There was a time when the UAE indoor exercise scene consisted of apartment building gyms, big chains like Fitness First or really exclusive and high-end gyms/clubs like the Aviation Club.
Even five years ago, it is estimated that big chains had about 50% of the gym market. That has changed, independent fitness studios now make up around 80% of the market share. This has happened for a variety of reasons. There is a big trend in different kinds of exercise, and there is real innovation happening with fitness gurus and entrepreneurs.
Often these studios are hidden away, they are independent so don't have big budgets to let people know about them, but once inside, you realise they are amazing places with great people.
This fitness summer series is designed to let people know about the best fitness studios in Dubai. We are going to do it by discipline because there are just so many.
Summer Series Part 3/4: Full body workouts
This particular series was devoted to trialling various full-body workouts (a daunting task when your fitness level is zero) in gyms around the city.
But since all gyms offer full body workouts obviously, this became as much about the gyms and the facilities themselves as it did about the training sessions, which were fun, painful and sometimes torturous in equal measure.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty I think it's important to note the fantastic fitness facilities located here, but even more importantly, the people that run the show and the energetic and welcoming attitude of instructors and managers in the gyms I visited
Gyms are not as daunting and scary as they once seemed. And while they may be pricey, the majority offer a first class for free, so you have nothing to lose.
1. TribeFit - Everything you need in one spot
TribeFit is impressive for three reasons; the sheer variety and availability of classes and the extensive facilities.
With about ninety classes weekly, knowing there is pretty much always an instructor on call to march you through a gym class is brilliant motivation to get going.
As well as the classes, there's a fully equipped gym, an Under 500 cafe, a personal PT service, a spa to fix you up post-workout and it's located right on the Marina so the night class views are pretty special.
I tried an early morning full body GRIT Class. The 6.30am HITT workout brings your heart rate right up, working with just your body weight. It's fast, you will probably die minimum three times, but if you can make it through you're set for the day ahead.
Who's it for? The all-rounder who likes a variety of classes
Cost: Four months membership will cost you AED 1,862 and you can schedule a visit here
Location: Dubai Marina
2. Barry's Bootcamp - One workout fits all
Barry's Bootcamp is relatively new to Dubai and if you follow celeb trends you'll have heard of this gym, which has over twenty locations internationally (and another Dubai location on the way).
It's a gym that's not just selling you a workout, but a place to hang and a lifestyle too.
The set-up and decor feels very L.A and for sure Barry's had the slickest bathroom facilities I tried.
The workout concept is completely unique.The full hour session is intense and splits between cardio and whatever the focus is that day (so abs, arms, legs, etc). You switch between a treadmill where you're pushed to the limit with sprints broken up with jogs and the odd walk and then a mat for a weight workout.
You control the speed so you can move at your own pace, but the dark lights, pounding music and genuinely enthusiastic instructors push you to your limits in the best possible way.
Who's it for? You need to try this workout once. A great workout, but some people will need more variety in a gym
Cost: AED 120 per class. AED 1100 for ten classes. AED 1770 for 30 classes in 30 days
Location: Central Park Towers at DIFC
3. NRG - the boutique experience
From my experience, NRG is the epitome of the boutique gymming world in Dubai. A homegrown concept, operating from a small space in the EMAAR Square, Marina the gym provides a multitude of classes in a welcoming and vibrant setting.
The three main focus points for the gym are 'ride' 'focus' and 'train' in semi-personalized group workouts spread across three rooms.
I went for the KO8 workout, a strength class which uses suspension straps. Though the equipment looks scary, a confident instructor guided me through the session and with a couple of breaks the class is manageable and surprisingly confidence building, if you can get through one, you can get through anything.
They've also got a handy app you can download here which means you can organise your first class at the simple touch of a button.
- Who is this for? The person who wants a boutique, modern gym experience
- Cost? One class AED 100, Four classes, AED 360. Unlimited monthly train and ride sessions AED 999
- Location? Emaar Retail Ground Floor, Dubai Marina,
4. Define - Mind and body
A small gym located next to Tribe on the Marina, Define aims to define your body and mind through two main concerns: body and revolution.
The revolution spinning classes come complete with beaut Marina views but I skipped it to try the Define body class; a full 60 minutes on the barre.
Barre is a trending ballet-inspired workout that incorporates poses from disciplines such as yoga and pilates, while regularly using the ballet barre as a balance prop.
It was my first ever barre class and it was definitely challenging. I felt pains in muscles I never knew I had but the energy and guidance from my instructor Haley is what made the experience so great.
It's an intimate class and you'll get a lot of one-on-one instruction, which is so needed when trying something new.
Who is it for? Someone looking for an intimate experience
Cost: AED 1250 per month unlimited strength and fitness classes
Location: Dubai Marina
5. FIT INC - The challenge
Without Google maps you will never find this gym, but once you do you will be pleasantly surprised. The gym is located on Sheikh Zayed Road and incorporates spinning, training, yoga pilates, HITT workouts and more.
FIT INC. even has a personal laundry system which will clean your gym gear and return it to your locker, which makes so much sense for people lugging their hefty gym bags back and forth to work every day.
I visited for a weBOOTCAMP class on a Wednesday evening. I had no clue the class would be outside, but it turns out there are plenty of people still outside exercising in the middle of summer. Sure it's hot but you burn plenty of calories while toning during the 45-minute session made up of various HITT workouts. Zaiena, the super friendly instructor is new at the gym but her upbeat and positive nature will get you through the sweatiest session of your life.
Who is it for? For the person who likes a challenge
Cost: AED 600 for 10 classes (either bootcamp or boxing, gym is priced separately (first class is free)
Location: City Tower 2 Car Park, Sheikh Zayed Road – Dubai
Every gym I visited had something special to offer, and the standard of service and facilities was truly impressive...
And I really can't stress enough the welcoming and friendly people and sense of community I found in each gym.
Now it's on you to choose the gym and workout that will work for you
Summer Series - Up next
- Crossfit boxes
Let us know if you've got a studio or a gym you would like us to check out or if you attend one that you think is awesome!
Check out the last Summer Series on indoor cycling classes here
And best boxing gyms here.