I’ve been a member of the F45 Training gym for over 6 months. I’ve also spent a number of years in commercial gyms (both have pros and cons).
In this article, I will explain what’s the difference between F45 and a normal gym, and which one might be right for you.
What’s the difference between an F45 and normal gym?
F45 Training and regular gym are completely different.
- The F45 sessions work like a bootcamp-style workout where every one of us is doing the same exercises.
- I go from one station to another, and each station has an assigned exercise and a number of reps. (The more reps and more stations I’ve completed, my heart rate goes up, until I reach recommended 45 points).
- In a regular gym, I follow my personal workout plan. I use machines, free weights, and cardio equipment as much as I want.
- I don’t usually track my heart rate, but I follow the progressive overload principle and can use advanced workout techniques.
Here’s my brief review but if you wanna know more details, keep reading.
The difference in price between F45 and a gym will depend on many factors like the type of gym you go to, as well as the type of membership you want.
For example, some gyms like Planet Fitness cost as little as $10 per month whereas more posh places like David Lloyd can charge close to $100.
Also, some gyms charge extra for initiation fees, the first and last month upfront, as well as annual fees. Keep that in mind when you choose the gym based on cost.
Here is the comparison list between F45 and some of the most popular gyms.
|F45||$320/month (16 classes)|
|24 Hour Fitness||$52/month|
For me, the F45 Training is way more expensive.
It includes group specialty workouts with personal trainers present in each session. Every workout is delivered in a fun and engaging atmosphere around the people who cheer and motivate each other.
In normal gyms you can book personal training, however, the price for one session is often equal to the price of the monthly membership.
If I want to build muscle, I choose a normal gym instead of F45. In the gym, I can follow a specific type of training to build muscle or improve performance.
Normal gyms have multiple machines and free weights that allow me to work on specific muscles.
If I want to get a bigger chest, it is much better (and cheaper) for me to join a regular gym.
Normal gyms have benches, smith machines, hammer strength machines, cable machines, and a variety of dumbbells.
Although I was never a machine guy, training with these resistance machines allows me to hit the muscle from different angles.
According to an article recently published in the Sports Medicine Journal, “resistance-based training is considered the gold standard for promoting muscle hypertrophy.”
On the other hand, in F45 classes, I never used heavy weights. These were always high-intensity interval training.
“HIIT training is effective in burning calories while preserving muscle mass. This is good news for people who want to lose weight, but not if your goal is to maximize hypertrophy,” according to the publication.
F45 doesn’t use heavy weights
“The most effective way to build muscle is by following a structured hypertrophy program that requires lifting weights in a specific rep range and resistance,” says Brad Schoenfeld, Ph.D., a hypertrophy expert from New York.
In his article published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, Dr. Schoenfeld states “the optimal way to build muscle is by either adding more weight to the bar (mechanical tension) or by working the muscle until it reaches muscle failure (metabolic stress).”
“Mechanical tension means placing the muscle under resistance with a specific load (which is around 6-12 reps of 60-80% of your one-rep max),” according to the expert.
The problem I see with F45 training is they don’t use heavier weights that can trigger the aforementioned mechanical tension. They use lower weights and a lot of reps.
In the gym, I can work on one muscle group
Unlike F45 Training, normal gyms allow me to do a number of exercises that targets one specific muscle group.
For example, if I’m doing rehab exercises for my knee, back, hips, or shoulders, gyms are more suitable because you can isolate each muscle.
From what I’ve seen, most commercial gyms have a number of machines like leg extension, leg curl, rear leg extension, biceps curl, and cable crossover.
These machines help to work on one muscle at a time, which is effective in both rehab and muscle growth.
In the gym, I can use a customized workout plan
Here’s a photo of me doing single-arm rowing in my local gym. (Yes, I’m wearing slides from Havaianas.)
Here I was doing full body wokrout with 4-5 sets on each exercise. (Something I was never able to do in the F45.)
In my F45 Training studio, everyone was doing the same routine for 45 minutes, without periodization.
The lack of progressively increasing training volume was one of the reasons why I quit F45. Their workouts were the same all year round.
