Class Review: Barry’s Bootcamp

by Ninja Master Mark Fisher

As loyal readers and Ninjas know, we’re kind of obsessed with getting better at MFF.  We read a fuck ton of books, blogs, and websites, we go to weekend seminars, and we have long, geeky conversations where we use science-y terms like “reciprocal inhibition,” “stretch shortening cycle,” and “dragon semen.”

And while all that theoretical stuff is great, I think I can speak for the whole team when I tell you a lot of what we learn comes not only from seeing what’s successful with our clients, but from using ourselves as guinea pigs.  We try shit out and see what works!  Sometimes our ideas work out, sometimes they don’t.  But we always have fun, and we always learn.

Along those lines, I’ve spent the past three months taking a lot of random classes around NYC.  While I feel pretty great about the consistent, dramatic results we get at MFF, I know there are always things to be learned by studying other exercise modalities and taking class with other fitness professionals.  Sometimes there’s stuff I like, sometimes there’s stuff I think is not so hot!

In what will be an ongoing series, I’m gonna share my thoughts on classes I’ve taken and give you my analysis of the pros and cons.  I’m gonna qualify this hardcore for several reasons.

Number one, I usually just take one class.  Although that gives me a taste, I know that this doesn’t always give me a full perspective of the class or modality in question.

Number two, I am aware I come into these experiences with my biases of what I’ve seen work and what I believe to the physiological principles that are in play when using exercise to pursue health and hotness.  While I try to keep an open mind, I’m really happen to entertain other points of view if you have some points you think I should consider!

That said, please know the “I just know what works for my body” argument is a non-starter.  You’re welcome to do whatever makes you happy of course, but that’s not actually a useful dialogue since everything new will affect the body to some degree.  But if you find a flaw in my thought process or can enlighten me to any actual physiological logic that I’m missing, fire away!  I fucking heart you.

Today we’re gonna lead off with Barry’s Bootcamp NYC!


Barry’s Bootcamp is actually a chain of fitness bootcamps that started in LA.  They’ve recently opened a NY location, and Barry’s is known for its club-like atmosphere, music, and lighting.   And sure enough, there were definitely some sexy motherfuckers in the mid-morning class I took.  I took a “Legs and Butt” class with MFF’s very own John “The DILF” O’Mahoney.  Fun!

What I Liked!

  • The methodology behind Barry’s isn’t actually too bad.  The class I took was alternating periods of interval sprints on treadmills and weight training “drop sets” of leg exercises with dumbbells.  You will no doubt burn a lot of calories training like this!
  • They have Woodway Treadmills.  If you’re gonna use treadmills, these little babies are the way to go.  I’ll spare you the geek talk, but trust me, they’re superior to other treadmills and are less likely to fuck you up.
  • The atmosphere is indeed quite sexified.  The lights and music really got me pumped to get after it!

What I Didn’t Like So Much!

  • While I think there’s definitely scientific logic behind the interval sprints mixed with weight training, I don’t think this actually represents the safest way to get results.  And since “Do No Harm” is the foundation of anything I do with our clients, this is kind of a deal breaker for me.

Is this style of training gonna help with fat loss and cardiovascular conditioning?  Probably!  I just don’t believe many folks will be able to get away with it long term.  If their running technique isn’t spot on, all that sprinting is gonna lead to knee, hip, or low back problems.  And I know few people with GREAT running technique.  This style of training would have been pretty progressive back in early and mid-2000’s, I just think we have safer ways of getting comparable results in a much lower-impact way.

  • The weight training exercises were kind of silly.  The exercises themselves were fine, but, at least in the class I took, the regime was built around what bodybuilders refer to as “drop sets.”  Do a set with two dumbbells, keep going with one dumbbell, keep going with bodyweight, then pulse in the bottom position. Is this “wrong?”  No, I don’t think it’s wrong by any means.  It WILL get you sore as fuck.

And while getting sore isn’t wrong, I’m not a fan of program design that leads to unnecessarily excessive soreness.  Pulsing in the bottom position of lunge will make the glutes work hardest in the stretched position which will lead to “feeling” it the next day.  All in all, this isn’t a bad choice from a marketing perspective, as most consumers will equate a sore ass with a good workout.  (For the record, soreness isn’t inherently good or bad; it simply means you’ve challenged the body in a different way than it’s used to.)

This style of training will burn calories, but I’m not sure it’s gonna do much to build a base of strength (which is generally gonna be helpful both for building muscle AND increasing the amount of weight used when training, which will allow for more calories burnt and staying leaner with less effort.)

  • Now here’s an opinion: I believe exercise is more effective when one has to work hard to maintain proper technique. Since the brain burns 20% of calories, I prefer exercises that challenge the brain while challenging the body. The instructor’s art is to ensure that all trainees are challenging themselves, but maintaining a safe level of technical proficiency. Telling folks to turn up or turn down the speed on the treadmill doesn’t really require coaching (which from a business standpoint is another savvy move, as it’s probably not too hard to train instructors since they don’t need to understand the nuances of technically complicated exercises). And while the instructor I took with really had an awesome energy and gave a great class, the exercises themselves left little to be coached, as they were pretty simple. You can ABSOLUTELY argue that this is an advantage, but it doesn’t require the mental engagement that is a deep philosophical value of ours at MFF.

In summary, Barry’s Bootcamp would totally be an effective workout when trying to get leaner, but for my tastes, the cost-to-benefit ratio is wildly skewed.  In my experience, most humans are gonna break down with all that running.  And since there’s no assessment beyond asking if anyone has pre-existing injuries, there’s no way of knowing if someone has the type of hip dysfunction that will make that much sprinting a time bomb (this is why even our trial members have to go through the FMS and discuss their injury history in depth with our team).

Furthermore, one can’t out-train one’s diet.  I would always prefer people slowly and methodically build a base of functional movement quality before adding strength, and let their diet do most of the work of leaning out.  Again, if you have fun training like this, I’m not gonna say that it’s not gonna work.  But I do think anyone who doesn’t have stellar running technique and/or who relies on their body (ACTORS AND DANCERS, I’m looking at YOU) is really taking a risk and rolling the dice with their long term (and even short term) orthopedic health!

So there you have it kids!  Barry’s Bootcamp is totally fun and probably effective, but it might totally fuck you up.


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