Zumba fan? You and 12 million other booty shakers! That’s because the class feels more dance party than workout. SELF polled 100 gyms and studios in four trendsetting cities to find the most fun, social, slim-spiring new classes around—and the best elements of each that you can do at home, no gym required! Try one (or two! or three!), and of course, keep Zumba-ing. You look sensational!
The city that never sleeps hates a snoozefest sweat session. To make it here, workout locales pull out all the stops, giving a Spin class a clublike vibe and bringing surfing fun past the shore. Intensity is the name of the game, for both work and play. (Try SELF's free Drop 10 workout, featuring fun and supereffective high-intensity interval training!)
What to expect A unique indoor cycling strategy—superfast pacing and push-ups off the handlebars to the beat of bass-thumping music. Diehards liken it to “dancing on a bike.” Just when you think you can’t pedal another second, catch your breath with a bout of hammer curls and shoulder presses in the saddle using 2-pound hand weights. You may also notice familiar faces in your row. No biggie; it’s probably only regulars Katie Holmes and Jake Gyllenhaal.
Know before you go Forgot your hair tie, deodorant or even gum? This studio keeps all on hand for free.
Your turn Steal Soul’s mojo: Go to its site to download 10 of the most popular leg-churning songs played in class that month.
What to expect Booty pop, hip shaking and b-boying (you know, break-dance moves where you’re spinning like crazy on your hands and butt on the floor). And worry not, no-rhythm newbies: Vivacious instructor Bev Brown will baby-step you into the 90-minute routine so you never feel lost.
Know before you go Call your moves-like-Jagger pals, and ask them to join. BFFs often take the class together to pair off for the choreographed partner sequences.
Your turn Brown cribs moves from hot dance videos. Try your hand—er, feet!—at Rihanna’s “Where Have You Been,” a class favorite.
Brooklyn Bridge Boot camp
What to expect A butt whooping with a view. For 2.2 miles across the iconic Brooklyn Bridge and back, you’ll do step-ups on benches, push-ups on the cement walls and total-body resistance-band moves.
Know before you go Sign up for the 6:30 a.m. session to witness a breathtaking sunrise over the East River. Of course, we can’t promise you’ll have breath to spare.
Your turn Nab the $35 DVD off the website; it comes with resistance bands and shows 27 moves.
Hot Figure 4
What to expect Creator and former professional ballerina Kate Albarelli cranks up the thermostat to a sweltering 105 degrees for this barre class (named for the four areas it targets: abs, arms, butt, thighs) so muscles loosen and you can go deeper into the leg lifts, squats and arm raises.
Know before you go For typical barre routines, HO isn’t a necessity. Here, it’s nonnegotiable. Double up on bottles; make them cold.
Your turn Try Albarelli’s go-to move for envy-worthy thighs and calves: Stand with feet wide, toes turned out; place right hand on a chair back. Lift left heel, then squat. Pulse 50 times; switch sides; repeat. Do 3 sets.
What to expect Smarty-pants training with Metabolic Conditioning. You’ll do all-out bouts designed to increase endurance. Prepare to heft weights (medicine balls and Body Bars) and do cardio finishers (burpees, squat jumps) for 1 minute, doing as many reps as you can.
Know before you go You move nonstop, so veterans keep several towels handy to wipe down quickly.
Your turn Try a trio of MetCon sculptors: Do as many side lunges, bent-over rows and jumping jacks as you can muster for 1 minute each. Rest, then repeat 3 times.
What to expect An Iyengar class (you hold poses up to a minute and use props, like straps and blocks) with mood lighting. You grab a spot in a circle around 20 unscented candles, then gaze toward the blaze and let the serene vibe calm your breath.
Know before you go The room is a music-free zone, so be prepared for a meditative, Zen-like and quiet-as-a-mouse atmosphere.
Your turn Turn off the lights and fire up candles to om at home. Just as in this class, the calming ambience will help you focus your practice to better your poses and results.
