7 Next-Generation Gyms That Focus on Functional Fitness

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These workout spots popping up all over New York focus on equipment you pick up (not sit on)—and learning how to move efficiently after your sweat sesh is over.

Exceed_Functional_Training_gymA gym used to just be a gym. Now, we have boxes, spin studios, barre studios, and boot camps, too. The newest category of sweat-producing spots popping up all over New York doesn't even have a name—yet. "Instead of a gym or a studio, I say we are a full-service fitness training facility," says Body Space Fitness owner Kelvin Gary.

Fair enough. These new-generation gyms are small centers focused on functional, often very athletic, workouts. Instead of machines, expect kettlebells, TRXs, sleds, battling ropes, and maybe even Astroturf under foot. All offer some combination of personal training and fitness classes that max out at around 10 people.

And while each has a slightly different fitness philosophy, they all focus on helping you move more efficiently in the outside world. "It’s not 'today is leg day or today is arm day,'" Gary explains. "We train for your goals, whether you're rehabbing from an injury or training to be in a Broadway show."

Here, we introduce you to seven of the city's top functional fitness spots... which is what we'll call them for now. —Lisa Elaine Held

Photo: Exceed Physical Culture


Body Space FitnessBody Space Fitness
Union Square

This 14th Street facility only opened in May 2012 but quickly generated lots of buzz. Its large Astroturf lawn is surrounded by battle ropes, kettlebell racks, colorful weights, and a few traditional machines like treadmills and spin bikes. In addition to personal training and small group classes like Body Camp and Training for Warriors, it's known for its semi-private training model, where you get functionally fit as a duo or trio. Bonus: decent-sized locker rooms with stocked showers. www.bodyspacefitness.com

Photo: Body Space Fitness


Exceed Physical CultureExceed Physical Culture
Upper East Side

When Exceed debuted in spring of 2012, we called it a "fitness playground" because of its array of workout toys—climbing rope, weighted sled, bosu balls, monkey bars, and more. It's since established itself as a go-to spot for fun, functional personal training and small classes, like its signature, Summit. It even opened an East Hampton outpost this past summer. www.exceedphysicalculture.com

Photo: Exceed Physical Culture


Fitness Cell CollectiveThe Fitness Cell Collective
Upper East Side

The Fitness Cell, on East 72nd Street, opened this little-sister spot last summer, and in group classes, you'll be sweating alongside no more than six people. It has novel equipment like rings, monkey bars, and ski ergs (similar to a regular rowing machine, but you're standing in ski position) and also hosts metabolism-revving classes with kettlebell champ Lorna Kleidman. www.thefitnesscell.com

Photo: The Fitness Cell Collective


Focus NYCFocus NYC

Focus is a five-year-old, pretty, modern space with a functional tech advantage. Primal kettlebells are stacked next to iPads that play videos showing you exactly how to hold and swing them. Personal training is the primary offering, but the PT6 circuit-style boot camp class—with ropes, medicine balls, and more—is super popular, too.  www.focusnyc.com

Photo: Focus NYC


Nimble FitnessNimble Fitness
Union Square

Nimble started as a personal training spot that used props like ViPRs and bosu balls, and then later converted its basement studio into a space that now hosts a variety of TRX-centered offerings. They focus on everything from cardio to yoga. It's also a go-to spot for fitness trainer education. www.nimblefitness.com

Photo: Nimble Fitness


Right Fit NYRight Fit NY
West Village

This underground studio (literally, you have to duck to get inside) has a longtime Printing House trainer at its helm, who stocks both functional training and boxing equipment for full-body one-on-one sessions and for classes of three to five. He's also got a crazy curved treadmill, and an outdoor patio that's home to a pull-up bar and humongous tire you may find yourself pushing around. www.rightfitny.com

Photo: Right Fit NY


Soho Strength LabSoho Strength Lab

Having just opened in July, Soho Strength Lab is the newest member of the function-fitness scene. It's home to two floors of Astroturf expanses, battling ropes, power sleds, rowers, and an Olympic lifting platform. The three former college athletes and Equinox trainers who run it focus on "multi-planar athletic movements and strength training." It also just debuted a Manhattan outpost of Grass Roots Juicery. www.sohostrengthlab.com

Photo: Soho Strength Lab


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