The 11 Most Effective HIIT Classes in NYC, Tested and Reviewed
Next-generation high-intensity workouts are about culture, not just calories burned.
(Bloomberg) — Editor’s note: We’re testing a variety of group fitness classes—like strength and Pilates —to not only recommend the best ones, but also see how they’ve changed in the months since Covid-19 forced gyms to shutter. This month, we’re focusing on high-intensity interval training.
Halfway through Rise Nation’s VersaClimber workout, I’m doing my best to mimic the instructor’s cues amid a Tron-like environment of flashing neon lights across a geometric ceiling installation. Save for a few spotlights, the room is dimly lit. The concert-quality speakers are cranking hits from the 2000s.
There’s a lot going on, but I can’t help but notice the maniacal amount of energy being expended by the man next to me. A spray of sweat festoons the floor. He bellows out a cheer, clearly having the time of his life. I can’t match his intensity, but his enthusiasm is contagious. When the class is over, he turns to me, grinning ear to ear, and I am face-to-face with Jake Gyllenhaal.
He tells me he comes here two to three times a week when he’s in town. It’s the kind of HIIT workout—the acronym stands for high-intensity interval training—that has become popular because you can do it more often. It doesn’t have the same taxing effect on your body as jumping and sprinting.
“We guide clients through a 30-minute class, using various climbing moves that provide a full-body, high-intensity, low-impact workout, making the most of your time and energy,” says Rise Nation founder Jason Walsh. It’s a choreographed, tempo-based workout, during which you climb hundreds, sometimes thousands, of vertical feet. Walsh says you can burn up to 800 calories in half an hour.
Once upon a time, group fitness classes in New York City were designed to destroy you. Tourists and locals alike flocked to studios to try the toughest workouts available. Wide-eyed and optimistic upon arrival, people left in disarray, desperately in need of a massage and an antacid after, say, three minutes of lateral burpees—and that was just part of the warmup.
Today, the best HIIT classes in the city take a more methodical approach. Some push your limits while using science-backed work-to-rest ratios; others introduce modalities such as mindfulness. Some are even designed to make the experience less transactional and more reciprocal by having you work in “squads.”
Bloomberg editors and I tested dozens of HIIT workouts at some of the top boutique studios in Manhattan (plus a couple in Brooklyn and Long Island City) to find the most effective and unique experiences. Here’s where we enjoyed training the most.
West Village AthleticBest for: A members-only club that’s centered on meeting new people
The idea for West Village Athletic and Greenwich Village Athletic came to founder Dane McCarthy during the pandemic. He and some Australian expats would meet at a pier to do high-intensity workouts, wearing only black to easily spot one another. Unlike in the States, where sports more or less halt after college, athletics is baked into Aussie culture. McCarthy continued playing rugby in New York until one too many elbows to the face interfered with his client-facing day job.
The Athletic Clubs merge New York’s fun, high-octane training style with the conviviality of training with friends by way of “squads.” Through the membership, you’ll be paired with a squad based on when you like to work out and how you like to be coached. Your designated trainer will oversee progress and lead two workouts in the studio, plus you’ll get access to the gym and unlimited drop-in classes including HIIT, yoga, Pilates and recovery sessions. Perhaps best of all, WVA and GVA put together social events each month to foster connection among clients.
Related: Stretching Isn’t Sexy, but ‘Prehab’ Is the Exercise Everyone Wants
We joined a 7:30 a.m. squad session in the Greenwich Village location, partnering up with McCarthy himself for an A-B split of dead-stop kettlebell swings and burpees as well as box jumps, plus 40 resisted squat jumps (your partner holds a band around you) and a dumbbell section consisting of deadlifts, cleans and snatches. We finished things off with an ab circuit, after which members cooled down and went for coffee together.
Making friends as an adult is hard, but McCarthy has found the secret sauce. Your squad keeps you accountable and instills the kind of camaraderie you thought you left behind in college.
Membership: $195 per monthSomething of note: The Athletic clubs also offer a cheeky Brunch Burn HIIT workout that starts at 9 a.m. on Saturdays, as well as a run club that meets Mondays and Thursdays at 7 a.m. and 6:30 p.m., often for jaunts over the Brooklyn Bridge.
