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Personal training gyms muscle in on group fitness

A group class at the new Fitness Cell Collective.


In early July, Fitness Cell owner Boaz Saar opened a second location on East 61st Street, just beneath the 59th Street Bridge. But unlike the original location—a five-year-old personal-training-only gym on the Upper East Side—Saar dubbed the new space the Fitness Cell Collective and added a menu of group classes to its offerings.

He’s not alone. Group fitness classes have become such an important, brandable, and exciting part of New York’s workout scene that now many gyms formerly dedicated to one-on-one instruction are throwing their kettlebells into the group-fitness ring.

Boaz Saar
Boaz Saar, owner of the Fitness Cell Collective.

In April, Upper East Side brand Remorca Fitness opened a sister location around the corner from its personal training gym to begin offering group classes. Elite trainer Will Torres introduced WillTKO group sessions at his gym, WillSpace, and Union Square’s Nimble Fitness added a basement workout studio so that it could offer group TRX classes.

And while it may seem like these studios are trying to muscle into an already crowded market, they do bring a few things to the table that group fitness junkies just might appreciate.

What are they? Well, for one, classes are not just small. They’re tiny. At the Fitness Cell Collective, you’ll never be sweating alongside more than six others, which means that during class, Saar or one of his trainers can carefully correct your form and offer personal encouragement. (I really appreciated the “That’s my girl!” he threw my way during the most grueling part of the session.) WillSpace’s classes also max out at 6, Remorca’s are typically between 6 and 10.

Also, the facilities are typically high-end and stocked with top-of-the-line equipment, since they’re built for more expensive personal training. Witness amenities like Fitness Cell’s ski ergs, which deliver killer cardio and upper body work, and 40-foot monkey bars.

Of course, these small classes will cost you slightly more than a sweat session in a packed spin studio. The Fitness Cell charges $45 for a single class, Remorca charges $38, and WillSpace is $55. But those prices seem pretty reasonable when you consider they’re often charging upwards of $200 for one-on-one training.

A downside? If you’re fueled by the collective groans and shouts of a packed room, you may not be as motivated to move. Oh, and there’s definitely nowhere to hide when the training gets tough. —Lisa Elaine Held