Fitwall: A New Twist on High Intensity Training

When Hitting the Wall is a Good Thing

Training in session at Fitwall La Jolla. Fitwall

"Hitting the wall" is usually considered a bad thing - you're either mentally and emotionally drained, or you end up with a broken hand (and a busted wall). But the phrase takes on new meaning at the Fitwall gyms located in La Jolla and Solana Beach, California.

Fitwall is both a group exercise fitness center and a proprietary piece of fitness equipment. In other words, the centers themselves are named after the piece of equipment used during the 40-minute workout classes - the Fitwall.

Clifton Harski, the National Head Coach and Director of Programming for Fitwall explains the equipment like this, "The Fitwall is a 7-foot tall, 2.5-foot wide non-moving apparatus with hand rungs and foot steps which allows very unique training opportunities for our clients. Everything we do on the Fitwall is bodyweight-based exercise, and requires many muscles to work together to accomplish the tasks, aka functional fitness." For instance, clients can work on foot speed as they climb up and down the wall; they can use the rungs and steps to stretch; and they can perform "pulling" exercises, such as bodyweight rows to strengthen the back.

And while the workout is based around the Fitwall, it also incorporates other small fitness tools, including suspension trainers and resistance bands to effectively improve clients' strength, stamina, coordination, and balance.

Because I live no where near the San Diego area, I don't have the luxury of swinging by one of the studios to check out a class, so instead, I picked Harski's brain to get the dirt on the gym's format, benefits, and style.

How is a typical class broken down?

Harski: A typical class is set up in our Fitwall Interval Training format. We have high intensity sets, which range from 30 to 60 seconds, we have recovery periods which range from 30 to 60 seconds, and we have "move" sets which last up to 90 seconds. In our 40-minute session we will move through these three zones in a specified way to help maximize calories burned, muscles worked, and efficiency of the workout

What are the benefits of the program structure - what sets it apart?

Harski: We have a few things that really set us apart. One is the Fitwall itself - nobody else has it and nobody else is training the neglected, but incredibly important, posterior side of the body as effectively as we are. The posterior of the body is neglected by almost all other bodyweight-style workouts because you have to have something (in our case the Fitwall) to work the back side.

The second thing that sets us apart is that we utilize the most advanced and precise monitoring system of any commercial fitness company. Above each Fitwall an iPad sits displaying video of all the exercises you're performing, displaying your heart rate and the target zone you should be in, giving you feedback about how hard or smart you're training.

A third thing that sets us apart is our dedication to coaching. Most group fitness programs are just glorified follow-the-leader. In our classes we have two coaches who walk around coaching - we're regularly told our classes feel more like personal training than group fitness.

How can someone who doesn't live near one of your gyms try to mimic a similar routine at home?

Harski: Each of our workouts challenges the entire body by alternating between different exercises for the duration of the workout. Here's a similar workout to try at home (without the tech, coaching or Fitwall, though!):

  1. Side plank, 60 seconds
  2. Pushups, 30 seconds, rest 30 seconds
  3. Reverse lunges, alternating legs for 60 seconds at a moderate pace
  4. Bicycle crunches, 30 seconds, rest 30 seconds
  5. Burpees, 60 seconds - as many as possible
  6. Rest, 60 seconds

Repeat the entire sequence three more times

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