Session Best for: A one-stop shop for all your fitness needs
Maybe it’s the Brooklyn way, but Session’s community is hard to beat. “The mission from day one was to create a safe and inclusive space, free of judgment or pretense,” says Patrick Waters, Session’s founder.
He’s developed a winning formula in thoughtful programming. Members and drop-in clients can work through a variety of modalities to get a well-balanced training regimen; offerings include a variety of strength and cardio intervals, kettlebell strength and conditioning, and an outdoor run lab.
Group fitness classes all happen in one large room with a separate area for personal training. Clients face a mirrored wall with a section of black turf, typically working through dumbbell bench exercises. The middle of the space has Rogue Echo fan bikes and usually incorporates accessory kettlebell work. The back of the room has Concept2 SkiErgs, pull-up bars and mats for additional free-weight work. Session recently opened a second location in Williamsburg; this one is close to McCarren Park.
Related: It Takes an Iron Will To Create Fitness Empire Out of Kettlebells
If you want HIIT, sign up for the Signature Circuit or Metcon option. Signature Circuit contains three blocks of work with three stations completed three times through. You work for 60 seconds and rest while transitioning to the next station for 18 seconds, explains Alexa Javens, coach and fitness manager.
Exercises in a block might include heavy rope waves and slams, snatches and thread-the-needle side planks; or kettlebell deadlifts, bike sprints and overhead dumbbell marches. Metcon also has three blocks of work, but each varies the number of exercises and work-to-rest ratio, focusing mostly on conditioning. Workouts aren’t duplicative, and trainers really take pride in introducing new exercises. Playlists are always on point, too.
Fees and membership: From $38 per class to $249 per month for unlimited classesSomething of note: Session also offers in-house physical therapy through Stacks Physio Sports Rehabilitation Club, a sports and orthopedic clinic that specializes in injury rehab, recovery work and prehab, or preventative rehabilitation. Personalized treatments include strength training, mobility exercises, soft-tissue work and manual therapy.
The ClassBest for: Finding joy in movement and losing your inhibitions
We need to preface a discussion of this workout by saying you need to get out of your head; leave stoicism and rigidity at the door. Founded in 2013 by Taryn Toomey, a former fashion executive, the Class is a lesson in letting go and finding release, sometimes in the form of guttural screams and full-body shakes, writhes and body rolls as if you’re an inflatable air dancer outside a car dealership.
“Mindfulness has been part of the Class DNA from the start, using the body and breath to calm the mind and ground students in the present moment, allowing them to build a stronger physical body, increase mental clarity and improve emotional resilience,” says Natalie Kuhn, co-chief executive officer and founding teacher.
The mat-based class—you can go barefoot or wear sneakers because there’s a fair amount of jumping—pairs one movement per song. The experience feels ritualistic and hypnotic, meditative and vocal. It begins with body-awareness cues and setting an intention, moves through yoga-inspired flows, on to strength and cardio exercises, and finally a heart-opening drill: Cactus your arms, then pump in and out.
It’s wonderfully cathartic—assuming you can forgo self-consciousness. At its core, the Class teaches you how to process and unstick intangible, sometimes intrusive thoughts with physical movement.
Fees and membership: From $35 per class to $600 for 20 classes Something of note: While the Tribeca studio is light and ethereal and enhances the experience, you can also practice virtually by joining the Digital Studio. Choose among on-demand workouts; live streams; and programs across yoga, meditation, a primer to the Class and more.
Rise NationBest for: A low-impact, high-intensity scorcher of a workout
We love that Rise Nation caps all classes at 30 minutes. (With nominal rest, there’s no need to go longer.) It also offers a scaled approach to intensity so first-timers aren’t thrust into something they aren’t ready for. Level 1 is called Base Climb, Level 2 is the Ascent and Level 3 is the Summit. There’s a Mile High Club (no, not that one) for advanced members. That said, this is what Walsh likes to call self-regulated conditioning.
It’s not like setting a treadmill to a certain speed. On the VersaClimber, the harder you go, the higher the energy demand and the greater the calorie burn. You earn every foot of elevation gain because there’s no momentum to rely on. Also, since you’re moving in a pretty fixed, upright position, there’s less of a learning curve as compared to, say, a rower.