What to expect Pop up on the RipSurfer X, a machine that looks like a real surfboard, wobbles as if on water and comes tricked out with bungees at its nose that allow you to “paddle” with resistance.
Know before you go Exactly as you would for the real thing, ditch socks for a better grip on the board.
Your turn Simulate a sick set while you define a surfer-girl chest: Get in push-up position with hands on a BOSU ball; push off the BOSU, and explode to standing. Gnarly!
Say bienvenido to sculpting sexy curves and sizzling mucho calories! Here, every day is a bikini-baring opportunity, so it’s no surprise the hottest workouts aim to burn as they firm.
What to expect Picture indoor cycling but on a bike (called a RealRyder) that pivots side to side so you can lean into twisting trails, just like on an alfresco ride. (You might feel like you’re outside, too, in this studio of wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling windows!) Twice, you’ll crank the resistance to slow-pedal while you do 15-minute lifting sessions with 3-pound weights.
Know before you go The bike’s instability means you’re firing your core to stay balanced the entire hour. Next stop: chiseled abs!
Your turn Classgoers here have a “bike butler” to help them adjust height and handlebar settings, but you can ask an instructor in any class to customize your ride’s fit.
What to expect The sounds of Miami—Latin rap, Jamaican reggae and salsa—accompany music video–esque moves. And you don’t have to be Shakira to hang. The first three songs are your warm-up, and the steps you learn (slowly!) provide the foundation for mastering the rest of the hour-long class.
Know before you go DSL is so caliente that students spill into the hallways. Aim to arrive 20 minutes early.
Your turn No matter what dance class you’re in, the key to looking (and feeling) loose is to always keep knees soft. Don’t lock ’em.
What to expect A no-frills gym (called a box), a whiteboard displaying your workout of the day (called a WOD) and basic but challenging moves (pull-ups, etc.). The kicker: You won’t get breaks between moves.
Know before you go You’ll keep a tally of rep count and weight load for every exercise. (The goal: Gradually increase your reps, speed and the amount you can lift.) Don’t think of it as a competition with other CrossFitters but with yourself.
Your turn Visit Self.com/fitness for three calorie-crunching WODs.
What to expect A one-hour, total-body workout that rolls through dumbbell moves, push-ups and leg lifts at the barre, plus ab work on a mat. Muscles. Will. Quiver. Don’t fight it. Shaking legs mean you’re toning. Proof that the routine really works: Regulars say they’ve lost dress sizes and 10-plus pounds.
Know before you go Be one of the first to get in the proper position: On days 1 to 15 of the month, veterans know that every move will begin with the right hand or foot; on days 16 to the end of the month, switch to the left hand or foot.
Your turn Buy the new Bar Method DVD, Super Sculpting Workouts, on the website ($20); a countertop or chair can sub as a barre.
What to expect The sundress arms of your dreams in a 30-minute sculptathon with continuous sets of flyes, raises and shoulder extensions. Best of all? The ladies pack the heat! Women make up more than half the group, and the friendly but competitive atmosphere encourages beginners to grab the 10-pounders instead of the 5s.
Know before you go The class is called Guns, but that doesn’t mean your biceps will turn into AK-47s. (Women simply don’t have enough testosterone to bulk like the Hulk.) Here, you’ll get lean muscles.
Your turn Arm yourself by taking these cues from the class: Grab a set of heavy ’bells (aim for a weight you can lift only 10 times), and do 3 sets each of shoulder presses, biceps curls and triceps kickbacks.
What to expect Anusara and Ashtanga poses (you jump from one position to the next to build strength) in an inclusive atmosphere. No one’s laying claim to a yoga mat space here. Novices are greeted with a smile and given a rundown of the “monkeyisms” (insider lingo that GM yogis use).
Know before you go The nickname for the studio is Tree House, and the lounge has free Wi-Fi, so friends will often meet here pre-class to hang.
Your turn Adopt the Green Monkey attitude: Grin, instead of gritting your teeth, during those muscle-scorching last seconds of plank pose. We’ll bet you hold it longer.
