Brace your­self for the on­slaught that is a Barry’s Boot­camp work­out. This will hurt

Men's Health (Australia) - - Trainer -

I’M SIT­TING in a dimly lit West Hol­ly­wood gym, re­cov­er­ing with some of the US’S best train­ers, along with mod­els, politi­cians and wannabe ac­tors. We’re all dif­fer­ent, yet for a few min­utes all the same: out of breath, a mess.

Not long off the plane from Syd­ney, it’s hard to fathom I’m at the epi­cen­tre of a global fit­ness craze. I’ve just fin­ished my first ses­sion of Barry’s, the high-in­ten­sity tread­mil­land weight-based work­out ar­riv­ing in Aus­tralia this month. And I’m hooked. But it took the whole ses­sion to win me over.

Just an hour ear­lier I’d been met by the im­pos­si­bly white smiles and can­non­ball bi­ceps of the Barry’s staff. Their en­thu­si­asm is the per­fect com­ple­ment to their Yan­kee hos­pi­tal­ity, and I can’t wait to get crack­ing to shake off the rapidly in­ten­si­fy­ing symp­toms of my jet­lag.

The stu­dio doors swing open as the pre­vi­ous class wraps up, and in an in­stant my im­pa­tience gives way to ex­cite­ment as a horde of sweat­soaked bod­ies tum­bles out. Every­one looks equal parts shred­ded and rat­tled. It seems, on first im­pres­sion, that the bold prom­ise of a Barry’s ses­sion – 1000 calo­ries torched – might hold up.

The Barry’s story reads like the epit­ome of the Amer­i­can Dream. A small-time boot camp that grew from hum­ble be­gin­nings (an ex­posed toi­let once oc­cu­pied the cen­tre of the orig­i­nal gym in West Hol­ly­wood), Barry’s has ex­panded in 20 years to boast more than 40 stu­dios across the US, UK and Europe. And now its mas­ters have Aus­tralia in their sights, with the first gym about to throw open its doors in cen­tral Syd­ney.

“We don’t just roll in and do it the same way every time,” ex­plains Barry’s CEO Joey Gon­za­lez, clearly aware of the dif­fi­culty he may face try­ing to crack the crowded Aus­tralian fit­ness scene. “When we launched in Mi­lan, we re­placed smooth­ies with dou­ble espres­sos to meet the needs of lo­cals. We can’t do ice in our Lon­don stu­dio be­cause it’s too cold.”

Af­firms Aus­tralian head of op­er­a­tions He­ston Rus­sell: “We can’t roll out a cookie-cut­ter stu­dio. We have to cre­ate an ex­pe­ri­ence be­spoke to the Aus­tralian en­vi­ron­ment. No stu­dio has ever closed. The bar­rier to en­try is higher in Aus­tralia, but we’ve had al­most two years on this project.”

Re­gard­less of lo­ca­tion, Barry’s core values and train­ing prin­ci­ples don’t change. The classes hap­pen in the trade­mark “Red Room”, upon en­try to which you’re in­stantly con­fronted by a row of tread­mills lin­ing a wall. Globo Gym-style steps are po­si­tioned around the room, and a fires-of-hell glow en­gulfs us. It’s all rather clin­i­cal on first im­pres­sion, but the in­ten­tion soon be­comes clear. While un­usual, the red light­ing cre­ates a sense of anonymity, as though there are no stand­out per­form­ers and we’re all on a level play­ing field. In a Barry’s stu­dio, every­one is a cham­pion, and thanks to the light­ing, you could eas­ily be tricked into think­ing you’re as jacked as the guy next to you. I’m not.


To kick off my full-body work­out, I’m sta­tioned on a tread­mill, a soft in­tro­duc­tion in the­ory, though I’m im­me­di­ately con­fronted with my own re­flec­tion in a full-length mir­ror. It’s an­other well-de­signed psy­cho­log­i­cal ploy: when you’re run­ning in a class, hurtling di­rectly at your own im­age, you’re given no op­tion other than to face your­self. And as corny as that sounds, the psy­chol­ogy works. An hour of glar­ing into your own eyes forces you to con­tem­plate your ex­is­tence, your rea­son for be­ing here, or at the very least, your fit­ness level.

Six min­utes on the tread­mill is doable, es­pe­cially with speed vari­a­tions at your fin­ger­tips. I’m sprint­ing for 30 sec­onds, then walk­ing for a minute – per­fect for stok­ing the metabolic fire.