In all classes, you’ll climb to the beat and work through three foundational moves, transitioning between mid- and long-range stroke length (your arm will reach from 6 to 12 inches and 12 to 20 inches); a squat stance where your hands are fixed on the middle bar for high knees; and a sprint wherein you stay in a short- to mid-range stroke length for 10- to 30-second flurries.
Ultimately, Rise Nation has found a way to make what could be a very monotonous workout wildly entertaining. “Through passionate instructors, innovative lighting and a choreographed workout, it’s the next best thing to a Beyonce concert,” Walsh says.
Fees and membership: From $30 for one class to $480 for a pack of 20 (prices based on its New York NoHo location)Something of note: It also offers recyclable, reusable water bottles by Path Water. In the locker rooms, guests will find Cloud Paper products made from sustainable bamboo; Public Goods toiletries made with sugar-cane bottles; biodegradable and disposable sport and shower towels from Minerva Beauty; and green-minded snacks by Thorne, ProBar, Prevail Jerky, BiPro and Fuel for Fire.
Fhitting RoomBest for: A dependable, non-intimidating workout
A mainstay in New York’s fitness scene since 2012, Fhitting Room has studios in the Flatiron District, the Upper West Side and New Jersey, as well as virtual on-demand and live classes. After a warmup of good mornings, jumping jacks, shoulder taps and hip openers, the instructor ran us through the Signature FHIT blueprint of the day, demo-ing each exercise with notes on proper form. TV screens also show the moves mid-class.
We were placed into groups and partnered, then put through 60 seconds of work with 20 seconds of rest, pinging back and forth between A and B exercises. We did sprints on an Assault Bike paired with an active recovery on a Concept2 SkiErg, sit-ups with medicine balls, goblet lunges with single-arm rows and dumbbell high pulls with pushups.
Related: Wild Secrets I Never Knew About Fitness Trainers Until I Worked as One
That was capped off with a “Fhix” finisher (think “you go, I go”): six minutes of single-arm dumbbell push presses, jackknives and alternating dumbbell snatches. It was a descending ladder starting with 10 reps that went down by two as you alternate with a partner.
After class, in the Flatiron location, you’ll find a shower on the lower level stocked with Aveda toiletries, making this a great pick if you like to train before work or happy hour.
Fees and membership: From $38 per class to $500 per month for unlimited classesSomething of note: Fhitting Room has a team of “JEDIs” across all levels of the organization, dedicated to promoting justice, equity, diversity and inclusion. This is a space where you’re welcome to come as you are—no stigmas or marginalization.
The Training Lab Best for: A regimented bootcamp experience
You won’t be coddled in class, but if you aim for no-nonsense sweating, this couldn’t be a better workout. The studio takes over two floors, one full of squat racks and free weights dedicated to body part-specific strength classes and the other loaded with cardio machines for Training Day, the gym’s 55-minute HIIT workout. Each day has a specific movement emphasis, such as deadlifts, squats and pull-ups to level-up personal bests. The end of the year concludes with freestyle sessions, which were the ones we joined.
“The Training Lab is built on a foundation of adherence that was instilled in me in the Marines,” says founder and trainer Ruben Belliard. “This philosophy has helped create a unique environment where everyone is accountable and wants to be better.”
Training Day taps into the body’s three different energy systems, known as block training, working at 75%, 85%, and 100% of your effort level that furthers explosive speed, cardiovascular endurance and strength.
Related: The 10 Best Pilates Classes in New York for Toning, Strength, Fat Loss
There’s a real emphasis on teamwork, too. Class begins with everyone chanting reps of jumping jacks, pushups, dynamic drills around the turf and even a run up the stairwell to the top of the building. The workout we did started and ended with 30-second treadmill sprints, trading on and off with up to three partners in a 10-minute round. The heart of the workout put us through two rounds of glute bridges and bodyweight squats, plus a three-round rowing gantlet; for speed, we rowed 500 meters while our partner did sandbag deadlifts and lunges.
Expect circuits to push your limits with plenty of turf sprints, jumping, sled pushes and battle ropes work. You’ll be gassed by the end, but it’s a real accomplishment. Thankfully, showers are stocked with Malin+Goetz products.
Fees and membership: From $44 per class to $349 per month for 12 months of unlimited classesSomething of note: If you’re interested in personal training, Training Lab offers three levels with four packages, depending on the number of sessions.