What to expect A rock-star body! You’ll tap weighted drumsticks on the floor and in the air for hundreds of reps in 45 minutes while you hold squats, lunges and crunches.
Know before you go All that stick slamming can get LOUD. No one will make fun if you bring earplugs.
Your turn Tell ab flab to beat it: Hold Boat pose as you drum the palms of both hands on the floor at the side of your body, twisting from right to left for 1 minute.
The Windy City might remind you of deep-dish pizza and hot dogs, but fat melting is also on the menu. Chi-Town boasts some of the coolest calorie-crushing classes in the country.
What to expect Stadium-style seating in this cycling studio means there’s no bad spot to be; bikes track pedaling (RPMs) and resistance (torq) so you can’t skimp on either. The famous “torqboard” is a flat screen that intermittently flashes riders’ stats so you can race to be the strongest and fastest.
Know before you go You don’t have to see your name in lights. If the torqboard intimidates you, you can opt out when you sign up.
Your turn Friendly competition like Flywheel’s can help you push harder for longer, regardless of the workout, research shows. Invite a fit pal to your next ride!
What to expect Throw out jazz hands and tush shakes to the beat of Top 40 rock, pop and hip-hop while you join classgoers to belt out Kelly Clarkson and Kanye. Instructors first show footwork without arms and go through steps at least four times for those with two left feet.
Know before you go The class borrows its name from dance slang. When you perform the perfect dance move, you’re “werqing it.”
Your turn Watch the site’s sample video, and “werq” from home, channeling your favorite So You Think You Can Dance? contestant.
The Caveman Workout
What to expect Dragging truck tires, swinging sledgehammers, throwing sandbags and even carrying an empty beer keg up stairs. For 45 minutes, you’ll get positive hoots, hollers and high-fives from fellow cavemen, half of whom are women.
Know before you go Don’t let the word sledgehammer freak you out. Instructors encourage you to go slowly to really nail the form.
Your turn Try this Stone Age move for slammin’ shoulders: Hold a paint can in both hands at chest height with elbows out. Squat low as you press can overhead. Return to start; repeat. Do 15 reps.
What to expect An hour-long kickboxing-meets-barre routine that will earn you a knockout body. The format: Punch like crazy. Do glute-burning barre moves. Throw out countless kicks. Reee-peat.
Know before you go The studio floor is made of the same material as tennis shoes but 10 times thicker; the super padded surface absorbs the shock of those bazillion jumps.
Your turn Subscribe from the site to Barre Bee Fit’s free YouTube channel for weekly workout videos.
What to expect Picture the rope used for tug-of-war when you were a tyke. A whole row of these babies (called undulation ropes) are anchored to a bar, and you’ll hold one end—or two!—to chop, wave and create circles. For 30 minutes, you’ll switch between timed intervals of rope churning and “breaks” of squats and lunges.
Know before you go Don’t worry about calluses. Rope ends are smoothed out and won’t rub or burn your hands. Promise.
Your turn Buy your own monster ropes at CalRopes.com (starting at $75), and watch its how-to video.
Music Yoga Flow
What to expect The core-sculpting postures associated with cult favorite Exhale Core Fusion (planks, Boat pose and Triangle), plus traditional Sun Salutations and Warrior poses, set to rock, reggae, blues, world and classical. The tunes are meant to energize you so you can gradually increase your speed from pose to pose to reach a crescendo—then slowly cool down.
Know before you go If you name-drop your favorite tune to the instructor, she’ll play it at your next session.
Your turn Download taped sessions at YogaVibes.com ($20 for an all-access month’s subscription).
What to expect A slew of proven sculpting tools—stability balls, dumbbells, pilates rings—to tone all 360 degrees of your bod. The workout rolls from exercise to exercise without a break using the different props so you never burn out one muscle group or get bored.
Know before you go You use familiar equipment, but the creative moves are tough! It’s not frowned upon if first-timers do toners sans props.
