When ex-Newcastle United player Rob Lee retired from professional football he wanted to keep his weight down so he started running. Then he tried the gym. ‘I wasn’t getting any benefits,’ says Lee. ‘I didn’t enjoy any of it and the only real result I was getting was aches and pains. I’d had a couple of knee ops in the past and running and typical gym work hurt my knees.’
Then Alan Shearer, former Newcastle striker who’s now an ambassador to the brand introduced Lee to Speedflex. New to the UK, it used ‘isokinetic’ weight technology designed to minimise muscular soreness. Isokinetic weights have less pull of gravity on the ‘down’ part of any lift making moves easier on joints.
‘With Speedflex I could get my heart rate up quickly without any joint pain and managed to burn 1000 calories without any soreness in my joints the next day.’ Lee does Speedflex almost daily now and since starting on his own machine eighteen months ago – and doing no other cardio – he’s lost a stone.
Launched as classes to the UK four months ago, Speedflex takes place in a little studio in Bank (with classes also in Newcastle and set to roll out across the UK). Because it’s usually members only, everyone is given an induction in which you start by stepping on a body composition machine that looks at your weight, water and fat content. Then that data is fed into a machine that informs your workout.
In fact, data freaks will love Speedflex because, throughout the class a screen in the middle of the room – that all can see – lists class participants by name and monitors which training zone each one is working at, identifying the lazies by listing the training zone they’re working in: green (slow), amber (medium) and red (hardcore).
There are only five speedlex machines in the studio and each one is the same – a simple enough looking weights machine but from which you can get hundreds of exercise combinations. Our instructor Sean – and all the Speedflex trainers most of whom double as physios – stick to about 12-15 exercise variations of compound exercises (these are the moves that work numerous large muscle groups in one exercise, one of the reasons for Speedflex’s notoriously high calorie burn).
Circuits on the machines are then performed doing combinations of clean and presses, clean and jerks, lat pull down squats and more – don’t worry, I didn’t know what these were either and Sean stays on your back constantly showing how to do the moves correctly and efficiently, knees, hips and abs in all the right places.
Doing a move on a Speedflex machine feels less jarring on my joints than dumbbell training or traditional weights machines because the ‘isokinetic’ nature of the technology means you get a bit of an assist bringing the weight down. That means you don’t have to watch for controlling the lift and drop as much and leaves you to get on with the training. It also means you can move faster through repetition, really making progress on the sweat theme. The moves on Speedflex machines are all big: lifting and squatting, jumping and pressing done in single moves. This makes them hard in that when-is-this-over kind of way. Plus, because of the high numbers of reps at speed you’re doing the emphasis is on building lean, strong tissue without bulk while also burning fat and calories (probably why footballers love it).
The training is based largely on high intensity interval training or HIIT (is anything NOT these days?) and so this means each of the moves on the Speedflex machines are interchanged with heart rate pumping step jumps, burpees, push ups, medicine ball squats of varying weights and other hardcore training moves like those core ab-killing ones where you sit with your legs and body in a V-shape on the floor and shift the medicine ball side to side. All this is done at the best speed you can do without sacrificing your form – Sean is constantly coming up and checking on this, calling me and everyone else by name and making sure I am pushing myself to his satisfaction. The more we sweat and cry, the more he seems to grin and light up. It’s not for the faint-hearted this and 60 per cent of the clientele are men.
The circuit classes are usually 45 minutes though we only did 35 minutes as we were newbies (yeh, not because we were begging to stop, really or because I was trying to distract Sean with my journalistic questioning – not that, honest).
Then the name and shame theme continued at the end of the class when everyone gathered around the screen and each person’s exact calorie burn was read out. In our 35-minute period I burned 279 calories while Ashley, another participant burned 487 (calorie burn depends on metabolism and I am a notoriously low calorie burner – or just lazy). There’s no escaping the exposure because you’re also told the total time you spent in the green, amber and red training zones (I was two minutes in red, 11 in amber and the rest in green – see lazy). If you’re competitive, this is the thing for you.
In 45 minutes the PRs tell me people burn between 700 and 1200 calories so I tested this out for myself by turning up early for the close of the previous session to sticky beak the participant’s calorie burn in their 45 minute class. Here was the readout: Marilyn burned 1044 (I know!), James burned 824 and Jo burned 668. Impressed.com
There are currently Speedflex centres in Bank, London and Newcastle and in September, a new flagship London studio will open also in Bank.
Where: Speedflex 33-36 Lombard Street, London, EC3V 9BQ 0844 543 3631
How much: A SpeedFlex six week experience (including two health assessments and unlimited classes) is £450, SpeedFlex membership is £250 per month, a single session: £45
Did I pay for it? No, it was a press invite
My calorie burn calculated by my ki fit monitor: 285
More info: speedlfex.com