Brick NY Best for: A CrossFit-tinged HIIT workout
B|X is a doozy of a workout in the very best way—challenging your cardio and endurance at a more intense level than some of the other options on this list. We popped into a 7:45 a.m. Wednesday class on Lexington Avenue with just three other participants, which felt more like a semi-private session.
The main work was the cardio component, but each minute began with a strength exercise. For example, we did eight jumping lunges, then finished the minute on an air-resistance bike. We’d rest for 10 seconds, then do eight kettlebell suitcase deadlifts and hit the bike for the remainder of the next minute, alternating the strength move each time. We got really acquainted with all of the machines, including top-of-the-line Rogue bikes, Concept2 rowers, and Trueform Runner self-powered treadmills.
Aesthetically, this is a CrossFit box, plain and simple, with an orange and black motif. The main entrance has a smoothie bar with an upper level dedicated to showers and a locker room and a bottom floor dedicated to training. A central room has accessories to warm up with, and open cubbies to stash your belongings. One massive room is dedicated to CrossFit and strength training (B|FIT) and the other for HIIT (B|X).
Fees and membership: From $38 per class to $350 per month for unlimited classesSomething of note: If you’re a beginner and a CrossFit box feels intimidating—in atmosphere, intensity and the required form—shoot the team an email via the website, and a coach will reach out to ease concerns and answer questions. The attendant at the front desk can also walk you through the studio upon arrival.
Dogpound Best for: An elite personal-training experience
If you’re familiar with Dogpound because you’ve watched Tom Holland boxing and Hugh Jackman blasting out hex bar deadlifts via Instagram, it’s easy to assume that the vibe here will be elitist. We’ll set the record straight. This is exclusive, no doubt, but there’s no air of pretension—and the all-black SoHo space has fewer Hollywood A-listers running around than you might expect.
What you’ll find is a close network of clients. We dropped into a 10 a.m. HIIT session, but Dogpound also offers strength and conditioning, kettlebells, boxing, mat pilates, dance cardio, mobility and stretch, and even skateboarding classes.
The HIIT class had only six participants and comprised three women (who had met through the gym), two men and myself. We worked in two groups in classic circuit style, moving through stints on the SkiErg and air-resistance bike, as well as plank kettlebell drags and burpees. There’s no dedicated class space per se, but there is plenty of room by the gym’s boxing ring. The real draw here, though, is Dogpound’s personal training.
Related: In the Wake of Covid, Corporate Bosses Become Breathwork Believers
“Each person receives a team of three trainers they rotate through,” says Kirk Myers, Dogpound’s founder. “We strive to create a community in our gyms, so it’s key that clients interface with more than just one. Having a team of trainers also ensures a progressive workout. That variety keeps the client and body engaged.”
In personal training, your baseline fitness level, goals and preferences for modalities are all factored in so you can get a bespoke program. The membership program consists of Gold and Black tiers that provide in-gym and virtual personal training sessions and small group classes in addition to partnerships, VIP events and more.
When I went back for a one-on-one personal training session, it was thoughtfully curated. The trainer asked for a rundown of any injuries, workout frequency and type of activity to get a sense of form competency and strength, then hit me with a total-body burnout.
The moves were compound and advanced. This wasn’t traditional HIIT, but it got my heart pumping with intense work and little rest. The warmup included rowing, dumbbell lunge, curl, squat and then overhead press, plus mini band work.
But the main set really ramped things up with sit-up medicine ball throws and lateral oblique medicine ball tosses on a bench. Throw in some weighted single-arm flys in bear-position (knees bent, hovering off ground), a Bulgarian split squat series and seated cable rows, among others, and my muscles were spent and shaking by the end.
Fees and membership: $8,000 per year for Gold and Black tiers, via applicationSomething of note: The cost of a session depends on the package you buy—which starts with a set of three—and also whether you’re a member or just coming in for a one-off. You don’t have to be a member to buy sessions, but members get priority in booking.
Mind Body ProjectBest for: A zen space that zeroes in on meditation
It wouldn’t seem that HIIT and meditation could have a symbiotic relationship, but it’s incredibly advantageous to prime the body and mind for exercise. Likewise, it’s just as important to cue the parasympathetic nervous system to wind down after a workout. A relatively new option, Mind Body Project was originally slated to open in May 2020, but Covid-19 delayed its launch till last year.