Your turn Use the Body 360 philosophy: Don’t just train what you see in the mirror. Target your sides, inner thighs and back, too.
You don’t have to be Jennifer Aniston to have a starworthy bod in Tinseltown. New workout joints debut daily, and cool trends keep gym-nistas coming back and looking like A-listers.
What to expect To cycle until you reach your four-digit calorie-burning goal. Because your instructor wears a heart-rate monitor, she can tell the class when the tally ticks to 1,000—usually after upwards of 70 minutes. Post-ride, staffers pamper you with cold eucalyptus-scented towels and fresh fruit.
Know before you go For every ride you buy, Cycle House’s Take 1/Give 2 program will donate enough money to feed two people through Feeding America.
Your turn Think of this studio’s mantra before every workout: “You have no idea what you’re capable of.”
What to expect A 90-minute lesson that will make you want to join the dance line on Smash! You’ll learn modern, funky jazz and ballet steps, and before you begin, the instructor will identify a character for you to channel while you move. (Think “Vixen,” “Siren,” “Diva.”)
Know before you go This gym is a celebrity beacon. (Britney goes here to get her groove back.) So don’t be surprised to box-step or grapevine next to dancing queens such as Christina or Janet.
Your turn Watch videos of popular classes on the site, then let them inspire you to create your own choreography at home.
Barry’s Boot camp
What to expect A muscle-shocking interval routine that leaves zero chance for daydreaming. For one hour, you’ll switch between sprints on a treadmill (amping your speed to even 10 mph) and strength-building moves that use weights, a step and bands to tone every inch.
Know before you go Each day has a specific workout (for example, Mondays are always Arms & Abs), so double-check the schedule to make sure it’s what you want.
Your turn A tip instructors yell over and over in class applies to your next heart-racing workout: “You can do anything for one minute!”
What to expect A class that earns you a perky ballerina butt that “pops,” à la the perky posterior that greets you on the studio’s home page. The mix of pilates, dance and barre moves is set in a “yupster” studio (yuppies and hipsters united) that rocks the latest indie and electro music.
Know before you go Learn to love that muscle-burning sensation. The program at Pop requires that you hold…hold…and hold a move (like a deep plié) to get results.
Your turn Look for the DVDs—three workouts, with one on defining a damn-fine derriere—on the site, starting this month ($15 each).
What to expect Knocking out kettlebell swings, walking lunges and “suicides” (sprinting back and forth on a basketball court). And never again using modifications when it comes to body-weight moves. With this routine, you will be the girl who can blaze through pull-ups and push-ups.
Know before you go Classgoers are supertight and meet regularly to celebrate birthdays and progress.
Your turn Challenge yourself with the class’s 10 percent goal: When you use free weights, grab dumbbells that are at least 10 percent of your body weight. (So if you’re 120 pounds, reach for 12s.)
What to expect Chaturanga to bass-thumping Eminem and Katy Perry in a gorgeous studio of floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Santa Monica Boulevard. The name of this Vinyasa flow represents what volume the music will be turned to, the effort you’re expected to give and how you should live every day.
Know before you go Owner Meaghan Kennedy Townsend shouts words of encouragement during class and gives mini-massages to students while they’re in Child’s pose.
Your turn Create a yogi playlist of fast-paced, bumpin’ songs—Townsend suggests Tupac’s “Changes” and Katy Perry’s “Firework”—to fuel your desire to move powerfully through poses.
What to expect One ridiculously amazing booty. A blend of yoga, strength training and tribal dance equals muscle-sculpting, butt-shaking Buti. The class is a one-stop cardio-sculpt shop: For 75 minutes, you flow from Warrior variations, squats and hip openers to dancing to bass-heavy jams.
Know before you go Pull from your “hot yoga” wardrobe. The dress de rigueur is typically skimpy short-shorts and sports bras.
Your turn Sign up at the site to stream three classes a week for $40 for the first three months.
Stay classy. Find more workout-based popular routines at SelfWorkoutFinder.com.
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