I’m then wel­comed to the floor by head trainer Blake Bridges and in­structed to pick up a pair of dumb­bells for a six-minute strength phase. Any il­lu­sion I was un­der that there would be a chance to catch my breath is scotched. Barry’s runs a tight ship, and you’d bet­ter not just be along for the ride.

How heavy should I go with the dumb­bells? I scan the room for the gym equiv­a­lent of a pacer and find my choice is limited to guys who are ei­ther ripped or ex­tremely ripped. So I end up fol­low­ing the lead of the near­est Barry’s body, who of course reaches for the heav­i­est weights on the rack. (This spec­i­men turns out to be the buff Repub­li­can Se­na­tor Aaron Schock, who’s been on the cover of the US edi­tion of Men’s Health.) I have an inkling I’ve gone too heavy.

We’re im­me­di­ately thrust into a se­ries of goblet squats, lunges and man-mak­ers, over what seems like the long­est six min­utes in his­tory. I’m left beg­ging for a re­turn to the rel­a­tive tran­quil­ity of the tread­mill.

“We’re thrust into a se­ries of squats and man-mak­ers . . . the long­est six min­utes in his­tory”

We re­peat this back-and-forth be­tween tread­mill and weights an­other three times to round out a solid 55 min­utes of con­di­tion­ing, dur­ing which we’ve hit every ma­jor mus­cle group. Jet­lag be damned! I was de­ter­mined to thrive in the dark­ness.


It be­comes ob­vi­ous why Barry’s counts Kanye West, David Beck­ham and Justin Bieber among its reg­u­lar clients. Not only is there the beauty of anonymity in sweat­ing among a group in a dark­ened room, the ses­sion serves as an ef­fec­tive work­out re­quir­ing min­i­mal in­de­pen­dent thought. Barry’s def­i­nitely has value for the com­mit­ted trainer, not as the en­tirety of your pro­gram but as a kick-arse sup­ple­ment.

Group fit­ness is not my pre­ferred method of work­ing out, and I’ve al­ways be­lieved noth­ing beats a per­son­alised pro­gram. Af­ter all, what are the chances that the other 30 peo­ple in this class have the same fit­ness goals as I do? I highly doubt the Vic­to­ria’s Se­cret alumni be­side me wants to pack on 10kg of mus­cle by the end of the year.

How­ever, there is some­thing com­fort­ing about sur­ren­der­ing all power for a hour and let­ting an in­struc­tor guide a mind­less ver­sion of my­self through a bru­tal HIIT work­out, us­ing as­pects of strength from my reg­u­lar pro­gram­ming whilst tap­ping into some rarely used fea­tures of my aer­o­bic ca­pac­ity.

There isn’t a whole lot of tech­ni­cal guid­ance at Barry’s, and there’s def­i­nitely the as­sump­tion that clients are aware of com­mon move­ment pat­terns and the phys­i­ol­ogy of the hu­man body. The pace is fran­tic, and cor­rect­ing in­di­vid­ual tech­nique would throw a huge span­ner in the works of this fit­ness ma­chine.

Added to this, Barry’s work­outs are un­apolo­get­i­cally dif­fi­cult and at times quite in­tri­cate, pro­vid­ing a likely step-up if you’ve been your own per­sonal trainer for a while.

“It’s not for peo­ple who don’t want to work hard – that’s the dis­tinc­tion,” says Gon­za­lez, analysing Barry’s place in the mar­ket. And the more I talk to Gon­za­lez, the more I see how this works in their favour. It’s ob­vi­ous that the idea be­hind Barry’s isn’t to be so ex­clu­sive that peo­ple feel too in­tim­i­dated to join. It’s to be so in­clu­sive that they hold every­one to the same high stan­dard.

It’s a fresh take on fit­ness, com­bin­ing lux­ury and sweat, and it’s likely to drive de­mand for pre­mium work­out ex­pe­ri­ences. If Aus­tralian-born fit­ness cult F45 were to have a love child with lux­ury health spa Equinox, I’d imag­ine the out­come would be some­thing along the line of Barry’s.

“You would think that if that’s how you mes­sage clients, peo­ple would be re­luc­tant to come,” says Gon­za­lez. “But re­ally what it does is im­prove the suc­cess rate for us. When peo­ple come they’re com­mit­ted to change and they’re ready to do ‘the thang’.”

‘The thang’ Gon­za­lez refers to is a killer work­out . . . and hope­fully the re­sul­tant Barry’s body. And with a to­tal of around 25 min­utes of in­ter­val-based car­dio­vas­cu­lar ex­er­tion, com­bined with an­other 25 min­utes of strength work, ‘the thang’ works.


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