“I developed the concept because meditation and HIIT training were massively helpful to my physical and mental health,” says founder Christopher Stockel. “There appeared to be a gap in the marketplace among fitness studios—whereas the primary focus was on physical benefits, but mental wellness was not addressed with thoughtful intention.”
Mind Body Project strikes the sweet spot: Its “Breathe. Burn. Calm.” classes have three to four blocks of work, each with three to four movements targeting the upper body, lower body, cardio and core. You get to rest while the instructor demonstrates the upcoming movements. There’s a moment of “reconnection” in the middle of class when the lights are dimmed, you place one hand on your heart and stomach, and then slow your breath. The lights are almost always dim throughout the workout, and the music genres reflect each phase of the session.
The studio also fosters mental clarity and readiness. Unlike some gyms that are cramped and cluttered, Mind Body Project is exceptionally organized. Dumbbells, meditation pillows and small cushioned mats are neatly stacked on labeled shelves. TRX suspension systems are anchored over each workspace, which has a textured “mat” incorporated into the floor, separated by LED lighting strips. The studio itself is also beautifully designed with white oak, granite counters, Dyson blow dryers and Virtue grooming products.
Fees and membership: From $37 per class to $300 per month for unlimited classesSomething of note: Come early to hang in the studio’s netted lounge area, and be sure to take advantage of the spacious showers, changing rooms and private bathrooms.
Sweat 440Best for: Last-minute drop-ins and those who are always five minutes late
I couldn’t comprehend how it was possible at first, but Sweat 440 really does start a 40-minute HIIT workout every 10 minutes.
The turfed studio works in batches; you move down the “line” across the room, so it’s easy for new guests to come in consistently. A warmup targeted on activation and mobility moves you through such exercises as banded pull-aparts, weight plate “bus drivers” and rope circles. “Daily programs are backed by exercise science and changed daily to keep the body guessing, driving results,” says Daniel Grozev, the Sweat 440 regional director.
The main HIIT circuits all incorporate strength to some degree: Four exercises are each repeated three times. TVs are mounted in front of each station with video demonstrations of each move and your name above the exercise you should be doing. We did incline bench overhead presses, sandbag curls and mountain climbers on sliders in one station; then kettlebell deadlifts, triceps dips and SkiErg “rows” in the next; and finally, heavy ball slams, medicine ball sit-ups and all-out rowing on an erg in the last.
Fees and membership: From $32 per class to $305 per month for unlimited classes (prices based on those in the Financial District location)Something of note: While Chelsea/Flatiron and the Financial District are the two New York locations (so far), you can also find studios in Alabama, Florida, New Jersey, Texas and Montreal, should you want to get a HIIT fix while traveling.
Performance Lab by the Wright FitBest for: A boredom-busting buffet of equipment
Because you get a taste of everything, we like to think of Cardio Rx as the salad bar of HIIT workouts. There are two main cardio components that alternate with two accessory strength-training circuits. “The class takes you on a journey, incorporating running, biking, plyometrics and resistance training,” says general manager and instructor Alexa Francisco.
Each circuit is eight minutes long with a two-minute break in between, so you can take a breather and review the exercises on a TV or white board as you transition. The class we trialed comprised a walk-run-sprint medley on Woodway Treadmills; a free weights section with ball slams, dumbbell lunges, cleans and overhead presses; all-out bouts on Rogue Fan Bikes mixed with kettlebell swings; and finally, a round of TRX rows, box jumps, sandbag cleans and weighted sit-ups.
The Long Island City space is immaculate and massive (the facility is roughly 8,600 square feet, with two main studios), so you’ll never fight for real estate as in other crowded bootcamp classes. The environment is exceptionally welcoming. The instructor encouraged people by name, and even accepted music requests.
Fees and membership: From $30 per class to $249 per month for unlimited classesSomething of note: To shake up your usual cardio class, try CoreCon, a unique blend of high- and low-impact plyometrics with Pilates-inspired core movements. It uses resistance bands, a Pilates ball and light dumbbells to increase intensity and add variety. The studio has state-of-the-art infrared panels to heat the space, which purportedly provide detoxification, enhance muscle relaxation and boost circulation.
Comments are closed.