offers three workouts designed to repeat throughout the month. Mondays and Tuesdays feature a strength and power workout, Wednesdays and Thursdays focus on functional interval training, and Fridays and Saturdays emphasize cardiovascular training. The Sunday workout is the instructor’s choice. All of the workouts go through rigorous testing by the staff before they go into the regular monthly lineup.
“The best athletes and physiques are built by following a structured program for long periods of time,” says Harski. “By repeating the same three workouts each week for a month, we ensure that our clients progress — that means doing more reps, performing the exercises with better form, adding more resistance, and generally improving their strength, fitness, and bodies.”
The wall might seem intimidating at first, but the classes are surprisingly newbie-friendly. iPads above each station follow along with each workout, so you only need to look up to see what you’re supposed to do. Plus, the small class size and two-instructor system means you get a lot support.
Check out the video below to see what you can expect from a Fitwall class:
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