Gyms allow me to use advanced training methods
In the normal gym, I can use more advanced training techniques like pyramids, negatives, supersets, drop sets, partial reps, contrast loading, and chains.
And if I want to do a leg day, I can do 4-5 exercises just on the legs. (This was not the case for F45.)
Here’s a photo of me doing goblet squats immediately after doing leg extensions (superset).
Advanced training techniques like super sets and drop sets increase time under tension, and further stimulate muscle protein synthesis,” explains Dr. Schoenfeld.
In my F45 training class, they did have some Mkatz classes (a class where they use drop sets). However, these classes were never available when I had time to train.
Plus, this still was a group class, not personalized to each individual.
According to my Garmin Smartwatch, I was burning way more calories in F45 class, compared to a normal gym.
Although I don’t usually look for calories, F45 workouts average 400 to 600 kcal, depending on how I felt that day and how much rest I took between sets.
(In the normal gym I cannot go beyond 200 kcal in the same amount of time.)
“HIIT workouts help not only to improve cardiorespiratory fitness but also to increase metabolic rate and calorie burn,” according to the article published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
For me, the most intense F45 workouts were when the coaches combined plyometric training, bodyweight training, mixed martial arts, resistance training, and cardio.
What I like about F45 Training?
I like the stations. Each F45 workout is different and includes a different number of stations.
For example, I was going to F45 a couple of times per week, and some cardio workouts were constantly changing
Some included as many as 30 stations.
On the other hand, resistance workouts were slower, and include 5-10 stations, but spend more time working on each exercise.
On average, each station is 1-3 minutes long, depending on the type of workout.
Some fast-moving cardio workouts like Firestorm have 27 stations where you spend 1-2 minutes per station, whereas the Moon Hopper has 18 stations where you exercise for 2-3 minutes.
F45 uses heart rate monitors
I always was a big fan of monitoring my heart rate zone.
One thing that separates F45 from normal gyms is that F45 classes use heart rate monitors to track your intensity.
Although I don’t usually train for optimal “afterburn effect”, some evidence shows that higher intensity leads to higher calorie burn after the workout.
According to Lee Wallace, Ph.D., a lecturer in sport and exercise science at the University of Technology Sydney, “afterburn means you can burn more calories and elevate EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption).”
“The reason why you burn more calories after F45 class is that elevated heart rate increases the oxygen debt,” explains Dr. Wallace.
“After the session, your body has increased consumption of oxygen, even when the body is not training anymore,” says Dr. Wallace.
Dr. Wallace is a Chief Sport Science Officer and Board Member at F45 Training and suggests that “you should hit 45 points for each session to get the most out of the class. The more points you get, the higher your EPOC levels.”
F45 has more variety
Another thing I like about the F45 is that group training workouts often have more variety of exercises. That was my way to stay consistent and motivated.
With higher variety, I enjoyed the workouts more, compared to static training in the gym. For me, variety means more fun.
In each class, we used a combination of cycling, weights, body weight, and other equipment.
Each workout was a challenge in itself. There was a time when I was doing F45 twice a day but that didn’t last long.
What I like about the gym?
After 6 months of doing F45, I missed my old-school weightlifting.
Now, as I want to build muscle, I prefer to spend 45 minutes in the weight room, rather than running after stations.
It does get boring, though.
When you train in the gym and your goal is to build muscle (and burn fat), you need to stick to the same compound movements like squats, deadlifts, pull-ups, bench, rows, and presses.
Those type of movements helps to burn more fat than isolation exercises, but they can get tedious after a while.
I like the gym, but one thing that I miss from doing F45 was the novelty of workouts. The F45 combines functional training, core training, boxing, endurance training, and mobility training.
The F45 workouts are not the same as normal gym workouts.
F45 offers group training bootcamp-style sessions that focus on increasing your heart rate and full-body workouts.
On the other hand, gyms offer more options for strength training but also require more experience.
For beginners, it is much better to attend F45 because of the exercise variety and friendly community.
However, for advanced lifters who have a specific goal in mind like performance training, the gym is a better option.